Homemade Granola Bars

I've made granola a couple of times now -- the Henrietta's Table recipe I told you about that I am so fond of and Francois Payard's chocolate granola, which I didn't write about here, but I must tell you that I ate it for breakfast every day for a week with sliced bananas and vanilla yogurt, and I savored each and every bite.

I really like making my own granola, and both times I've made it I thought it was much better than any granola I could find in a store. So a couple of nights ago, I thought why not try making my own granola bars too.

Armed with my new Barefoot Contessa cookbook (she's a recent obsession), I headed to the kitchen. The nice thing about making granola or, in this case, granola bars is that you probably have all of the ingredients you need right at home -- as long as you keep a well-stocked pantry (which reminds me that I still need to tell you about my amazing, walk-in pantry. I hope to get to that soon). The other nice thing is that you can totally create a granola bar with the flavors you love, instead of being stuck with the selection on the grocery store shelf. I even took a few liberties with the recipe I followed -- it called for dried fruits; I wanted chocolate.

Homemade Chocolate Granola Bars
(adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients -- original recipe can be found on the Food Network Web site)

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (I only had raw wheat germ, so I threw it in the toaster oven for a couple minutes)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Small handful semisweet chocolate chips
Small handful bittersweet chocolate chips
Small handful milk chocolate chips
Small handful butterscotch chocolate chips
Mini chocolate chips for topping


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8- by 12-inch baking dish (or something close in size) and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, hazelnuts, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. (I don't usually do this, but I completely overlooked this step. Not lowering my oven temp might explain why the edges of my bars were quite crunchy.)

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Stir well.

Toss in chips (except for minis), and stir to combine. Chips will get melty.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and use a spatula to press and smooth it. Make sure to spread the mixture evenly. (My edges were a little too thin and came out a bit too crispy to eat without a toothache.) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until it looks set.

Let cool slightly, then toss mini chocolate chips on top.

Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours more before cutting into squares. I cut mine the next morning. Use a sharp, sturdy knife and cut into squares or bars.

Aside from the crisp edges, these bars came out chewy with a nice crunch from the toasted nuts. I loved all the chocolate, and the butterscotch chips and honey added a sweetness and distinct flavoring.

For me, two of these bars make an ideal breakfast, especially since I made them in time for our first morning back at the gym after about a month-long hiatus. I got home, showered, had my coffee, and stole a small piece of a granola bar to try. Then I brought two bars to work with me. All the protein kept me going, and the chocolate made me so happy. And I may have just nibbled on some more for an after-work snack!

Well, you've seen my nutty, chocolatey granola bars, so now I want to know what your perfect granola bar has in it and if you've ever made your own granola bars. Can't wait to hear from you!