Chou-Chou Granola Bars

Granola bars are perfect for dessert or snacking any time of day.

Granola bars are perfect for dessert or snacking any time of day.

Here is a nourishing but sweet treat to celebrate the first weekend of spring, as well as the launching of my new confections company, Chou-Chou. Pronounced “shoo-shoo,” the term is not only French for sweet little thing, but it is also my son’s nickname. These granola bars are sure to become a signature item in my line-up of goodies—some purely sweet and decadent, and others based on healthful whole foods, such as my Dried Fruit and Nut Squares (published below).

These bars contain a goodly amount of flavorful and healthy ingredients, but they come together quickly and easily. After a relatively short time in the oven and a cooling rest, they cut nicely into semi-soft bars that satisfy a sweet tooth, as well as an empty tummy rumbling for a “good-for-you” snack.

Makes eighteen 1 ½-by-3-inch bars

2 cups rolled oats

½ cup slivered blanched almonds

½ cup raw pumpkin seeds

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/3 cup raw sesame seeds

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ cup golden flax seeds

1/3 cup toasted wheat germ (optional)

About 1 ½ cups chopped dried fruit, such as pitted dates, stemmed figs, cranberries, cherries, raisins, golden raisins

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup molasses

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Stir together the oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, coconut, sesame seeds, salt, and cinnamon on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until just fragrant and beginning to color lightly, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the flax seeds, wheat germ, if using, and the dried fruit.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300. Line a 9-by-2-inch square baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper, long enough to drape over the edges by about 1 inch. Hold the paper in place over the edges with small binder clips.

Stir together the canola oil, maple syrup, molasses, and brown sugar in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Pour the hot syrup over the oats mixture and stir to coat evenly. Pour into the prepared baking pan and, using the back of a damp spoon or damp fingers, press into the pan until flat and firm.

Bake until the granola is golden brown and fragrant, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely in the pan, at least 3 hours or overnight.

To cut the granola bars, remove the binder clips from the pan and hold onto the parchment paper to lift out the entire square of granola. Using a large chef’s knife, cut into 18 even rectangles. Store the bars in an airtight container, separated by small sheets of parchment paper, or in re-sealable bags at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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