This past couple of weeks have been extra busy for me, as I've been trying to balance a stressful time in my graduate studies with other family and social events like Easter, my own birthday and my Dad's birthday which we are celebrating belatedly this weekend!
During times like this when I'm too busy to worry about cooking or grocery shopping, I like to make sure I have still have enough healthy and nutritious food options easily available, and homemade snacks like today's recipe are the perfect way to get in a boost of energy to keep me going!
I've tried a lot of granola bar recipes in the past, and while I've enjoyed all of them, I tend to prefer the chewy, soft-baked kind. I also like when they have an interesting texture and when their sweetness comes from fruit rather than added sweeteners.
Not only are they soft and chewy while still holding together well, but the base of them is made up of a mix of ground hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds with oats and rice crisp cereal, giving them a lot more nutty flavour and texture than a regular oat-based granola bar.
They're also held together with some almond butter to add more richness and a bit of maple syrup for sweetness. What really made these unique though was the addition of dried figs. I've never really eaten dried figs before, but these dried black mission figs changed my mind - if you can find the black mission ones, they really make all the difference because they're so soft and sweet!
The original recipe for these bars called for only pumpkin seeds instead of any nuts, and used all rice cereal without any oats, so I was happy that they still turned out so well even after the changes I made.
While these involve a somewhat long list of ingredients and some more expensive ingredients than other homemade granola bars, I thought they were worth it!
Feel free to make some substitutions though, like using a different type of nut than the hazelnuts, or leaving out the chia seeds and cocoa powder (these were additions that I made but they're not necessary). You could also add extra fruit like raisins or currants, but I don't recommend skipping the dried figs!
Soft-Baked Fig, Hazelnut & Pumpkin Seed Granola Bars
Adapted from Daily Bites
2 tbsp ground flax, divided
3 tbsp water
Scant 1/2 cup raw hazelnuts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup rice crisp cereal
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped dried black mission figs
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp almond butter (I used a homemade almond butter)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup (or up to ¼ cup if you prefer a sweeter snack)
2 tbsp almond milk
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F and line an 8x8 square baking pan with parchment paper.
Mix 1 tbsp of the ground flax with the water and set aside to thicken.
In a food processor, process the hazelnuts and pepitas until roughly ground. Add the oats, rice crisp cereal, remaining 1 tbsp of flax, chia seeds, cinnamon, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and process until everything is finely ground. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chopped figs.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond butter (you may need to microwave it a bit if yours isn’t very liquidy and smooth), maple syrup, almond milk, vinegar, and vanilla until smooth.
Pour liquid mixture into dry ingedients and stir with a rubber spatula or spoon until everything is mixed well. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan and press down firmly with your hands and/or a rubber spatula so that the mixture is evenly spread out across the pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, until the edges are starting to crisp. Remove and let the pan cool on a wire rack. Once cool, carefully remove the bars by pulling on the parchment paper (you might want to run a knife around the edges first) and cool completely before cutting into bars.
Makes 10 bars.