As a general rule I love to answer baking questions. Nothing makes me happier than coaching a coworker through croissants, helping a friend perfect pie crust or diagnosing a stranger's doughnut disaster. But there is one question that never fails to strike fear into my heart--"what is the best thing you've baked lately?" When it comes to recipes, I don't like to play favorites. I can't choose just one, so I end up launching into a laundry list of options that leaves the listener confused, overwhelmed, and, in all likelihood, ready to making a beeline for the nearest bakery rather than their own kitchen. But today? Today is going to be different. Because today I made these chocolate cherry granola squares, adapted from Good to the Grain. A cross between a granola bar and a cookie, they are chewy, chocolatey and so good that I ate nearly the entire batch myself. (I offered to share. I didn't mean it.) The original recipe, which includes raisins instead of cherries and no chocolate, is a traditional granola bar. This gussied up version on the other hand is a cookie masquerading as a healthy snack (just the way I like it). So without further ado, I give you my recent favorite. At least for this week.
Chocolate Cherry Granola Squares
Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 325 and line a 9x9 square pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper. In a large, heavy bottomed pan, melt the 1/2 stick of butter. Add the oats, and stir over medium heat for about five minutes, until the oats have grown two shades darker. Pour the oats into a large bowl. Add the 1/2 cup of flaxseed meal and the cinnamon and stir. Toss the remaining 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal with the dried cherries, and then finely chop them (the flax meal keeps the cherries from sticking to your knife). Add the chopped cherries and the chocolate chips into the oat mixture. Wipe out the pot you used for toasting the oats, and stir together the honey, brown sugar, molasses and salt. Cook the syrup about six minutes, until evenly boiling. (Boyce explains that it is important not to pull the syrup off of the heat too early, as boiling the syrup gives the squares their chewy texture.) Pour the syrup over the oat mixture, and stir the oats and syrup well to make sure that the oats are evenly coated. (The chocolate will melt from the heat of the syrup. You can either just go with it, as I did, or wait to add the chocolate until after you've combined the oats and syrup and have let the mixture cool for a few minutes.) Scrape the oat mixture into the prepared pan. Grease your hands with butter, and firmly press out the oats to an even thickness. Bake for about 20 minutes. Let the bars cool and then cut them into squares. Serve immediately, or keep in an airtight container for up to three days.