Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars Recipe

My love affair with peanut butter thus far has lasted a life time. It deeply saddens me that (bit melodramatic right) my husband doesn't like it and now my workplace is nut free. Therefore, since I had a morning of nothing but chores to do, I decided to try for the second time to make these delicious slightly healthier granola bars. There are several variations in the America's Test Kitchen Healthy Cookbook, but I will let you look at the cookbook yourself for those expansions. The first time that I attempted this I tried to add chocolate chips (for my nephews), but this completely messed up the composition and it became granola instead of granola bars. Still delicious, but not cohesive. I still attempted to use chocolate chips the second time, but this time waited until everything was mixed and sprinkled them on top. mmmm!
Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars
2/3 C unsalted, dry roasted peanuts, chopped coarsely
1/4 C unsalted pumpkin seeds
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 C old-fashioned rolled oats (very important to not replace with quick cooking according to ATK)
1 1/2 C Multigrain Cheerios (I tried the new peanut butter flavored)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C water
1 C sugar
1/4 C half and half
1 tsp vanilla extract
*I left out the salt because I had leftover roasted salted pepitas in place of unsalted raw pumpkin seeds

1. Line a 13x9 inch baking pan with an aluminum foil sling and coat lightly with vegetable oil spray. Toast the nuts and seeds in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Add the butter to the skillet and melt over medium heat. Stir in oats and cook, stirring often, until golden and fragrant, 4-6 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the nuts/seeds, Cheerios, and salt.
3. Pour the water into a clean medium saucepan. Pour sugar into the center of the pan, not allowing the sugar to hit the sides of the pan and gently stir with a spatula to wet it through.
4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring (even if you happen to answer the phone in the middle and completely forget that you are not supposed to be stirring!), until the sugar has dissolved completely and the caramel has a faint golden color (300 degrees on a candy thermometer), 4-8 minutes.
5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring only as needed, until the caramel has a dark amber color (about 350 degrees), 1-3 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the half and half (the caramel will steam and bubble vigorously) until smooth and just barely bubbling, 30-60 seconds. Whisk in the vanilla and peanut butter.
6. Working quickly, stir the hot caramel into the nut-oat mixture until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and pack very firmly into an even layer (I used parchment paper to apply pressure, which you can technically use again for storing). Let cool completely for 30 minutes. remove the granola from the pan using the foil, cut into 16 bars, and serve.
Bars can be stored in an airtight container, between layers of parchment paper to prevent sticking, up to 5 days.
Per Bar: Cal 180, Fat 9g, Sat Fat 2.5g, Chol 5mg, Carb 24g, Protein 4g, Fiber 2g, Sodium 70mg

~Sabrina