Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cranberry-Pumpkin Seed Energy Bars

Sometimes when it rains, it pours. Shortly after my re-dedication to making homemade snacks led me to this awesome granola bar recipe, this latest recipe of Food and Wine brought me my new favorite snack. I think this one sticks out in my mind over all my past granola bar endeavors because of the addition of puffed rice cereal. Most of the energy bars I've made in the past only use oats, and while they can lend crunchy or chewy texture, they can't create a bar as light as this one with as many nooks and crannies for the binding caramel to hide. I've been eating these as my morning snack for the past couple of weeks (extras freeze well), and despite being packed with whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, they almost feel too delicious to be a snack. They're the perfect balance of toasty grains, rich nuts and seeds, and sweet dried fruit all bound with a subtly salty light caramel that almost takes these into dessert territory. I used my individual brownie pan here to create perfectly square bars (especially great if you're giving them as a gift), but even if they don't look quite as perfect hand-cut, they won't be any less tasty. Whether you'll be devouring them yourself or generously bestowing them to others, these granola bars will please any palate they happen to encounter.

Cranberry-Pumpkin Seed Energy Bars
adapted from Food and Wine
makes 12 bars

1 cup pecans or walnuts, crushed
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1/4 cup flaxseeds or flaxseed meal
2/3 cup muscovado or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups puffed rice cereal
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the pecans, oats, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds on the sheet and bake until fragrant, 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

2. In a saucepan, bring the sugar, honey, butter and salt to a boil over moderate heat. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved and a light brown caramel forms, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Drizzle the caramel all over the nut-and-oat mixture. Stir in the puffed rice and cranberries until evenly coated.
3. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, extending the paper over the side. Scrape the cereal mixture into the dish in an even layer. Cover the mixture with a second sheet of parchment and press down to compress it. Let stand until firm, about 2 hours.
4. Discard the top piece of parchment. Using the overhanging paper, lift out the cereal square and transfer it to a work surface. Cut into 12 bars and serve.

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