Dad’s last request before leaving for his long-weekend hiking trip was “stock up the freezer!” Now that’s a dangerous phrase as I could easily have used it as an excuse to spend the whole weekend baking. However, I barely successfully managed to rein myself in and settle for a few freezer ‘must-haves’. One of which was the granola-style bar that he takes on hikes. For me one of the wonderful things about spending time ‘out bush’ is the sensation of being a million miles away from civilisation. Often that is far from the case – the road may in fact be a couple hundred metres away, yet one can’t help but feel peaceful. In such situations I also tend to dwell on Western society and how materialistically driven we have become – who needs a car when you have two legs to carry you? And why bother with razors and shower gel – surely it is possible to put up with fuzzy legs? The last thing I want is any reminder of how we become entrenched in a cycle of sating consumerist needs. So rather than pulling out a store bought, glaringly packaged muesli bar when the munchies set in, these hiking bars are a wonderful alternative.
I better give Dad some credit here, as it was he who found the basis for this recipe on one of his hiking forums. He was searching for a bar that was not only bursting with energy, but was transportable – lightweight, and chewy so that it wouldn’t crumble or snap. These bars meet those requirements and more, possessing an almost brownie-like consistency, filled with oats, seeds and dried fruit with a nutty caramelized flavour. Oh, and chocolate of course, because it’s not a hike without chocolate. Really you wouldn’t need to take anything else. Breakfast bar? Tick. Morning snack? Tick. Afternoon cravings? Tick. Lazy lunch? Tick. You get the idea. Versatile indeed. Just the incentive you need for reaching the top of that peak looming in front of you.
Another thing to note is that there are so many different versions to make. I stuck with a personal favourite – cranberries and pepitas, but dried apricots and almonds, or apple and pecan would work a treat too. Be as creative as you like!
I must say that the sesame seeds are pretty essential. I added them on a whim, (reducing the amount of coconut) and, boy, am I glad I did. Packed with fibre, calcium and iron they are not only fantastic post-exercise fuel, but provide a rich nutty flavour, combining seamlessly with the honey.
If you have never felt the inclination to hike before, let these bars prompt you into giving it a go! Or just do what I did on the weekend and eat them hot, straight from the pan. I may or may not have burnt my mouth in the process…
Action Packed Hiking (or anytime) Bars
Makes 16 11.5x4cm (approximately) bars
1 ½ cups rolled oats
½ cup pepitas
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
2 tbsp shredded coconut
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
¼ cup boiling water
½ cup powdered milk
1/3 cup sugar
28g peanut butter (smooth)
21g unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp honey
Cinnamon to sprinkle
Pre-heat oven to 175C. Grease and line a 23 x 33cm ceramic baking dish (or similar). The paper should go all the way up the sides of the dish as it makes it easier to remove.
In a large bowl, combine oats, pepitas, cranberries, chocolate chips, coconut and sesame seeds.
Using a stick blender, blend the sugar, boiling water and milk powder to a runny paste. Add peanut butter and butter and blend until fully mixed. It will look vile at this stage, but persevere!
Add honey and blend once more.
Pour milk mixture into oat mixture and stir to combine thoroughly.
Press into baking dish, dust with cinnamon and bake for approximately 22 minutes, or until just beginning to brown. It will appear uncooked, but don’t fret – it will set as it cools.
Leave in pan for five minutes, and then remove by holding parchment paper and lifting out. Set on a wire rack to cool completely.
Cut into bars and store in an airtight container. Bars can be frozen for up to three months.
Source: Adapted from Cutter Light