Mocha Hazelnut Granola Bars

Mocha Hazelnut Granola Bars  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Mocha Hazelnut Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith

My first taste of Nutella came in the mid-1980s when my parents brought back a jar from a trip to Europe. Their travels took them into Northern Italy where I suspect this particular jar of pasta gianduja was procured, and for me it was love at first bite. It made a strong impression on me and I’ve had it many times since then; memorably while visiting my sister in Australia over her study abroad semester when we began most mornings with an English muffin generously spread with a layer of chocolate-hazelnut deliciousness. Vacation breakfast at it's best.

The flavor combination is one of my favorites - deeply, but gently nutty, smooth, sweet, creamy, chocolate-y heaven. Great on fruit, a shortbread cookie, or right off the spoon. Even better with a cup of coffee, which leads me to the other Italian-ish component of this recipe: instant coffee. The mochas on espresso bar menus everywhere and the presence of coffee in chocolate cake recipes have ably proven that coffee and chocolate pair beautifully.

It's a classic combination, but one I haven't seen in pre-made granola bars, and since these three ingredients were just made for each other I had to find a way. The flavors compliment each other, and together are far greater than the sum of their parts. It also doesn’t hurt that these bars mix up quickly and are perfectly portable – a pick-me-up snack if I ever saw one!

Mocha Hazelnut Granola Bars   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Mocha Hazelnut Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith

Mocha Hazelnut Granola Bars (yield: 8 bars)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
2/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups Old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup cashew or hazelnut butter
1/2 cup wildflower honey
3 teaspoons instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Non-stick spray

Instructions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray the interior of an 8x8x2 inch pan or 9 inch pie plate with non-stick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Roughly chop the hazelnuts and stir together with the semi-sweet chocolate chips, rolled oats, whole wheat flour, whey protein powder, and kosher salt in a medium bowl.

In a separate smaller mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, nut butter, honey, instant coffee powder, and vanilla extract until evenly combined. Note: measuring olive oil first will make it easier to remove the cashew butter and honey from the cup.

Pour the nut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until all the chocolate chips, nuts, and oats are evenly coated. The granola mixture will be stiff, but should stick together. Add a touch more honey if the granola is too crumbly.

Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan and use a rubber spatula press the mixture into the pan in an even layer, don’t neglect the corners!

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until the edges begin to brown and the top turns lightly golden. Cool the bars completely in the pan before turning out onto a cutting board. Slice the baked bars into squares.

Wrap the bars individually in plastic, or store in an airtight container with a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper between the layers.

Mocha Hazelnut Granola Bars   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Mocha Hazelnut Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed! I used an 8 x 8 x 2 glass baking dish, one medium mixing bowl, one small mixing bowl, a small cutting board, chef’s knife, a rubber spatula, measuring cups and spoons. A sheet of parchment paper will help too.

The Verdict:
Oh Lord. These are crazy addictive, so make them at your own risk…. The coffee flavor comes through clearly and plays off the sweet (but not too sweet) chocolate and rich hazelnut. A smidgen of saltiness keeps it all in check. I made a batch to bring with us on a long trip and it was all I could do to resist finishing them before the end of the flight. We found ourselves pressing the crumbs out of the ziplock bag when the last bar was gone. If you like chocolate, hazelnut, and coffee you’ll loooove these granola bars.

Mocha Hazelnut Granola Bars   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Mocha Hazelnut Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith

When I’m on my way out the door and need a quick, easy snack – preferably a snack that’s healthy and delicious – I often reach for a granola bar. I’ve been buying them for years and it seems silly now, but it never really occurred to me that I could make them myself, until I came across a recipe for homemade breakfast bars in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Lightbulb moment ensued.

I’m pretty particular and I often have something very specific in mind, so the concept of having exactly what I wanted was pretty appealing. (If you've ever had the "pleasure" of perusing my Christmas list this comes as no surprise.) I started experimenting with flavor and ingredient combinations and came up with Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars. My version mixes the traditional whole grains, dried fruit, and nuts with almond butter and whey powder to amp up the protein. The best part: they’re crazy delicious, like I could seriously eat a whole pan by myself, which probably defeats the purpose.

Definitely mix up a batch – it will take all of 15 minutes – and you'll see what I mean about these sweet, salty, fruity bars.

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars (yield: 8 bars)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup dried cranberries aka Craisins
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
1 1/4 cups Quaker Old-fashioned Oats
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon almond butter
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon honey
1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
Non-stick spray

Instructions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray the interior of an 8x8x2 inch pan or 9 inch pie plate with non-stick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Chop the dried apricots to 1/4 inch pieces and stir together with the cranberries, almonds, rolled oats, whole wheat flour, whey protein powder, kosher salt, and ginger in a medium bowl.

In a separate smaller mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, almond butter, honey, and vanilla extract until evenly combined. Note: measuring olive oil first will make it easier to remove the almond butter and honey from the cup.

Pour the almond butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until all the fruit, nuts, and oats are evenly coated. The granola mixture will be stiff, but should stick together. Add a touch more honey if the granola is too crumbly.

Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan and use a rubber spatula press the mixture into the pan in an even layer, don’t neglect the corners!

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until the edges begin to brown and the top turns lightly golden. Cool the bars completely in the pan before turning out onto a cutting board. Slice the baked bars into squares.

Wrap the bars individually in plastic, or store in an airtight container with a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper between the layers.

Adapted and rewritten from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook Almond Date Breakfast Bars (similar here and reprinted here).

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed! I used a 9” pie plate, one medium mixing bowl, one small mixing bowl, a small cutting board, a rubber spatula, chef’s knife, and measuring cup and spoons. Parchment paper will also be very helpful.

The Verdict:
I tested an early version on some friends before I had the texture quite right, and even with a slightly unruly crumble to contend with the flavors came through as a winner. The mildly bitter almond acidity is balanced against the tang of the almonds and cranberries, and mellowed by the honey. The slightly salty finish adds just the right note and keeps these from being too sweet.

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith