Friday, June 29, 2012

Homemade Fruit & Grain Bars

 Fruit & grain bars have somehow become a staple in our kitchen in the last few years. The 5 year old is ADDICTED. This happened when he was 2 and the bars had been a diaper bag grab & go, occasional food. But with rampant morning sickness & fatigue, I wasn't up to making him something most mornings and he didn't eat cereal. What was a sometimes food became his default breakfast and is one of his favorites still.

As I've been re-evaluating our food choices, especially things that come in boxes, I searched high and low for a premade variety of these that would meet my standards (I'm looking for pronouncible ingredients that I can find in my pantry w/o additives or preservatives). Grocery store? NO! Trader Joe's? No. Whole Foods??? Nope. So this became a top priority for me to figure out how to make it at home with out all the unnecessary stuff. Unfortunately, after several recipe searches, I came up dry. Lots of press & form, cut bars but nothing that looked or had the texture of a "real" fruit/grain bar.

I decided that I would try to make my own recipe- not really something that I've ever done. Typically, I just customize other people's recipes. This time I really had to start from scratch. For my approach, I looked a lot at what went into making homemade fig newtons because they seemed the most similar in structure. Of course we can't have fig newtons for breakfast (at least not every day...) so I had to figure out how to make it healthy enough to be a reasonable meal or snack. After around 3 months of test batches and adjustments, I think I've gotten it!

I'm really pleased at the nutrition of these bars-- they've got whole wheat, whole oats and flax seeds, so they provide a nice amount of fiber, whole grains and omega-3's. Using a rough online calorie calculator it shows about 200 calories per bar.

Even better than the nutrition is the taste and texture. They have the soft yielding crust of a prepackaged bar with a little extra crunch from the flax seeds & oats. By using almond extract, instead of vanilla, it adds just a little bit of that baked goods type flavor. We've tried this with mixed berry jams, strawberry, blackberry and raspberry so far, and they've all been excellent! Its nice to finally have something that not only smells good but tastes pretty darn good, too!

Cost wise, if you use a  "select" jam (the kind I like has only fruit, sugar & pectin) it comes out pretty similar to buying them from the store. However, if you really want to make this a cheap project, use your own homemade jam!

Recipe: Fruit & Grain Bars (12 bars)

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (old fashioned or quick cook)
1/4 cup flax seeds
6-8 oz fruit jam (look for ones without corn syrup)

1) In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.
2) Add in egg & extract and beat for 1 minute.
3) In a separate bowl mix remaining dry ingredients.
4) Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, beat until well mixed. Dough will be very sticky!
5) Refrigerate covered dough for 1 hour (you can leave in fridge overnight, just leave out on counter 10-15 minutes to soften up)
6) Divide dough into 2 equal portions.
7) Roll one dough portion out on floured surface to 1/8" thick (think pie crust or thinner). You should have a rough rectangle 10 x 12" long.

8) Cut rectange in half (lengthwise) and transfer 1 portion of dough to cookie sheet covered with silicone mat or parchment paper. Fix any rips or holes in dough. Reshape as necessary.

9) Spoon 1-1 1/2 Tbs jam down center of dough strip.

10) Fold 1/3 of dough over jam, fold opposite 1/3 of dough over other fold.  Pinch seam to seal. Pinch ends to seal.  Finished bar should be 1- 1 1/2" wide and approx 12" long. Narrower is better. Make sure bars have the final appearance you desire. Repair any jam leaks!

11) Complete steps 8-10 for other half of rolled dough and repeat steps 7-10 for other unrolled dough portion. You should have 4 bars approximately 1 1/2" x 12" on your baking sheet.

12) Bake @ 350 F for 10 minutes. These do not brown much. If you overcook, the jam will melt out!
13) Let cool completely on cookie sheet.
14) Cut each long bar into 3 equal bars approximately 4" long.
15) Store bars in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (We actually had the last batch for a little over 2 weeks and I ate the 2nd to the last one- while ever so slightly crumbier than a super fresh one, it seemed none the worse for wear!)

 If you give this recipe a try, comment below and let me know how it worked for you!

No comments:

Post a Comment