a peek inside the fishbowl

21 Sep, 2011

Testing out a new granola bar recipe: this time they’re soft and chewy

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Recipes and Food

The last time I tried a new recipe for homemade granola bars it became an instant household hit. I’m happy to report that I have found ANOTHER great recipe, this time it’s for a jam-filled granola bar that happens to be softer and chewier, something that’s akin to Nutigrain bars**… but not quite the same. They’re better.


Nutrigrain-style soft and chewy granola bars

The original recipe comes via Chasing Tomatoes. I’m a big fan of Karen’s cookery so I knew it was going to be good. Unfortunately our children’s schools are total nut-free zones, and her recipe called for nuts, so I had to make a major change and bulk it up elsewhere. I also used a bit less sugar, ’cause that’s the kind of mom I am. :)

Here’s the thing with homemade granola bars. You can make them as organic or healthy as you want. Add flax! (No one needs to know.) And wheat germ! Or bran! Or chocolate chips! It’s the WILD WEST and as far as I’m concerned, anything goes here in granola land. The most important thing to me is that I know exactly what’s in them. And I can pronounce all the ingredients. And there’s nothing mysterious about any of it.

For the record, here’s my version:

Multigrain berry breakfast bar

3/4 cup unbleached flour
3/4 Robin Hood Multigrain flour
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup sweetened desiccated coconut
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
a dozen or so dried turkish apricots, chopped (optional)
your choice of jam (er, the better part of a small bottle)*

*Sidebar: After spending a lot of time reading all the labels in the jam section of the grocery store (all the while holding a can of blueberry pie filling… it could have worked, right?) I finally decided upon Smucker’s Simple Blends Berry Jam. I’m not being paid for this endorsement, it was honestly the best looking jam in the bunch and it did not contain any corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup a.k.a. glucose-fructose. Interestingly, in terms of ingredients, there seems to be a discrepancy between the Smuckers.ca website and what’s actually printed on the label. My bottle indicates it contains “Fruits (strawberries, boysenberries), organic evaporated cane juice, concentrated white grape juice, concentrated lemon juice, pectin”).

Anyway, onward we go! There are bars to be made here.

Preheat your oven to 350F and lightly grease a 10×15 inch baking pan. Karen wrote that she likes to use parchment paper and I happened to have a lot of it (thanks for the reminder Karen!) so I lined my pan with that. PERFECT. When they were done and cooled I just lifted it them out of the pan JUST LIKE THAT.

Combine the flours, coconut, oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl (I pulled out the largest I had). I used a wooden spoon to mix it all up but an electric mixer would have worked too. In fact, I might use my food processor next time. The goal is to create a crumbly mixture.

Remove about 1/3 of this mixture and add your apricots if you’re using them.  Set aside.

Crack an egg into other bowl (the big bowl you started out with) and blend it really well. (If you don’t, your mixture won’t hold together very well.) Press it into the prepared pan and put it in the oven for about 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.

Spread your jam of choice all over the baked crust, right out to the edges. Mine was slightly uneven in spots, which created craters of jam. (Which is ok in my books.) Sprinkle the reserved oat crumble all over the surface of the newly jammed bars, covering them evenly. Press down a tiny bit, but not too much. Pop it back in the oven and bake for another 12-15 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into bars or squares.

Everyone LOVE LOVE LOVED these and are already begging for more. I wrapped up half and popped them into the freezer. (I like to put them into lunches. They defrost by lunchtime!)

Funnily enough Mark said they tasted like date squares. They do have the same kind of texture, but trust me when I say there are no dates in this one.

p.s. I just noticed that Canadian Living also has a version I might try!

Let me know if you give this recipe a go! I’d love to hear how it worked out for you.

** ever wonder what’s in a Nutrigrain bar? Wonder no more!

17 Responses to "Testing out a new granola bar recipe: this time they’re soft and chewy"

1 | Pamela

September 21st, 2011 at 3:40 pm


“Unfortunately” there are children that could die if they come into contact with peanuts or tree nuts (including mine). The word “because” would have been a much better choice to open that sentence with. I value your interests and commitment to so many things……please try to include the allergic community.
Thank you

2 | Maranda

September 21st, 2011 at 3:45 pm


This recipe is seriously amazing. My kids – and I – LOVE it!

I also made some substitutions, and also used the Robin Hood Multigrain flour (instead of white, the other half whole wheat). I replaced the nuts with half a cup unsweetened coconut and one cup rice krispies. I also cut the sugar to one cup, and still found them over-sweet. I threw some wheat germ and soft white bran in there too.

BTW the President’s Choice Twice The Fruit Jam doesn’t have any corn syrup or other junkie stuff, although it does have sugar. It’s a reasonable price for a big jar too.

These are so delicious, a great dessert too. I might try it with slow cooked apples in the middle if I get around to slow cooking them before the kids eat them all…

3 | Maranda

September 21st, 2011 at 3:49 pm


@Pamela, probably just b/c I know Andrea, I read that first sentence to mean unfortunately she had to change the recipe. I’m sure Andrea doesn’t think that it’s unfortunate the schools protect kids with allergies.

Or it’s unfortunate that the whole school is nut-free, as ours is, which is still the right decision based on how far we are from the hospital. At some schools certain eating areas are nut free not the whole school. And in the US many schools aren’t nut free at all, so that’s a new concept to some readers.

At any rate, both her and I were easily able to adapt the recipe and they’re a delicious nut-free snack as we prepared them.

4 | andrea

September 21st, 2011 at 3:51 pm


I didn’t mean for that line to come out the way it did. My apologies!

5 | andrea

September 21st, 2011 at 3:54 pm


Thank you Maranda. I love the idea of apples in the middle! It’d be a great way of using them up.

And yes, unfortunately for me, I had to fly by the seat of my pants to reinvent this recipe so my children could bring it to their nut-free schools. :)

6 | Maranda

September 21st, 2011 at 4:27 pm


I’ve had good luck with rice krispies in general. I’d like to find something more nutritious but for now it hasn’t wrecked any baking recipes and at least they’re not eating packaged snacks. I used them in my cranberry breakfast cookies recipe, which is also another great alternative to granola bars.


7 | Pamela

September 21st, 2011 at 9:10 pm


Thank you
I will look forward to trying this recipe

8 | betsy mae

September 21st, 2011 at 11:03 pm


I can’t bake! I wonder if I can swing these? Also, I didn’t realize coconut was okay at nut free schools?

9 | Pamela

September 22nd, 2011 at 7:16 am


Coconut is actually a member of the Palm family. It is not a tree nut. It is a seperate allergen altogether.

10 | Liisa

September 22nd, 2011 at 7:26 am


These look delicious – I’m gonna try them.

Although they are called granola bars, I would actually classify them closer to what Mark suggested, a fruit square, since they’ve got all that butter and sugar.

This is essentially the same base recipe I use for many dessert squares, like chocolate chip cookie bars, oat fudge caramel squares, etc.

If I was making these for a morning snack, I might make these less indulgent by replacing all the brown sugar with half a cup of honey, replacing half the butter with applesauce, using 100% fruit preserves, and using unsweetened coconut.

But I still think the original recipe looks great – I’m not knocking it!

11 | andrea

September 22nd, 2011 at 9:46 am


Ok, so maybe it is a wee bit decadent for breakfast. I do however stand by their deliciousness as a post-lunch item. :)

p.s. Liisa, I will try your substitutions too!

12 | Karen

September 22nd, 2011 at 1:24 pm


Thanks Andrea – I’ve been desperately trying to find a nutrigrain-like recipe as my 6-year old won’t touch other snack-type items and there is far too much time between when he has his breakfast and the next meal of the day. I’ll certainly try this one.

Unfortunately he also likes the “foldedness” of the packaged bars, but I found this vegan recipe that seems to be a hit – you may want to check it out: http://www.eatliverun.com/soft-baked-fig-cereal-bars-2. I use homemade jam or apple butter instead of the figs. They’re a bit tricky, but awesome!

13 | Sara

September 22nd, 2011 at 10:12 pm


These are also a hit in our house. We also needed to make them nut free and it definitely works! They are also very good eaten frozen – I think Karen’s original post mentioned that as well.

14 | Liisa

September 23rd, 2011 at 9:54 am


Karen – That recipe you linked to looks great. My 4 year-old also likes the “foldedness”. Plus I’m mostly vegan so any vegan treats are a hit with moi. Gonna try them this weekend.

15 | Maranda

September 27th, 2011 at 8:49 am


I’m going to have make more of these, I barely got any in the freezer… we ate them all too fast!

Just wanted to add that instead of the electric mixer, I found it easier just to use clean hands to crumble it up. Very quick and easy, and somewhat therapeutic too ;)

16 | Danielle

September 28th, 2011 at 2:10 pm


These are just delicious, my kids/everyone loves them. I am so happy that I found this recipe and I am sharing it with my friends.
Every time I make them I try adding different things, coconut, or dried cherries. Just cut them up to make them smaller. I also reduce the sugar and I’m going to try making them with apple sauce instead of oil next time.
Do you know what the caloric count is on these amazing granola bars?

17 | Anne-Marie

November 19th, 2011 at 2:14 pm


I LOVE making granola bars, especially since the recipes are so versatile.
I often add hemp or whey protein (just plain whey protein – no additives), flaked quinoa, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds etc.
That way if my kids are having a “I hate sandwiches no matter how much you put in them” kind of week, I can be sure they’re still getting an adequate amount of protein.
I still find that the kids sometimes don’t like the bars without chocolate chips – this one with the jam was an absolute hit!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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