Easy Fall Baking: Chewy Chocolate Granola Bars

Normally, I prefer cooking to baking. But there’s something about this time of year that gives me the baking itch. Perhaps it’s the short, dark days. Or maybe it’s the cold, damp and mildly depressing weather. Whatever it is, more often that not, I find myself pouring over old favourite and must-try baking recipes in search of comfort.

Lately, these chewy granola bars have been on my mind. They’re inspired by a recipe we used at a cafe where I worked through my high school years. They were a top seller at the cafe, and have become a delightful treat at my house ever since.

Now, the name granola bars may be a tad misleading. There is nothing overly healthy about these bars, especially with the addition of sweetened condensed milk and heaps of chocolate chips. But consider them the small indulgence they’re meant to be and you’re in for a treat!

Here’s how:

Spread 2 cups of large-flake oats on a baking sheet.

Roast oats in 400°F (220°C) oven, stirring once, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer to large bowl and stir in:

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts

1 cup whole almonds

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup each sesame seeds and flax seeds

Stir in 2 cans sweetened condensed milk.

Scrape onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. For easy removal, make sure the parchment paper extends over the sides of the baking sheet. Cover directly with plastic wrap. Using rolling pin (or wine bottle), smooth surface. Remove plastic wrap.

Bake in 325°F (160°C) oven, turning sheet halfway through, until top is golden and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack. Cut into bars.

The bars will keep for about 4 days in an airtight container. You can even freeze them, wrapped individually, for those moments when you just need something sweet.

SWITCH IT UP! – These bars are incredibly versatile. As long as the add-ins add up to 6 cups total, feel free to change/add/adjust to suit your taste. For example, replace the cranberries with raisins, if you’re making the treats for school snacks replace the peanuts with more cranberries, replace some of the chocolate chips with chopped pecans or walnuts, replace some of the nuts or seeds with coconut or swap the almonds for pecans. The options are endless…and delicious!

What’s on your baking to-do list this fall?