Minimal-Oven-Time Granola Bars

Do you know how many granola recipes exist out there in cyberspace?

Untold millions, I’m sure. (In fact, out of seven recent Tasty Tuesday carnivals, I foundĀ eleven different granola recipes. Whew!)

So why am I postingĀ yet another??

Because it doesn’t require a long bake in a hot oven. (Just a short bake in a hot oven. :) ) For me, oven time is one of the main deterrents to making granola at home–it ain’t cheap to run an oven for an hour!

And because you can choose your level of crunchiness. No joke.

Granola Bars

(adapted from Donielle’s fabulous recipe)

  • 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking or rolled oats*
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (or sugar of your choice)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey (or omit white sugar and use 2/3 c honey)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • mix-ins (dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.)

1. Toast oats in a glass pan at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until slightly browned. Stir every 3-4 minutes to prevent burning.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt sugars, honey, butter, vanilla, and salt until combined. Bring to a boil. Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes for chewy granola bars, or 3-4 minutes for crunchy granola bars. (See below for more detailed instructions.)

3. Pour toasted oats and desired mix-ins into a large bowl; pour caramelized sugar mixture over it. Stir until evenly-coated.

4. Scrape into a well-buttered 9×13 pan; use waxed paper and an oven mitt to press the oats firmly together into the pan. Let cool 5-10 minutes.

5. Invert onto cutting board or clean counter and cut to desired size. Let cool.

*You can soak the oats in water and a few tablespoons of acid to promote better digestion. I have not attempted this yet, but one of these days I may. See Donielle’s directions for more specifics.

So how do you know when to stop boiling the sugar mixture?

If you’re like me and don’t have a candy thermometer, you can use this handy-dandy water test.

Once your ingredients are in the saucepan, boiling away, set the timer for two minutes. (Hopefully yours isn’t boiling over like mine did! I was making a double batch.)

At the end of two minutes, drip a drop of the mixture into a cup of cold water. (Get right back to stirring, though, so your sugar doesn’t burn.)

The goal here is to see how hard the mixture will be when it cools. The cold water cools it off quickly.

Give it a couple of seconds to fully cool, then feel the drop of caramel stuff. (Yes, your finger will get wet. Sorry.)

For chewy granola bars, you want it to feel soft and pliable under your finger. (It shouldn’t dissolve immediately, though.) If it feels like this, you’re good to go! Take it off the heat and proceed with the recipe.

For crunchier granola bars, you want it to feel firm and not pliable under your finger. Cook it another minute, and then check it again. You may need a fourth minute, depending on your particular pan/heat level.

Oh, and one more tip: I like to use the waxed paper from a stick of butter to press the granola firmly into the pan. Reusing is always good, right? :)

Press very firmly so that all of the ingredients stick together.

Yes, I hate that my Australia oven mitt got chocolate on the top. But I didn't want it to sit in the bottom of the drawer where I never saw it!

Alternatively, you can just spread the crumbles onto a baking sheet and use them for homemade breakfast cereal. Yummy… :)

So what’s your favorite add-in to granola? (Nuts? Coconut? Fruit? Spices?)

(Linked to Tasty Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. And Premeditated Leftovers.)

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