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!