May 24, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

For awhile there during the fall and winter, I was making a lot of cookies.   That's sort of fallen off, as I've been trying to not cook as much in the way of sweets and as it's gotten warmer, but I decided it was time to make some sort of cookies or bars or some such this weekend.  With that in mind, a recipe posted more than a month ago on one of the blogs we follow, Kaitlin in the Kitchen, caught my eye.   At a quick glance, I thought her recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars looked pretty good, so I decided to make up a batch.

It was only when I was about to bake up a batch that I realized Kaitlin had left out a somewhat important detail, namely the temperature at which these were supposed to be cooked.  I left a message at her blog but got no response, so I checked out some other granola bar recipes, compared the cooking time Kaitlin had listed (25 minutes) and decided on 350 degrees.

With that decision made, I mixed together the ingredients (honey, maple syrup, chunky peanut butter, vanilla extract, oats, peanuts, peanuts, shredded coconut, Rice Krispies and mini chocolate chips), pressed them into a baking pan lined with parchment paper and tossed them into the oven.   After cooking them the specified time and letting them cool, I attempted to turn the mixture out of the pan, only to have the various ingredients fall out into a loose, gloppy mess.

Rather than give up, I scooped the loose mess back into the baking pan, pressed it down really tightly and cooked it for another 20 minutes.   After letting it cool completely, I was able to turn the cooked mixture out of the pan.  It held together much better this time than it had the first time around, probably because mashing down the still-soft chocolate chips caused the whole mixture to stick together better, but there was still a fair amount of crumbling when I cut the mixture into bars.

Taste wise, Juli and I both thougth these bars were okay, but nothing spectacular.  They didn't really taste much like granola bars, though.  They reminded me a lot of the sorts of no-bake cookies one makes with melted chocolate and oats.  Nothing too exciting, but certainly not bad, either. 

So, we both thought this one was sort of an "eh" recipe, and one I wasn't likely to make again any time soon.  Imagine my surprise, then, when they tuned out to be a huge hit at my office.  I brought most of the bars, along two excellent batches of muffins I made over the weekend, to share with my coworkers, as is my frequent habit after a weekend of baking.   The muffins were also popular, but the bars were what everyone raved about. 

Given how popular they were, my plan is to experiment with this recipe to come up with a version I like better and which will also be popular with my colleague-fans.  I chatted a bit with a coworker who is a pretty darn good cook, and together we came up with some ideas.  I'm definitely going to add a bit more of something to bind the bars together better.  I'm thinking a couple tablespoons of molasses might do the trick.   I would also like to add some fruit to the bars, but I was having a hard time coming up with something I thought would go well with both the peanut butter and the chocolate.   Paul suggested apples, and I think that could work, so when next I experiment with this recipe, my plan is to mince up a few rings of dried apples.

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