It’s not uncommon for my Dad to pass on recipes he and my Mum have come across. I’ve made these several times now. A batch went to work, a batch was eaten for dinner I’m ashamed to say, a batch had fingers in the uncooked batter, and finally a batch was brewed up as Marcus and I were hosting our friends Gillian and Eric. My Dad first had a taste of these on a hike he and Mum went on in Colorado with my Uncle Mike and Aunt Marji. The story goes Aunt Marji whipped these babies up for the hike, Dad fell in love, the recipe was sought, and once they were home I got my first taste.
I love how flexible the recipe allows you to be. If you like a crispier granola bar, bake it longer. Coconut flakes or raisins or dried cherries or chocolate chips would be delicious. Coconut oil would likely do well in place of the butter. Flax seed would definitely work as a healthy addition. I added a tablespoon or two of honey in one batch and I like the variety of stickiness you can achieve.
Gillian had a bar before the gym one night, Marcus before a bike ride, and me as a nibble before the commute to work. They’re light and the perfect snack. The kosher salt in the recipe is key, anything lighter than kosher salt would dissolve too much into the batter. My girlfriend from work asked “what is the salty deliciousness in these?” – and my answer is…salt! If you’re into the sweet-salty thing, you’ll be into these.
I have to say, I’m a bit of a date feen. The original recipe calls for 6 dates, and I liked the batches with upwards of 10 or 12. Some bites tasted more of a dessert-like, date bar quality, which I adore. Hey, granola bars are healthy – right?? If you’re less date-inclined, 6 will do just fine. Making these in one bowl, and baking in a loaf pan was brilliant. The less dishes the better.
These bars will last quite a while in an air tight container, a week at most I’d say. Bon Appetit recommends you eat them within 5 days which is good advice; Marcus and I munched on them upwards of a week and we couldn’t tell a difference in texture or taste. We like cashews as a snack so I solely used them in these bars, but any nut combination would be delicious.
On Marcus and my honeymoon in Iceland, we exhausted Stars’ The North album. We somehow managed to overlook the fact that the rental car did NOT play an iPod, and one of the only albums on Marcus’ phone was The North. I’m super into their new album No One Is Lost and got lost myself in making ‘nola bars and learning all the new words of the new album. Finally, the bit about really pressing the batter into the bread loaf is important. On one batch I didn’t follow suit, and while still fantastic it was more crumble than it was bar. Press hard!
Barely adapted from Bon Appetit magazine
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
10-12 Medjool dates, pitted, chopped
3/4-1 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups old-fashioned oats
½ cup raw cashews (or almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts)
½ cup shelled pumpkin seeds
½ cup shelled sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
½ heaping teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a loaf pan, or spray with nonstick spray and line with parchment.
Bring dates and maple syrup to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat to medium-high, and boil, stirring often, until dates are very soft and maple syrup is slightly reduced, 8–10 minutes. Remove date mixture from heat and stir in butter until it is melted. Mash dates with a fork until slightly smooth.
Toss oats, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and salt in a large bowl. Mix in date mixture until evenly coated. Scrape half of oat mixture into prepared pan and press very firmly and evenly to compress it as much as possible. Add remaining oat mixture and press until very tightly packed into pan.
Bake, tenting with foil if browning too quickly, until loaf is darkened in colour and firm around the edges, and center gives just slightly when pressed, 45–50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let loaf cool in pan before turning out (it can even sit overnight). Cut into ½”-thick slices with a serrated knife.