Through trial and error, I came to the realization that if I take a pain-killer for my back pain in the morning, going to work is out of the question. (Rest-assured, there is no trip to the Bette Ford Clinic in my future; I think I have about 40 pills left from a prescription of 60 which was written to me at the end of December.) On days where a pill and nap were necessary, I would feel better by mid-afternoon, but not well enough to go into work.
When left to my own devices and if I’m in charge of my own time, my go-to plan is always a trip to Flour Bakery + Cafe. Stopping in is mandatory whenever we visit the Institute of Contemporary Art or anywhere else in the Fort Point Channel. But standing in a museum for few hours – let alone getting from Lower Allston all the way down to the harbor — is still difficult to manage.
Fortunately, Flour has recently opened up another location in Central Square in Cambridge. So one afternoon, still slightly addled from pain medicine, I checked the real-time bus schedule on my Android and wobbled down to the bus stop. Yes, I was a little high at the time, and clearly was not in the right state of mind to sign any legal documents, but have you ever had their sticky buns? Their dacquiose? Recently, my pastry of choice has been the granola bar. The journey was a success, although I decided to not mention it to Rich. (This is the first he’s hearing of it.)
This weekend Rich went to the Museum of Fine Arts to watch a film about drumming, and although I absolutely adore their collection, I didn’t think I was up for the trek and standing on the hard floors for two hours. Obviously, my first instinct was to head to Central Square for a granola bar, but the line is a good 30 people deep on weekends. So, why not make my own? I had been lucky enough to score one of the coveted copies of the Flour cookbook from Santa when it first came out, and so far I’ve made the cornmeal lime cookies, banana bread and cranberry pear crostata.
This recipe for me is a pantry recipe, but as you know, I have a somewhat unusual pantry. Most people have flour, walnuts, sugar, oats, dried fruit, and honey on hand, but I cannot guarantee you’ll have millet, flax seeds and sweetened coconut readily available. I must confess, I didn’t have an entire cup of dried cranberries, but had a surplus of dried raspberries in my collection. I was less worried about any seeds in the fruit given the multitude of seeds called for in the crumble topping. I also changed out flax seed for so-hot-right now chia seeds; they’re rich in Omega-3s and are a complete protein.
About half-way through the process I realized my first-edition cookbook was missing the crucial instruction of what to do with the toasted walnuts. Luckily, Joanne Chang is amazing at responding to Tweets; I’ve since discovered the cookbook corrections are in a sidebar on the Flour website.
Well, the granola bars were a success, but, well, the baking project took an entire afternoon, and that’s not even counting the three hours the bars needed to rest after baking. Ms. Chang is a brilliant woman: I suspect her degree in applied mathematics and economics from Harvard College helped her realize that, even if she released a cookbook sharing all her store’s secrets, it would have very little impact to the bottom line. Yes, I am thrilled to have an entire pan of my favorite granola bars on my kitchen counter, but I can’t wait until I’ll be healed enough to ride my bike to the store. The ride will take about 10 minutes, so even if I have to wait in line for 20 minutes, it will still be a fraction of the time it took to bake these. But don’t let me frighten you away. These are superb baked goods.
Granola Bars from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe
If you have a kitchen scale, I strongly suggest you utilize it for this recipe. To “speed up” this recipe, I did the first two steps of the granola jam, and, while it was cooling, made the crust in the food processor, cleaned the bowl and continued making the jam.
Chang notes that the bars stay moist for several days and actually get better with age. (She prefers them best after 2 or 3 days.)
1 cup (80 grams) dried apples
1 cup (160 grams) dried cranberries
1 cup (160 grams) dried apricots
½ cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (480 grams) water
Crust and Crumble
1 cup (100 grams) walnut halves
1 ¾ cups (245 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups (150 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
2/3 cup (150 grams) packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup (80 grams) sweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
6 Tablespoons (128 grams) honey
3 Tablespoons flaxseeds (or Chia seeds)
3 Tablespoons sunflower seeds
3 Tablespoons millet
To make the jam: In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, cranberries, apricots, granulated sugar, and water and bring to boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let sit for about 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor and pulse 8 to 10 times, or until a chunky jam forms. (The jam can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Leave the oven set at 350 degrees F. Line a 9-by-13 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In the food processor, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, coconut, walnuts, salt, cinnamon, and butter and pulse about 15 times, or until the mixture is evenly combined. Dump the mixture into a medium bowl and drizzle the honey on top. Work in the honey with your hands until the mixture comes together.
Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place the remaining one-third of the mixture in the refrigerator.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until light golden brown throughout. Remove the pan from the oven, spoon the granola jam on top, and spread in an even layer with the spoon or rubber spatula, covering the surface. Remove the reserved granola mixture from the refrigerator, and break it up with your fingers into a small bowl. Add the flaxseeds (or chia seeds), sunflower seeds and millet and stir to combine. Sprinkle the mixture, like a crumb topping, evenly over the jam.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hours, or until cool enough to hold its shape when cut. Cut into 12 bars.
The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.