Much like acquiring the ability to make bread, the art of making a good granola bar has always eluded me. I would try recipes and they wouldn't be what I was looking for; namely a Nature Valley crunchy type bar. Most recipes were for chewy granola bars which ended up more sticky and the crunchy ones ended up hard despite my best efforts. Granola itself was no problem, but a bar....no chance.
With the holiday opening of my little "store" of toffee, conserves, etc, wax paper became my friend. All Hail wax paper! Anyway, Yesterday, making a batch of just regular granola, I had an epiphany. What if I just pressed my granola into the cookie pan once it comes out of the oven! Normally with granola you don't disturb it as it cools and then you break it up. This time I would take it out of the oven. Place a piece of wax paper on top and then, using my rolling pin, roll it flat. Then let it cool. Problem is I would need to be able to get it out of the cookie sheet without breaking it up. So I took a piece of wax paper and lined my cookie sheet. Then prepared my granola according to recipe only this time after removing it from the oven, I covered it with wax paper and did the whole rolling pin thing. I also went ahead and cut it into bars before it was cool to also avoid breaking them. The granola bars turned out great and did exactly what I thought they would do with the exception of one thing. Not all of the wax paper released from the bar. It was a messy frustrating process and some of the bars broke. Grrr. So close! So now enter my new best friend in baking.....the silicone baking mat. I have taken some of the proceeds of my holiday store sales and bought 2 silicone cookie sheet liners. Since they are reusable, it is a much better investment that wax paper and won't leave bits of paper on the finished product. As for the actual bars, they have passed inspection from the men in the house and so I can check one more item off my to buy at the store list.
Chocolate chip Crunchy Granola Bars
4.5 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dry milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup oil
1.5 tsp vanilla or vanilla/butter flavoring
1/3 cup choc chips
Take your first 5 ingredients and mix together well on a cookie sheet (lined with a silicone baking mat or sprayed with cooking spray)
In a saucepan, mix the sugar, honey, oil, and extract. Heat up on med heat just til boiling. Pour over the oat mixture. Mix as much as you can with a spoon (cause it will be hot FYI), and then lay the spoon aside and mix with your clean hands. Spread out equally over the cookie sheet. Bake in a 325 oven for 10 minutes. Take out and stir well, spread evenly again and put back into the oven for 5 minutes. Repeat, place back in oven for last 5 minutes. Once removed, sprinkle the chips over your granola. Cover it with wax paper and using a rolling pin, roll it flat, flat, flat. Go ahead and cut into bars while the mixture is still warm or you won't be able to later. Once cool, you can break the bars apart and store in an air tight container.