Wednesday, May 26, 2010

recipe: chocolate chip granola bites & granola bars

Granola Bites

Some of my best peeps (that's you!) have been asking for the recipe for the granola bites that are often in the bentos for my kids. This recipe has evolved and been tweaked quite a bit and I'm pretty happy with it now. My challenge in finding a granola recipe was to find one that doesn't use peanut butter (because my main granola-eating kid doesn't like peanut butter) (he's nuts!), and one without coconut (I don't like that, blech!) and one that holds together after being cut into bars. Along the way I have tried a lot of recipes that tasted great, but they would crumble to pieces as soon as it removed from the pan. Crumbles don't pack well in a bento box. ;-)

Gathering the goods:
ready the supplies
also needed but didn't make it in the picture (because I am just that scatterbrained)...vanilla, brown sugar, and ground flax seed and/or wheat germ (optional).

For granola bars you will need a baking pan and for the little "granola bites", as I call them, you will need mini silicone cups. This recipe will yield an 8x8 pan of granola bars plus about six mini-granola bites. You can make all granola bites if you like, or all granola bars. I wouldn't try making more than 6 of the bites if you are also doing the bars, because you may end up with not enough granola in the pan for enough depth to keep the bars intact once cut apart.
baking pan, baking cups
I've also found through a lot of trial and error that the bars stay together better in a truly square pan, like this one, rather than a glass baking dish with rounded corners and edges.
I use a piece of parchment to help get the bars out of the pan. I use the paperclips to keep the sides of parchment from flopping into the middle. I remove the paperclips after the pan is filled and ready to bake.

2 1/2 C. quick oats
1/2 C. crisp rice cereal
1/2 C. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 C. canola oil
1/4 C. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla
* optional: ground flax seed and/or wheat germ (I use 3 heaping Tbs. or so of each).

Mix all ingredients (except for the chocolate chips - keep those out for now) really, really, really well. I start with a wooden spoon and then usually end up using my hands too. Take your time to make sure everything is really blended. Taking your time also allows the wet ingredients to sort of soak into the dry components. If your mixture seems dry after mixing then you may need to add a little more oil and/or honey - a teaspoon at a time - until it starts to clump up a little.
It may be hard to tell, but can you see how some of the granola mixture is starting to cling and ball up a little here?
granola, looking for clumpiness

When your granola mixture gets to this point, not too wet, not too dry, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Holding the mini muffin cups, scoop the granola mixture in and form the mound compactly. I use a rounded tablespoon to help form them, a small cookie scoop would work too. You need to use both hands to press the granola and support the muffin cup at the same time. Line them up on a baking sheet to place in the oven.
chocolate chip granola - ready to bake

Press the remaining granola into your baking pan (if you are making bars). Make sure your baking pan has been sprayed well with non-stick spray!  Press mixture firmly, compacting it as well as you can.

350 degrees.
Granola bites: 12-15 minutes.
Granola bars: 17-22 minutes (keep an eye on them!).
They are ready to remove from oven when the tops are golden.  If they don't cook long enough they may not hold their shape. If they cook too long they will get too dry (not to mention they can burn) and may not hold their shape.  (I've found granola bars to be finicky.)

Let the granola bites cool completely. Just leave 'em alone for a few hours so they can set. Then, they are done! So easy.
Granola Bites

You can remove them from the silicone cups, if you want, they hold their shape great.
just granola yumminess

The bars are a little more work.

MOST IMPORTANTLY - do not even attempt to touch them at all after they are done baking. You must let them set and gel and have alone time.  Overnight. I mean it. If you don't leave them alone overnight you'll be sorry! Take my word for it. I speak from experience.
It doesn't matter if they seem cool to the touch and it doesn't matter if they "look fine". They really do need that time to come together and fully set or they will just fall apart.

So, the next morning, you will need a long knife. It's a lot easier if you can cut them apart in one big motion. My longest knife is *just* barely long enough.
granola bars done and set

Turn the pan over on a cutting board. Sometimes I get lucky and the whole granola slab plops out without further prodding. Sometimes it needs to be prodded. This is where having that parchment in there is a big asset. Just gently pull on the flaps of parchment hanging out and the whole thing will pop onto the cutting board.
removing granola bars from pan

Next, using that long sharp knife cut into bars. I get 12 out of an 8x8" pan.
cut into bars

Lastly, you should wrap them up. While they hold together well enough to eat with your hands, they are "delicate" and will fall apart if they are messed with too much. Warmer weather also seems to make them more prone to falling apart.
I use wax paper. I cut into pieces approximately 7" by 3" or so (I'm not very precise or concerned about it) and wrap them individually. If I have space to twist the ends closed I'll do that (easy!). If I've cut too short then I fold the ends in and seal shut with a sticker (cute!).
granola bars all wrapped up & ready to go

Store in an airtight container.
granola bars nice & cozy

Some random notes:

  • Like I said before, these are pretty finicky. I make them the same way every time but my results still vary. It may depend on the weather. (Seriously). They are less dense now that we have warm weather. Also, it seems the ingredients require more moisture sometimes to get to that clumpy stage while mixing and other times it needs less.

    It's important to use the Quick Oats and not the regular ones. Regular oats will NOT gel together and you'll end up with a tasty granola crumble instead of handy granola bars.

    You can use regular Rice Krispies for the crisp rice cereal. But if you do that you should cut back on the brown sugar or they will end up being overly sweet. I use the organic brown rice cereal because we are trying to cut out all HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and Rice Krispies have HFCS (and other sugars too, but it's the HFCS I have the biggest issue with). The organic brown rice cereal is not sweetened, so the whole 1/2 cup of brown sugar is needed.

    Substituting mini semi-sweet baking M&M's  for the chocolate chips is fun way to change it up.

    You can add a little peanut butter to this if you like. Sometimes I'll add a big heaping spoonful in hopes of acclimating my son to the taste of it. ;-) As long as he doesn't know it's in there and I don't over-do it he doesn't notice. Sometimes he notices but doesn't complain too much.

    The flax and wheat germ are totally optional. I usually use it, but sometimes forget. It's a great way to bump up fiber and omega 3's and a bunch of other good stuff. :)

  • You can use butter instead of the canola oil if you prefer. I use the canola because it's a healthier oil/fat, but butter works just fine with the recipe too.

    I hope you enjoy!! :)

    Supplies used to make these granola bites:

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    Bar 7 Ranch said... [Reply to comment]

    Thanks so much for sharing your recipe! I cant wait to try them!! Wish me luck! ;) lol

    angelk33 said... [Reply to comment]

    Thank you SO much for posting all of this. Very helpful! I love all the tips. I usually have to go through all the trial and error myself! I have been looking for a good recipe. Appreciate it!

    JakenRenee said... [Reply to comment]

    Yes, I have been looking for a good recipe like this! The only thing is that I don't currently have an oven...hmmm...I might get daring and try the toaster oven with the silicone cups...whatcha think?

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    Oooh, I don't know, Renee. A few days ago I was cooking for P&T and put silicone cups in my toaster oven and it messed them up! They now have weird stain-looking streaks all over them, that won't wash away, like they burned. They are still functional but are so ugly now!

    Do you have a tray for the toaster oven? Or you could try wrapping a rack in foil...and then use the granola and ball it up into bite sized pieces and do it that way in the toaster oven. ???

    No oven. Goodness. I think you are a saint. :)

    Astrid said... [Reply to comment]

    Love this! I will definitely be making these! I love that they don't have PB in them, because they are safe for my daughter's peanut free classroom. Yay! These are going right on my TO MAKE list! Thanks!

    Raji P. said... [Reply to comment]

    Thanks! hey, one thing - the RECIPE tag does not show up in your Tag Cloud, probably because you've just started recipes. Please add it for your fans?!

    Ok, so get this - a bunch of us got together and inspired by your pick post, ordered a crazy pile of stuff from a crazy bento ebay vendor. Super cute, but boy, are they SMALL! Do you really use them for your older son? The animal picks are so so tiny!

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    I just fixed the tag! I meant to do it right when I posted, since I now have a whopping two recipes posted! :P

    I hope you had fun picking out a bunch of bento goodies! :) The picks ARE small, so they fit in the small bento boxes! My older son really does use them (I do too, sometimes!). Because they are so small I'm a little nervous about my younger daughter using them, though the more she uses them the better she is about using them appropriately (like, not sticking the entire thing in her mouth!).

    Happy lunch packing!! :D

    Mommy of 3 said... [Reply to comment]

    Made these last night and WOW! My family flew through them. My four year old is a self-proclaimed "granola hater" and loved these enough to ask for one first thing this morning! Thanks for a great recipe! These will be a staple for sure. :)


    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    Oh, Courtney! Yay! I'm so glad your family liked them! :)

    Jenny said... [Reply to comment]

    Ok, I have to post because we're allergic to peanuts (and other nuts) and coconut (and dairy and oats, and a few other things actually) and if I can find a whole grain besides oats to do this with, I am definitely going to because I am so excited to even see a recipe that is SO CLOSE to being something we can eat! Thank you!!!

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    Goodness Jenny! :o Such a challenge! I've never heard of an oat allergy! I hope you can find something to substitute with (maybe all rice cereal??) Good luck! :)

    Jenny said... [Reply to comment]

    I wonder if I made it with rice cereal if it would come out looking more like rice crispie treats....I'm going to have to try that, thanks Melissa!

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    Oh, duh, yeah, I guess that would be the same as rice crispie treats. I didn't think of that! :P

    Alie said... [Reply to comment]

    Yeah! Thanks so much. I have a similar recipe with peanutbutter instead of oil. I don't make it very often because some classrooms can't have peanutbutter. For some reason I never thought to substitute anything...

    susanne13 said... [Reply to comment]

    I am in a similar position as Jenny - gluten free so no oats. I know there are GF oats but tring them with all rice cereal is a great idea - sort of like the Cocoa Rice Bars but even more delicious because they are home made :) Thanks!

    Stephanie said... [Reply to comment]

    This looks great! I will definitely be making these soon. Keep up the good work- I LOVE your blog!

    rockerbabysmom said... [Reply to comment]

    Could these be made in a regular muffin tin? Thanks for adding the recipe!

    John & Robyn said... [Reply to comment]

    I love these! I made a batch last week and my kids were very happy. I currently have a batch in the oven and I used Coconut oil instead of the canola and I hope they turn out. They will probably have a nice coconut flavor to them. Yummy!

    Tracey said... [Reply to comment]

    I have mine in the oven as we speak. I can NOT wait to try them. I sampled some of the "batter" and it was soooooo good.

    SLeMaster said... [Reply to comment]

    very excited to try these :)

    Krista said... [Reply to comment]

    i just made yet another batch of these, and yum. i added about 1/4 cup of sun butter to them for an extra nutritional kick and it was delish!

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    Awesome, Krista! I'm glad to know the sun butter works okay. I was going to try that in my next batch but wasn't totally sure how it would turn out. Yay! :)

    Kathryn said... [Reply to comment]

    Yum! I can't wait to make these later in the week!!

    Any feedback on making them in mini muffin pan?

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    Kathryn, I haven't tried that.
    I'd be worried they might stick and not come out. If you try it you might want to not let them bake as long because they might brown more quickly from contact in the pan.

    If you try it, report back on how it goes! ;)

    JK said... [Reply to comment]

    I made these yesterday in a mini muffin pan and they came out fine. I sprayed liberally with cooking spray and pressed the granola mix into the muffin holes with the back of a spoon. After cooling awhile, they popped out easily with the help of a butter knife. They are not as pretty without the colorful silicone cups, but they sure taste good! I used coconut oil, coconut flakes and some chocolate chips. Yummy.

    Thank you so much for the lunch inspiration and for posting this recipe!

    Couture and Crayons said... [Reply to comment]

    You are my savior! My daughter is allergic to eggs, milk, soy and nuts and there are NO granola bars on the market. Instead of regular chocolate chips, I will sub Enjoy Life chocolate chips which are allergy free. I make homemade granola, but have yet to find one that does not crumble.

    Thank you!!!

    Karen said... [Reply to comment]

    These are the best!! Taste just like the Quaker chewy chocolate chip ones but with much better ingredients. I love these! Made them in mini muffin tins and turned out great. :)

    Jill said... [Reply to comment]

    Thank you so much for this recipe - we made them this weekend and the whole family loves them! They are a treat for my kids, who are allergic to milk & nuts and can't do commercially prepared granola.

    How long do you find that they last in an airtight container? Have you ever tried to freeze them?

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    Jill, they last for a long time! I had a few granola bites in a canister get buried in my pantry for over a month and they were still perfect. This was during summer, and I live in a humid environment - I was surprised they were still good, but they were! :) I haven't tried freezing them, but I'm positive they'd freeze just fine!

    Yiran said... [Reply to comment]

    Quick question: are these more on the chewey side, or are they the "crunchy" type?

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    Yiran, I'd consider them chewy. :)

    azbaby24 said... [Reply to comment]

    Quick question, I have made the granola bars three times so far and OVERALL love them. However, they seem to keep falling apart on me and the chocolate is like half melted. I wait the entire night to cut into them (even though I have been so tempted). So my question is - am I making them too wet before baking or baking too long which is melting the choc?? Going to try the mini bites next and I do not want to screw it up. Granted, we eat it all but I can not keep it together for a lunch box. Please help with any suggestions because this is so close to being a staple in our home.

    Caitlin said... [Reply to comment]

    I'm so glad I found this recipe!
    I've been trying to find a good granola "bite" recipe that doesn't contain any peanut butter or coconut (just good ol' fashioned oats and honey for me, thank you very much!) and I appreciate your section on how to adjust our baking times to accomodate for the teeny-weenie size too!

    Thank you, thank you! I'll be trying this out soon (with the addition of some almonds or cashews, perhaps? :) I think so!)

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    azbaby24 - that's a tricky question. I don't think you are over-baking them because if that was the case they'd be coming out over-browened and very hard/crunchy. I accidently over-baked a batch this week and -yuck- I choked down a couple and had to throw the rest away. Way to dry and cruchy with a burnt aftertaste (so disappointing!).
    I'm wondering if the temp on your oven is where it should be - and if you are actually not baking them at a high enough temp - that could cause them to crumble. Do you have a thermometer to check?

    I swear though that the weather has a lot to do with it! I have a very hard time having these turn out well when it is hot and/or humid. I have much better turn-out when our weather is mild. I know that sounds sorta crazy!

    I DO think you'll have an easier time with the smaller bites - those hold together much better!

    Yiran said... [Reply to comment]

    I made granola bars following your recipe exactly, and found that they were a little overly moist came to close to being cloyingly sweet for my taste. So all I did was reduce the brown sugar, honey, and oil each by 3-5 tablespoons, and they came out just to my likeing. :)

    I've made these multiple times with regular oats, and they turned out just fine. I pulse the oats in the food processor a couple of times until I get this mix of "oat flour" and oat pieces - so perhaps that's why they don't fall apart, even though I use regular oats? Anyhow, the first time I made them, I took a bit of a risk by only waiting about 15 minutes after they came out of the oven (or until they're cool to the touch) before I cut them, and didn't have a problem with any of them falling apart. In fact, out of all the times I've made these, they've never crumbled at all - I'd say they're more sticky than crumbly... Hm... I wonder what we're doing differently? Either way, I really do love the recipe; it's so quick and easy - delicious too! )

    tara said... [Reply to comment]

    i have made these every sunday for the last two months! i make them and my kids and hubby have them in their lunches all week...thats if they last long. i have even brought them to visit family and to work to share and everyone loves them!! thank you so much for sharing this recipe :)

    MH said... [Reply to comment]

    Thanks for this recipe! I substituted chopped Craisins for the chocolate chips (and decreased the brown sugar) and baked them in a mini muffin tin. They were a hit at preschool snack time!

    Christina said... [Reply to comment]

    I just made these with my kidlettes (and gave you some link love). They were a bit - well, a lot - too sweet for us, but it was a great starting recipe for our whole food family. I also used heart shaped silicon cups in honor of Valentine's Day. They needed about 14 minutes in the oven, and worked great! Thanks!

    Michele said... [Reply to comment]

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I tried them yesterday and they are very yummy!

    frosty said... [Reply to comment]

    I made these this weekend for our breakfasts on the run and I wrote about them on my blog I hope it is ok that I linked to you and your post. I had to adapt the recipe a little to fit my cupboard :) The post isn't going up until later this week because I really can only write during the weekend so I space out my posts if I write a few on the weekend. Anyway, thanks for the recipe! So glad you are back!

    melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    So, I have never made granola bars, but I am excited to try these! Is it possible to add dried fruit to the mix?? I am not much of a baker so I am hesitant to try without a little advice. Thanks for your help

    Amy said... [Reply to comment]

    I've been making these for about a year now. I used to buy bars for my hubby but wanted something I liked (never cared for that fake coconut taste... i think that's what it was). I LOVE THESE and make them every week. Everyone wants 'my' recipe, and i keep pointing them to here. Thanks for all your inspiration in the kitchen. Amy

    Amy said... [Reply to comment]

    Hey I've been making these bars for the past year... almost every week! I just HAD to come and say THANK YOU! for your inspiration in the kitchen. WE love them! amy

    amydianet said... [Reply to comment]

    I made these today with my daughter and they were so easy. Best of all delicious! We made bars and put cute stickers on to seal them - that is such a great idea. I added 1/4 of cup of peanut butter and 3 TBS of flax and they were great. I used GF Oats from Bob's Red Mill and they seem to be holding up just fine - not crumbly. Next time, I may add an egg to up the protein factor and cut back on the oil. I'll let you know if it works!

    MommaNorth said... [Reply to comment]

    I tried this and used gluten free rice krispies, supplemented oat bran for the wheat germ and added sun flower seeds, sesame seeds, and minced Blue Diamond roasted/salted almonds. I also use maple syrup instead of the honey. LOVE THEM!

    Sara Jo said... [Reply to comment]

    I've made this bars three times now, and the have come out really greasy, to the point that the chips don't even go back to "solid" after cooling off. Any ideas what might be going on? I make sure I measure the ingredients right, so maybe reducing the amount of oil in half perharps?

    pyjammy pam said... [Reply to comment]

    Made these last night for my triplets' class snacks. They came out great! I'm going to do the bites next time to put in their lunchboxes.

    Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

    What would be the best way to leave the granola to set overnight? Do I need to cover with the baking pan with wrap? Thanks!

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    I usually just lay a clean dishtowel over the top. Sometimes I just stick the pan back in the oven (after it's cool) just to get them off the counter and out of the way. :)

    Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

    After looking at these for a couple months now, I decided to make a batch. They are FANTASTIC. I used 3 Tbsp toasted wheat germ in mine too and followed the rest of the recipe exactly. They are delicious and I must admit I didn't let them sit overnight but had no issues.. I did let them sit for 5-6 hours though. I think I cooked them a touch too long because the edges were crunchy.. the rest was chewy and delicious. The hubby likes crunchy granola, so I just got all the edges for him! What a fantastic recipe. I'm going to try them with peanut butter chips next time since I like PB too. I have to say also that my daughter, who is weird about textures and refuses oatmeal DEVOURED the mixture before it was cooked. So I'll be keeping a bit out each time I make them for her just to eat before baking! YUM!

    Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

    I just made these and they taste great. I used the regular oats instead of instant, and they were crumbly as was mentioned, but it was kinda fun to eat a chocolately, crumbled oat and rice krispie mix. It was like eating warm oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough. I don't think I got the exact mixture right, as it sort of had a pool of oil on the bottom (nope, I didn't wait to eat it either). For making it as a crumble, I think next time I will use less oil and more oats/krispies, not spray the bottom with cooking spray, and cook it a little longer to make it crunchier. This is a great recipe though. Thanks for publishing it! And it's fairly easy to modify or customize for whatever you want.

    Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

    Anyone tried subbing applesauce for the oil? I do that in muffins all the time but wonder if it would work here too

    Lisa said... [Reply to comment]

    My daughter, who is the baker in the family, made these today. She likes granola bars but was annoyed at the amount of ingredients in them. We didn't have vanilla but happened to have almond extract. They came out better than i could have imagined! She wrapped them all up for her lunches this week! Thanks for sharing!

    Hilo80 said... [Reply to comment]

    When you make the mini muffin tin ones, do you cool them in the pan?

    Christy Price said... [Reply to comment]

    I just made these and they were fantastic! I did want to comment about the small changes that I made..1st I also used old fashioned oats that I pureed. 2nd I sustituted agave nectar for the honey (super healthy) as well as I used apple sauce in replace of the oil to decrease both calories and make it healthier. I was unsure how this would affect it, but they turned out amazing without any crumbling at all (using the mini muffin method). I also halved the chocolate chips and added craisins. Thanks a ton for the recipe, my children loved them and will never buy granola bars again!!

    Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

    I have a recipe for granola bars that is similar to this. I am going to "combine" the two and "mix and match" some of the ingredients. Instead of oil though, I use applesauce. Works great and is a healthy alternative! Thanks for sharing your recipe. :)

    Amy T. said... [Reply to comment]

    I made these today for the 2nd time and just loved them. I am gluten free, so I used quiona flakes rather than oats (the first time I used GF oats and they were perfect), refined coconut oil rather than canola, and turbinado sugar rather than brown. I did add about 1TBS more of honey to ensure they stuck together and they were great!

    Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

    Hilo80 - when I make them as mini muffins I use silicone cups. I'm not sure how difficult they'd be to get out of an actual pan. I think I'd be inclined to let them cool a bit, but try to pop them out before setting too much.

    Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

    I made these today for my allergic child and he was SO excited to have granola bars. Yummy!!!! I used mini muffin pans. I cooled in the pan, then gave each one a little twist and they came out with no problem (I dud lightly grease the pan). I used half ground oats and half oats. The texture was perfect. I did have to add extra oats because the mixture seemed really wet and greasy. Amazing recipe!!!!

    Lisa said... [Reply to comment]

    I'll try to make this specialty tonight!Thank you for this wonderful recipe!!!

    Carla said... [Reply to comment]

    I've made these twice now--the first time I followed your recipe, but upon entering the measurements of the ingredients into a calorie-counting website, I was super-shocked at how calorific they were. So Round 2 was done with some modifications: omitted brown sugar, swapped oil/ honey measurements (1/4c oil, 1/2c honey), upped rice cereal by 1/2c, reduced oats by 1/2c (just because I prefer them crunchier). I've also stored them in the fridge.

    Unknown said... [Reply to comment]

    I just made these and they are amazing! I added a cup of chopped pecans and used EV coconut oil instead of canola oil. The girls at work gobbled them up! Now I have to make another batch...sigh :)

    TishaJ said... [Reply to comment]

    I made these with my class yesterday. It's a great recipe for kids to help! I baked them on a cookie sheet, and they turned out great! They are crispy and yummy!

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