Pascal, the boy, has been on a quest for a breakfast bar to munch on as he travels to work. We started at the organic market and he managed to accrue a staggering £45 worth of one-off breakfast bars to try out. So here we are four weeks later and it turns out that he didn't like one of the 20 or so bars that he picked out. Not one! Turns out he wants the ones from Tesco. The ones made by a major cereal producer or something with a shelf life of one hundred years with a paragraph for an ingredient list and all sort of hydrogenated oils. But let’s be honest, they taste good. I like them, he likes them, but they aren't particularly good for you and even have ingredients that can be, well, bad for you.
That being said, I also didn't want to go to Tesco as its far and I am still hobbling on my sprained ankle, so I decided to see what I could manage with what's in my cupboard. The recipe to follow is the haphazard cupboard version but you can modify it to your liking. There is a fair amount of sugar but definitely less than you will find in a super market bar and its good sugar (no refined white sugar here).
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of salt
1 1/2 cups dried fruit, seeds and nuts
Pre-heat your oven to 200 C
Step 1: In a large bowl, mix the oats, wheat germ, ground linseed, seeds and nuts until well blend then spread out onto a roasting pan or baking sheet to toast in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on it and shift it around frequently to ensure even toasting and avoid burning.
Step 2: While the dry mixture is in the overn, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over a low heat and then incorporate the brown sugar, honey, vanilla and salt. (For a more deep and earthy molasses-like flavour (a bigger hit with adults than kids), you can reserve 1 tbsp of butter and a couple of tbsp of brown sugar. Melt the brown sugar in the sauce pan first to caramelise it and then add the butter.)
Step 3: Remove the oat mixture from the oven, put it back into the original mixing bowl and add the fruit. Then fold the melted sugar and honey into the oats. Make sure that you do this slowly to coat the entire dry mixture as the sugar and honey needs to act like glue and bind the bars. (If you have decided on the molasses route, you can make that mixture now to only use one sauce pan.)
Step 4: Line a rectangular roasting pan with lightly buttered parchment or wax paper and scoop the goop (literally it's really goopy) into the pan over the paper (buttered side up, just in case!). Press down on the goop with a wooden spoon to compress it and make it of uniform thickness. Cover with more wax paper, if desired, and let cool at room temperature.
Step 5: Once cool, a couple of hours to be safe, carefully transfer onto a cutting board by laying the cutting board over the pan and just turning it over. Then with a big knife cut the slab into bars. I found one long-ways slice and then many small-ways slices works to get the right size bars. Try not to saw it but rather use your knife as a lever so that the breakage is minimal.
Makes: Roughly 18 bars (1.5 / 4.5 inches)
Note: If you don't have rolled oats or dried fruit and nuts on hand or just have decision making problems about what to put in, you can always use a non-toasted Muesli you trust (Dorset Cereals are good) and a bag of mixed fruit and seeds. (Do try to separate out any fruit that might already be in the muesli before toasting.) Also the wheat germ and linseed are there to add more whole grains and Omega 3s, respectively, but you can substitute more oats or muesli.