Sourdough Granola Bars

It’s an unusual Sourdough Surprise for August: granola bars!

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I’m really not familiar with granola bars, or granola for that matter.

I’ve always considered granola to be a posh way of having a breakfast that contains as much sugar as a large bowl of Frosties under the pretence that because it’s homemade with Agave nectar it somehow doesn’t contain any calories. I’ll take my breakfast nuts, fruit and seeds added to my porridge, thank you very much…

Similarly I consider granola bars to be a posh way of sneaking in extra sugar into a flapjack by using pre-sugared oats, and then pretending because there’s some flaxseed in there it makes it some form of health bar. Seriously: if you type ‘best granola bar’ into Google it’ll suggest ‘best granola bar weight loss’ to you. I’ll take my snack bar nuts, fruit and seeds as a good, honest flapjack, thank you very much…

Research

After I’d finished ranting about granola it was time to actually find something out about it! So off to see what the examples from the Pinterest Inspiration board had to say:

  • Chewy Sourdough Granola Bars from Wild Yeast
    • I think I agree with the author that thin, overly peanut buttery granola bars aren’t the best way forward
    • However I do like cranberries, and the general mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruit looks like a good base to me
    • Uses more starter than honey, but still comes out looking like a granola bar, unlike some of the others
  • Sourdough Granola Bars from Bernd’s Bakery
    • Uses more starter and less honey, and thus looks more like a thin tray bake cake than a granola bar
    • Specifically notes that the starter doesn’t need refreshing, which is interesting
    • Addition of bran sounds good and healthful, but then again we’ve already got oats in there
    • Pre-roasting (toasting) nuts makes sense
  • Sourdough Discard Granola Bars from Exorphin Junkie
    • This is based on the Wild Yeast recipe, but with some interesting variations
    • I like the idea of a little semolina in there
    • The sesame seeds on top look lovely, but to me make it look less like a granola bar
  • Sourdough Granola Bars from arine
    • Also based on the Wild Yeast recipe!
    • Despite the ratios being more like the Bernd’s one it still comes out looking like granola
    • Maybe the brown sugar topping helped? Certainly sounds like a good idea

It only struck me after reading all of them that they don’t use granola as an ingredient… so it really is just a posh name for a flapjack!

Finally I checked some regular recipes for granola bars to get ideas. Most used butter, but we’ve got sourdough to glue things together. Many used various spices, but I think the tangy sourdough should be allowed to come through.

At least none of them used Agave nectar! I still just don’t understand what sort of person would just have some lying around and then smugly put it in their granola bars and mix in flaxseed and pretend it somehow makes up for all the sugar.

Turns out we have some Agave nectar in the kitchen that needs using up. And some flaxseed. So apparently I’m just the sort of person I’ve been ranting about…

Planning

Given I like the granola look, I’m going to start with the base Wild Yeast recipe, add some extra volume so they’re not as thin, and mix in my own extras depending on what I’ve got lying around nearer the time.

I’m also going to go for cashew butter rather than peanut butter. Trying to find healthy and ethical peanut butter is very hard. It always seems to have either added sugar or salt, or uses palm oil. So instead I’m going to use Meridian’s cashew butter, which is just 100% roasted cashews.

So my base recipe will be:

  • 300g un-refreshed wheat starter
  • 100g cashew butter
  • 150g Agave nectar (ended up being 175g to use it up)
  • 150g oats
  • 3 Tbsp semolina
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 500g fruits/nuts/seeds etc
  • Demerara sugar for topping

I’ll start by toasting the seeds and nuts, then basically mix it all together and bake for 20 minutes at 160C fan.

Making

So on the day I check out what fruit, nuts and seeds we’ve got lying around open, and I’m surprised to find it’s hardly any, just some flaxseed, omega-3 seed mix (which also has flaxseed in it), and some flaked almonds. Clearly someone* has been snacking on the open fruit and nuts…

* A thorough forensic investigation has revealed the culprit was, erm, me. 

Rummaging through the cupboards I come up with some ‘luxury’ mixed dried fruit (I think the ‘luxury’ part means it has cranberries in it) and walnuts, so my roughly 500g mix is going to be:

  • 15 g / 1 Tbsp Flaxseed
  • 45g / 3 Tbsp Omega-3 seed mix
  • 200g chopped walnuts
  • 250g ‘luxury’ mixed dried fruit

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The flaked almonds I’m saving to top the bars, along with the demerara sugar. As they’ll be exposed in the oven I won’t bother toasting them, which avoids having to fish them out of the mix of other seeds and nuts.

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After toasting the walnuts & seeds, it’s just mixing everything up and pouring into a sling-lined baking pan. Hmm easier said than done. Using the stand mixer I might have developed some extra gluten, so spreading it out in the pan was tough work, having to stretch it rather than spread it into the edges and corners. Then I top with the flaked almonds and demerara sugar.

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Then it’s into the oven at 160C fan for 20 minutes, turning half way through. After 20 minutes I checked and while I’m not a fan of crispy flapjack bars, I thought that given the sourdough base it needed a little extra time, initially 3 minutes, and in the end a total of 5 extra minutes.

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Now we have to wait for it to cool – boo!

After cooling it’s the fun part: using a ruler and my lovely extra-long knife to cut it!

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And finally… time to eat!

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Despite the extra baking time, they’re still very soft, hardly a crunch involved. If I do them again I’d got for at least 30mins baking, maybe more. I don’t want them all crunchy, but I’d like a crunch with a chewy centre.

The taste, however, is exactly what I was going for. It’s got a lovely sourdough tang, and the fruit and nuts are allowed to speak for themselves.

We found the best way to eat it was dipped into 0% fat Greek yogurt: more pretence that it’s all very healthy!

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Check out all the other sourdough granola bars!

13 thoughts on “Sourdough Granola Bars

  1. I like the idea of “chewy” rather than “crispy” and it seems you’ve achieved that. I’ve always thought of Granola as “posh” so I’ve never used it, instead sticking with plain oats, nuts, syrup or honey. As a matter of interest, how did these Granola bars compare with your previously made Date & April Energy Bars?

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    1. Very different as the date energy bars were held together by the stickyness of the dates and not baked. These are baked like a flapjack, but use the starter rather than butter to hold it together, so you get something halfway between flapjack and bread. I’ve got some in the freezer so you can try one next week (assuming they last that long!).

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  2. hehehe you always make me laugh :) And I am always excited to read your research process, you put so much good thought into everything you make! Lovely bars! They look great, and love all the ingredients (even with agave in it, haha). Thanks for joining us!

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  3. I feel the same way about granola bars so I tried to use as little honey as possible. I also feel this way about pancakes and waffles drowned in syrup. As always, love your thought process.

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    1. Thanks! I’m not sure we agree on waffles though. I make ours with hardly any sugar… but only so we can drown them in maple syrup!

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