Top Secret Ratios
These Nut Bars make a great energy boost after an exhaustively uplifting episode of Glee or before an emotionally draining episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
In case you can’t quite follow the arrows and my brother’s handwriting, here’s how we made the super-tatsy, energy-supplying, don’t die hungry if stranded in the forest (or a big mall) nut bars.
The recipe is below but anything in RED is my brother’s advice from his many nutbar tests. My sister-in-law read his comments and thinks she is married to Alton Brown. I read his comments and wondered how he does anything else aside from making nut bars.
Ratio for solid ingredients:
(assuming 1 cup=1 part in this case to work with binding agent measurements)
1 part Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax ect)
Sesame seeds are great. Use ground flax, unprocessed flax just passes though your system with little benefit. Ground flax is a great way to add fiber to the bars. I think in the batch we used we crushed a bunch of bran cereal as a substitute. If you like seeds, you can also replace some of the nuts with seeds.
2 parts Oats/granola (half should be rolled oats)
Any dry complex carbohydrate can be used here. No need for sugar so you can go all oats. For a nuttier bar, use only rolled oats. They have a lower GI. (Some may not like the texture/taste. Personally this is a good thing because it leave more bars for me to eat.)
In a bind, you can go ghetto and add puffed rice. There is enough quick energy in the sugars of the binding agent, so aim for carbs with a LOW glycemic index. (http://www.glycemicindex.com/)
3 parts Dried fruit (roughly chopped cherries, apricots, raisins, prunes, blueberries ect)
Stay away from any fibrous fruit. No dried apple, peach, mango, etc… I wasn’t so fond of the prunes either. Pineapple, apricot and dried cherries are the best. no need to chop the cherries. Better not to actually.
Oh, FINELY chopped candied ginger gives the bars a nice aromatic flavour. Do not use more than 1/2 cup… 1/4 cup is plenty.
4 parts Nuts (roughly chopped almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts ect)
If you hate chopping, either buy pre-chopped nuts (they are cheaper) or use some combination of walnuts and cashews. In the later case, after you measure out all the nuts, you can just crush them by hand in a large bowl… make sure to do this before you add the oats or crushing them by hand will be harder/more messy.
3/4 cup honey (do not substitute–Dave has tried and for some reason honey is key)
Honey is 1.5% sucrose, 7% maltose and the remainder nearly equal parts of fructose and dextrose with a little bit of H20 thrown in. You could probably use some combinations of other liquid sugars that works out to the same ratios. My guess is that corn syrup would work here. Its about 50/50 fructose/glucose IIR.
1/2 cup brown sugar (can try molasses or corn syrup)
Any sucrose can be used… maple syrup is nice, but you will need to bake the final product a little longer, or boil it off by simmering the binding agent for a little longer.
2 ounces fat (butter or oil) This is necessary to keep the bars chewy and not hard.
It’s not important what type of fats you use, if you prefer unsaturated fats you can use olive oil, sesame oil, etc. I favour Macadamian nut butter. The little jar I bought had the almost the same grams of fat per volume as butter. It give the bars a really nice creamy taste. It is expensive though. As a rule of thumb, just keep the fats equal to those found in 2oz of butter. DO NOT USE PEANUT BUTTER. It will ruin the bar… tried several times. You need too much of it to give you the fats you need and all that peanut butter turns the bars into dense bricks. If you want a peanut taste, add crushed peanuts!
vanilla (to taste)
salt (to taste–careful if you’ve used salted nuts))
**you can add other spices, cocoa powder or flavouring in here too–maybe anise extract?
1. Combine nuts, oats and seeds and warm in oven at 350 F for 15 minutes.
Be careful not to toast them too much. They will get another 20 minute bath of heat soon. The point here is to just warm them up so they will not shock the binder into solidifying. The warm nuts make it easy to combine evenly with the binder.
2. In a large pot combine the binding agent ingredients and melt til smooth.
3. Add in the dried fruit mix and then add in the other dry ingredients-mix till all combined and coated.
Be careful how long you leave the fruit in the simmering binder before the nuts are added. They will quickly start to absorb the binder and leave less to hold the bars together. I guess you could use this to your advantage if you have some fluid to remove like the case where you used maple syrup instead of crystallized sucrose.
4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Flatten the mixture onto the parchment.
5. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes. (you want the bars to lose some moisture and become solid, but not too crunchy so check them at the 12-15 minute mark).
The only thing you can check here is whether or not the bars are burning (getting too dark). The sugars at this temperature will make the flattened goo seem softer than it will be when everything cools. Stick with 15-20 minutes for your first batch. Every combination of ingredients, even if you keep to the 4-3-2-1 ratio will require a slightly different bake time. This is where practice makes perfect. The other bake time factor is the thickness of the bars. The thicker they are, the harder it is for the moisture in the center to escape. When experimenting with your bars, try different sizes of cookie sheets that allow you to play with the thickness. Erin likes gooier bars than I do, so you could even make half a sheet a bit thicker for the goo lovers and thin out the other side for a harder (and cleaner) bar.
Cool and divide.
Winter is dangerous… the bars cool fast and cold bars get brittle. It’s best to cut them slightly over room temp. If you cool them in the fridge or freezer and forget about them, it’s better to let them warm up before cutting.
Back to Sue:
I’m now excited and terrified to make these on my own. Because if I screw these up after the minute instructions supplied by Dave, I will run into the woods wearing only nylons and a bandana and chew on tree bark until I pass out from sobbing.