Lots of people would probably think I'm crazy, but I really like baking my own stuff. Not just the usual sorts of stuff that lots of people bake, like cookies or cupcakes. No, I'm talking about the more interesting (some might say difficult) stuff, like croissants and bagels. Part of it is certainly that by making my own, I know exactly what goes into it. But it's also fun and gives me a sense of accomplishment to say that I did it myself. I guess that's why other people work on their own cars and build stuff around the house. =) I just prefer working with flour and sugar.
I've been doing the BYOB thing with bread for a while, and plan to continue. Over the past couple of years I've tried my hand at a lot of non-bread things, too. It's funny--I've been taking the girls to the farmers market fairly often this summer, and they like to sample prepared foods (including a lot of baked goods) from the various vendors. I think they're a bit disappointed when I tell them that I'm not going to buy something because I can make it myself at home. But they're happier when I offer to let them help.
This morning's project is a good example of that. They were bugging me in the grocery store last night, asking if I would buy them granola bars. Problem is, the ones they really like (and I'm willing to feed them) are rather expensive and I can only get them at Central Market. Most of the stuff on the shelf seems to be more candy than healthy snack. (Not that I'm anti-candy, but there's a time and a place...) I've been meaning to try making my own for a while, and decided to finally do it. I figured they'd be a good snack to take with us to the splash park this morning. I did a bit of searching in my Google Reader and found a few recipes that might be good to try. I put out a request on Twitter for ideas, and Nancy suggested looking in the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Book. I was feeling lazy and checked the KAF website instead. Sure enough, I found what looked like a great recipe for Chewy Granola Bars.
I had one small problem--the recipe calls for KAF Sticky Bun Sugar, which I don't have. But there's a helpful substitution for it in the sidebar, so I went with that. I'm not a big honey person, and wanted a brown sugar flavor in the bars, so I used golden syrup both in the sub for the sticky bun sugar and in place of the honey/maple syrup. I used melted butter in the substitution and canola oil for the main part of the recipe. For the nuts, I went with cashews, since I knew the girls would happily eat them. I let them pick out the rest of the mix-ins. They started by pulling all the dried fruit they could find out of the pantry. I didn't realize we had so much--raisins, plums (aka prunes), apricots, peaches, cranberries and mangos. They settled on dried plums (a favorite for both of them) and apricots. And of course we had to add chocolate chips. Since I don't like cinnamon with chocolate, I added dried ginger instead. To try to make it easier to get the baked bars out of the pan, I lined it with non-stick foil, and baked the bars for 25 minutes.
The verdict? These were quite delicious. The girls agreed. In fact, Brianna kept asking if she could have more while we were still at the park, but since these bars have a lot of calories packed into a small package, I told her she'd have to wait until later. I did have a little trouble with the granola not wanting to stay together in bar form, though the bits were nicely chewy. (The granola stuck to everything else though, including the non-stick foil!) There may be a couple reasons for that. One could be that I didn't have the KAF sticky bun sugar. I may have to finally break down and place an order from them. Also, after I made the bars, I realized that the recipe called for quick oats, which I didn't have. I typically use regular rolled oats for everything. I'll have to pick up some of the quick oats when I go shopping and see if that makes a difference. But I really like the combination of flavors that Brianna and Gillian picked. And I can't wait to try some others.
If you'd like to try these for yourself, you can find the recipe here on the King Arthur website.