Great granola bars put the flavor of the oats at the forefront while supporting players back them up with a mellow sweetness.
We found that toasting the oats with a little oil and salt before mixing them with the other ingredients really deepened their flavor. Honey provided plenty of stickiness to hold the bars together.
We kept the other flavors simple: a little brown sugar for extra sweetness, aromatic vanilla and cinnamon, and chopped nuts for additional crunch.
After multiple attempts at baking the bars resulted in a crumbly mess, we realized the key to making granola bars that held their shape was to spread the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and then firmly press on it with a greased metal spatula.
Do not substitute quick or instant oats in this recipe. Don't use a baking sheet smaller than 18-by-13-inches or the bars will be too thick and won't bake evenly.
Be sure to let the granola bars cool for 15 minutes before cutting. If any of the bars should fall apart during cutting, just press them back together; as they cool they will firm up and stick together.
CRUNCHY GRANOLA BARS
Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes
7 cups (21 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 cups almonds, pecans, peanuts, or walnuts, chopped coarse
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 F. Toss oats, oil, and salt together in medium bowl. Spread mixture over rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring often, until pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, line 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease foil. Cook honey and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is fully dissolved, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in vanilla and cinnamon, if using.
Transfer toasted oat mixture to large bowl. Reduce oven temperature to 300 F. Add honey mixture and almonds to oat mixture and toss until well combined. Transfer mixture to prepared sheet and press firmly into even layer with greased metal spatula.
Bake bars until golden, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let bars cool completely in sheet on wire rack for 15 minutes, then cut into 36 pieces. Let cool completely, then remove individual bars from sheet with spatula. Serve. (Bars can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.)
Nutrition information per serving: 161 calories; 64 calories from fat; 7 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 34 mg sodium; 22 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 3 g protein.
America's Test Kitchen provided this article to The Associated Press.