Thick, Chewy Granola Bars … you left us smitten!

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A visit to Smitten Kitten always leaves me enamoured and charmed. Deb’s always got something that holds my attention. It’s often simple comfort food. Beautiful brownies, awesome cakes, or then something as simple as these thick, chewy granola bars. The beauty of her posts is the passion she does them with. She bakes from scratch, her commentary is engaging, and her posts have brilliant photographs. These granola bars, adapted from King Arthur Flour, had her readers, including me, quite smitten. For me, the bars scored a 10/10 in every aspect – health, taste, looks, versatility. Above all they were kid friendly too… very Ten in 10!

I had to make them soon because I identified with the immense possibilities and substitutions at every level that Deb offered. If you didn’t have this, then you could use that, that, or that. The recipe below is what I did with what was available in my larder. Do check Deb’s post for more  options! Almost everything was optional, and the recipe can be tailored to suit individual tastes. How often do you find something so good?

In her words … This is probably the most flexible recipe I’ve posted. When it comes to granola, what you’re looking for is a basic proportion of chunky (nuts, dried fruit) to sticky (syrups, sugar, butter or oils) and from there, you can really go to town. The vanilla is optional. The cinnamon is optional. You can use no dried fruit or you can use all dried fruit in your 2 to 3 cup mix. You can toss in things like puffed rice cereal or flax seeds. In the comments, I’d love to hear what mix you came up with and how you liked it. I can only imagine the possibilities.

I loved how the bars came out. Made a couple of errors, the primary one getting anxious to see how they baked and urging them to jump out of the tin while very warm. I put them right back instantly realising my folly, and saved the bars. They won’t stick to the paper, so leave them be. Let them sit for at least 20 minutes, and then if you still want to, take them out, lining paper and all, let them cool on the rack. Cut them up only when they are cold. They behave beautifully!
I also added something that the kids didn’t take to very well. I read someone had sprinkled sea salt on top, and I was very taken in by the idea. So I added a light sprinkling of sea salt on top. While it was a good idea for adults, the kids became very iffy about it. It seemed to take the snack monster joy away from them. I really should have experimented with just a 1/4 or 1/2 surface wth the sprinkling. 
Thought hard as I didn’t want the kids to have these bars sans enjoyment. Suddenly, I had a flash of brilliance … chocolate would bring the mojo back! Chocolate makes everything better and I just knew it would fix this problem too. Woohoo… it sure did. I coated the sea salt topped bars with melted dark chocolate, and let it set in the fridge for a bit. I won the kids back! They were smitten!

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
Recipe minimally adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Of note: The original recipe calls for something called “sticky bun sugar” which can be made at home with sugar, butter and corn syrup. It is for this reason that corn syrup is listed within one ingredient but also separately, and I used all butter rather than two different fats. Whether the corn syrup can be entirely replaced with honey or maple syrup or the butter can be entirely replaced with a healthier oil is worth auditioning, I just didn’t. Yet. I can tell you this: as is, this is the best granola bar I’ve ever eaten.

Ingredients:
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts
1/3 cup peanut butter
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (see note above)
1 tablespoon water

Method:

Preheat the oven to180°C. Line an 7″ x 11″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter, syrup or honey, and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan.
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on them. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked in the center when you take them out but do not worry, they’ll set completely once they cool.
Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way.)
Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.
Suggestions: Dried cranberries, apricots, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, sesame seeds, pepitas, dried pples or even chocolate chips. My mix: 1/2 cup wheat germ, 1 cup dried cherries, 1 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup pecans and 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes.
 

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H2Ope for Haiti raffle is open until Sunday March 7th. A huge thank you to all who have already purchased their tickets to win any of the fabulous prizes donated such as an i-Pod Shuffle, artwork, autographed cookbooks from authors such as David Lebovitz, and so much more!!!!. We appreciate your generous contribution. A list of prizes is available on the here.

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Strawberry & Cape Gooseberry Pink Peppercorn Fro Yo … Here’s Spring!

“Oh, they’s so fresh an’ fine, an’ they’s jus’ off the vine.
Straw-ber-ry! Staw-ber-ry!”
Porgy and Bess
Yesterday was the first day of Spring in North India, ‘Basant’ as it’s locally called. It makes the end of winter here and is celebrated with the festival of colour, Holi. It’s quite surprising to see that year after year the Hindu calendar marks a different date for Holi, and this is always the first day of Spring. The weather magically changes, and the date is never wrong! It always marks the last day of winter, of warm clothes, and dispels the need for that warm, comforting bowl of soup.

There’s Spring in the air, fruits galore, colour in every frame, a freshness in the breeze and birds chirping incessantly. Yes, they know it too, as do the butterflies. I made this fruity fro yo to celebrate the arrival of Spring, and to use up certain ingredients in my fridge which were threatening me with dire consequences!!

My SIL in Pune told me about this beautiful hung curd like cheese she made the other day. She had used whole milk curd that she hung for extra long. She cut cubes out of it, tossed it into a salad, and got a taste pretty close to fresh feta. It sounded divine, creamy and delicious. I was hooked and 2 days later had a kilo of homemade whole milk curd hanging in the fridge.

For some reason life decided to chart it’s own tiresome course, and I eventually never got down to using it in my planned menu. Day 3 had the curd cheese weighing heavy, heavier than the whey it gave up, in my mind. Had to be used quick. I doused it in some olive oil to protect it. Another day went by and it was a now or never. A quick change in plans had me thinking frozen yogurt.

In went strawberries and cape gooseberries, the latter a tart and intriguing tropical fruit which is rather underrated here and probably doesn’t deserve the credit it deserves. When we were young, it was sold covered in it’s husky cover, in basketfuls. Here now we find it sold differently, with the covers pulled back and the inner berry exposed trying to attract your attention … maybe an attempt to get it to sell more. It’s even prettier when you slice it…

In also went some vanilla sugar which I make all the time, have jar fulls ready, and is one of my best discoveries through blogging. A quick look around the shelves had me reach out for some pretty pink peppercorns that Anushruti had send me from her mothers’ garden some time back. Pepper and strawberries, IMHO, are a nice combination; pink pepper with them, even better! I used the same combination in my Mac-a-Verrines just recently with amaxing results!

The result was a tangy, creamy, delicious frozen yogurt, just right for anytime, bursting with fresh fruity flavours. The pink peppercorn lent it a beautiful edgy kick, one that I love paired with strawberries. It’s mild and comes through with gentle sensuality. I served it with sliced fresh fruit, and it tasted slam dunk delicious.

 

Strawberry & Cape Gooseberry Pink Peppercorn Fro Yo
Ingredients:
Curd cheese made from 1.5 litres full fat milk, hung for 2 days in fridge
2 tbsps olive oil
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
1 tbsp vodka, optional
300gms strawberries, hulled and quartered
100gms cape gooseberries, halved

Method:

Place the cut fruit in a glass bowl with the vanilla sugar and leave to stand for about an hour.
Puree the berries well with an immersion blender. (You can strain them if you don’t like the seeds, but I like to leave them in for texture)
Add the hung curd and break it up gently, then blend everything well with the immersion blender. Add the pink peppercorn and vodka, if using, and blend again. (Vodka helps to keep the ice-cream from getting frozen rock solid).
Turn it into a freezer suitable container, and place in the freezer. Whisk every hour to break and distribute crystals, or set according to the instructions of your ice cream maker. 
Leave it to set overnight. ENJOY!!
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Just a quick reminder about our special BloggerAid initiative for Haiti
From Sunday, February 21 – Sunday, March 7th, BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine (BA-CFF) is running H2Ope for Haiti, an online raffle to raise funds for Concern Worldwide’s relief effort in Haiti. For full details and how you can help please visit our HOME page at BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine as well as our donation page at Justgiving. A list of prizes is available on the here.

Tartine’s Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake … as healthy as it gets this end!

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”
Jim Davis

Saw something stunning the other day – Zucchini & Orange Marmalade Tea Cake. The minute I saw it at Manggy’s No Special Effects, I could hear Ten in 10 yelling at the back of my head. Having made a Chocolate Zucchini Cake in the past, and the children not figuring that out was a gleeful experience. But I hardly ever make that one because of all the butter it takes to make the cake luscious and delectable.
So when I read that Manggy had made this cake probably 4 times in nearly two months, it was bookmarked in my head. They say that the brain can remeber just about 140  friends on social networking sites, and more than that is forgotten. I’m not really sure about that, because I remember more frineds than those on Twitter, and have even more recipes stashed away in my mind. I’m quite past filing them away on the PC because I just can’t ever seem to find them.
My new mental filing system is good so far. I had this Zucchini Tea Bread  in my Ten in 10 folder. What added to the joy was that I had a couple of jars of fab homemade bitter orange marmalade, some waiting to jump right into this tea bread. The daughter loves orange/marmalade anything, so I thought I could pull this off. Veggies in there and no butter. This is as healthy as cake can get this end with veggies within!
Scared of the kids detecting zucchini and running  a few miles had me hypnotically adding some dark chocolate chips. I like walnuts in tea breads, even thought the daughter doesn’t seem to care for them. Crossroads as always with nutty decisions… Truth be told, I just thought if she gets the chocolate chips in there that she so loves, then she shall need to learn to live with walnuts too. Oh the lessons in life I dream of teaching them through food…he he! Might I add, a lot of them backfire!! 
The response was very good. Mr PAB loved the cake. The daughter asked for a second slice, and then a third, and she liked it enough to ask for 2 more the next day. That was be a good enough verdict! The son was a bit iffy about it, but ate it happily just the same. He thought it was a fruit cake!

Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake
Recipe adapted minimally from Manggy @ No Special Effects
Adapted from Tartine
1 & 3/4 cup s + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 small ones)
1/2 cup orange marmalade
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

Method:

Spray, line, and spray again a 23cm x 12.5cm (9×5 inch) loaf pan and set aside (you can also just spray if you’re confident about your pan’s non-stickiness).
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Mix all the remaining ingredients (except the walnuts, if using) in a large bowl until combined (no giant lumps of marmalade at least).
Sift the dry ingredients into it and stir until just combined (don’t worry about it being smooth, just be gentle). Stir in the walnuts if using. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.

Sprinkle the top with the about 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar.
Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

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