Michael Chiarello’s Energy Bars

by Carol Sacks on January 17, 2015

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We’re off to a running start in 2015, but each of us seems to be heading in a different direction. One challenge I’m working through is how to make sure we refuel in a healthy way when we’re not together.

I’d bought a variety of energy bars over the years, and like Goldilocks, hadn’t found one that was just right. Shortly before the end of the year, I read this profile of Chef Michael Chiarello, also an avid cyclist. In it, he talked about the energy bars he developed, which intrigued me. They’re packed with whole grains, dried fruit, toasted almonds and a fair amount of protein. A modest amount of brown sugar and the unexpected addition of molasses give the bars an earthy sweetness.  I had to give them a try. After I made a batch, I was sold, and so were Matthew and The Bug.

Here’s a link to Chiarello’s winning recipe (in case you are unable to access the Wall Street Journal link); my notes on the recipe are below:

You’ll be toasting oats and sliced almonds in the oven, before combining them in a food processor with two types of raisins and dried apricots (I used a slightly sweeter dried apricot from the Farmers Market rather than a tart variety). Keep a close eye on the oven; my almonds took on a tawny hue in about eight minutes, so I pulled them from the oven then — sooner than the 10 minutes I expected.

Chiarello suggests about 10 pulses in the food processor to pulverize the fruit-oats-almond mixture to a coarse texture. I kept the setting on “pulse,” but needed more than twice that to get small, bite-size pieces of the dried fruit. One alternative would be to do a quick chop of the dried fruit before tossing it into the food processor.

You’ll need a stand-up mixer to make the batter. For a smoother batter, I’ll cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy before adding the molasses, egg and vanilla, rather than adding all of the ingredients into the mixer at once.

About the molasses — I had backstrap molasses in my pantry, not the “golden” called for in the recipe. Backstrap is more assertive in flavor, and slightly bitter. While it worked, I’ll go with the golden molasses next time for a more subtle flavor.

Last thing: Reader comments noted that the bars were chewy after baking for 25 minutes and crumbly after 30. Since my primary complaint about energy bars is dryness, I opted for 25 minutes in the oven; they were delightfully chewy. May I suggest you do the same?

Now that I’m a make-your-own-energy-bar convert, two additional recipes have vaulted to the top of my must-try list: Deb Ryan’s Almond Joy Energy Bars, which you can find on her blog, East of Eden Cooking. And, Winnie Abramson’s Homemade Protein Bars on her blog, Healthy Green Kitchen.

Wishing you an energetic week ahead!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth (OMG! Yummy) January 17, 2015 at 9:00 am

Happy New Year! These look terrific – I struggle to find a healthy protein snack for my daughter – she doesnt really like any energy bars. I will have to give them a try!


Carol Sacks January 17, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Thank you, Beth! Your daughter may like these. They are head and shoulders above every energy bar I’ve tried. Hope you’re having a wonderful start to the year!


Winifred Lloyds Lender January 17, 2015 at 9:10 am

These look fabulous! I love the variety of ingredients and the fact that they are not too dry. We will give these energy bars a try.


Carol Sacks January 17, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Thank you, Winifred! I hope you like them.


Deb|EastofEdenCooking January 17, 2015 at 10:22 am

I’m always on the look out for a snack that is healthier and yet will satisfy my afternoon craving for sweets. This is a must try recipe! I saw Gail’s recommendation to add chocolate to this recipe. This is exactly what I need to do for my resident chocolate lover.

Thank you so much for sharing my Almond Joy Energy Bars! I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as my family does.


Carol Sacks January 17, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Deb, we are on the same wavelength. Mid-afternoon, like clockwork, my sweet cravings begin. I’m looking forward to trying your bars soon. Thank you for your kind words and have a great weekend!


Emily Cohen January 17, 2015 at 6:25 pm

These look fabulous, carol! I will be making them with
TB tomorrow. And I hope to take a batch to Josh next week!


Carol Sacks January 18, 2015 at 3:53 am

Great! I hope your scholar-athletes enjoy them!


Anna Grimes January 19, 2015 at 11:19 am

Carol: This post came just at the right time – my 15 and 16 year-old boys were just saying they were hoping for a change in the protein bar department of their lunchbox. Can’t wait to make these! Thanks!


Carol Sacks January 19, 2015 at 3:08 pm

So glad to hear it, Anna. Hope your boys enjoy them as much as we have!


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