Anatomy of a Recipe Experiment

I saw this recipe for energy bars a while ago and had it bookmarked.  The only ingredient I didn’t have was tahini.

Tahini is a ground sesame seed paste, similar to peanut butter. It is a creamy, oily, and smooth nut butter rich in calcium.
I got tahini sauce when I was at Trader Joe’s so I would have it on hand.  Today the mood struck to ‘cook’ so I printed the recipe out and after our walk, got to work.  Here’s the original recipe:

Healthy Energy Bars
(Inspired by a recipe in Runner’s World Magazine last year, this is a great stand-in for those high quality all-natural energy bars that cost so much at the health food store, easy to make and delicious too!)

1 cup dry oatmeal
1/2 cup dry unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup raisins or dried currants
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 T ground flaxseed
3/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup good quality natural honey (best if cold processed, unpasturized and unfiltered!)*

Opened the tahini sauce and it smelled funny.  Checked the ingredients–GARLIC.  That wouldn’t do in this energy bar recipe.  Substitution #1:  coconut oil instead of the tahini. But since coconut oil is higher in calories (and I presume higher in fat?) I substituted 1/2 cup of coconut oil instead of the 3/4 cup of tahini.

I mixed all the dry ingredients together, and pretty much followed the original recipe, except I only had about 2 Tbsp of coconut flakes, and I added a couple of Tbsp of flax SEEDS because I like them.  And I added 2 slices of dried pears cut into little chunks.  Oh.  And about 2 tsp cinnamon.  Because everything is better with cinnamon .

Melted the coconut oil in the microwave, added the honey, and added them to the dried ingredients.  Took a taste.  Bleagh!!!  TOO SWEET!!  Substitution  #2 (or 3 or 4 if you’re counting)  I added in another entire cup of dry oatmeal.  Tiny taste.  Aaack!  Too sweet!!  One of my goals in experimental baking is to indulge my sweet tooth while re-training my taste buds  to be satisfied with only slightly sweetened treats.  Checked out the cupboard to see what else I could add.  I ended up adding another 2 cups of oat bran!  I added a little at a time to make sure the mixture didn’t get too dry.

By this time there was 4X the original amount of oats in the recipe, so I added 2 more Tbsp of flax seeds, and another 1/4 cup of walnuts.

I knew from the start that I was going to add chocolate chips to the bars.  I had the idea of pressing them into the top of the bars so that I would get an even amount of chips in each bar.  What?  I’m not obsessive about my chocolate.  I just want it the way I want it.  So I put the mix in a 9X13 pan.  That would make the bars too thick.  So I got another 9X9 pan out and put 1/3 of the mix in there.  I decided how they would eventually be cut, and I carefully placed 3 chocolate chips on the top of each bar.  Then I tried to press the mixture down.  First with my hand, and then with a flat metal chopping tool.  Darn chocolate chips wouldn’t behave at all.  They kept getting moved around.  So I took the mix back out of both pans and just mixed the chips in.

Dumped 2/3 of the mix  back in the big pan  and the other 1/3 in the small pan, pressed the mix down with that flat metal tool, and put in the fridge to firm up.

**Later in the day.  The first pan I took out and cut into bars was kind of crumbly.  But I managed to get them wrapped individually for freezing.  The second pan, which I left in the fridge just a bit longer, held together much better and was easy to cut and wrap individually.

***Much later in the day.  Taste test.  I had one bar as a mid-afternoon snack with my newest love:  Starbuck’s Via Iced Coffee.  Oh how yummy, and so easy.  Only thing is, which I think I mentioned before, it has a little sugar in it, which makes it a 50 calorie addition to my snack.  Tres worthy, IMO.  Okay, back to the energy bar review.  I think I got carried away with the oatmeal and the oat bran.  I enjoyed the bar very much, but it was quite ‘whole grainy’ and crumbly.  I think it would be a bit much for most people.  Would be really good crumbled on top of most anything.  Here’s a pic:

And here’s my final recipe.  I am going to work on this again sometime, and see if I can’t perfect the ingredients.

2 cups dry oatmeal, 2 cups oat bran
2 Tbsp dry unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup raisins , 2 dried pear slices, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
4 Tbsp ground flaxseed, 2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup good quality natural honey (best if cold processed, unpasturized and unfiltered!)*

15 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Recipe Experiment

  1. I like whole grainy things so that looks really good to me! You have such patience when it comes to cooking and baking…I would have never made it as far as you did!

  2. This sounds like an amazing recipe! Can’t wait to try it.
    Only one thing: I heard that flax seeds aren’t digestible, so the nutrients aren’t absorbed unless the seeds are ground.

    Did the bars harden on their own?

    • You’re right about the flax seeds. I just like the texture . When you’re eating something with flax seeds you do chew through a few of them, so you get the benefits of those.

      The bars got firm in the refrigerator, and the ones that I kept in the refrigerator have stayed firm. Still a little crumbly though.

  3. you bought flavored tahini
    real/regular tahini only has ground sesame seeds in it (FYI).

    I normally boil my raisins before adding them to recipes – is that needed here?

    and I agree about adding the chocolate chips on top. I think when I do that I usually get the mixture in the pan and refrigerate it and THEN add the chips (less sticky). I put my hand in a baggy and then lightly spray the outside of the baggy and use it like a glove for pressing if it is still sticky.

    • I didn’t see the magazine, only the blog that I linked to. No stats. And I didn ‘t do it on my version because I think I will probably change the recipe a bit. You can go to nutritiondata. com to check it out if you want.

      I am not a raisin boiler, so I’m not sure. I like the hand in a baggie trick. I think I could press more firmly than with the metal tool.

      If you are going to try the original recipe, I’d definitely start out with less honey, and then add it in until its as sweet as you want it to be.

  4. I just looked on that site and unless I am blind, they don’t even have plain, real, oatmeal. . .? (four gazillion cookies and instant flavored oatmeal, that they have, but no regular)

  5. You know Debby – this would make an awesome granola, since you said it was a bit crumbly as is. Just leave out the currants and chocolate, then bake this stuff at 350 for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 or 15 minutes. Then you can add in the chips and currents when it is cool.

  6. Debby,

    Do you like/use recipes that contain Soy Protein Powder? I have a recipe for Protein Bars that I really like, but it utilizes 1 cup of soy protein powder and I’ve seen some bloggers that don’t like using it. Will send it or post it on my blog if you’d like. FYI – it has cinnamon in it. LOL!


  7. The bar looked yummy to me! I haven’t had the patience to make my own bars or granola yet. (Well, it’s a combo of lack of patience and self control. Guess who’d be “sampling” the batter a LOT?)

    I always enjoy reading about your cooking experiments!

  8. Oh my! I kind of had a feeling this was going to take a detour when I saw tahini “sauce”. I think most plain stuff goes by just “tahini” or “tahini paste”? But these look really tasty!

  9. Pingback: A Most Excellent Adventure « debby weighs in

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