White House Granola Bars

By Katie, 5:17 am

Alternate Title: The Obamas Like It Sweet.

Alternate Alternate Title: Katie Can’t Bake. Jessica, will you please come give me a personal lesson? :-(

I consider myself to be a decent cook at this point. But I have yet to find true success with baking. How a person who can perfectly sear a scallop can simultaneously fail so miserably with baked goods is beyond me.

Take, for instance, these White House Granola Bars, inspired by a recipe from the Obama family’s pastry chef. They actually look pretty good.

But in reality they turned out way too sweet, way too sticky, and way too thin. Oops! :oops:

The recipe calls for mixed dried fruit, so I used this great Trader Joe’s blend of golden raisins, cherries, cranberries, and blueberries.

My final mixture contained: toasted oats, toasted sunflower seeds, olive oil, honey, Sucanat, maple syrup (no wonder it was so sweet!), salt, dried fruit, and cinnamon.

Now the mistakes started happening:

  • First, this baking dish was too large, making my bars much too thin.
  • Second, I should have thought to cut back on the sweeteners; the bars not only tasted too sweet, but the use of both maple syrup and honey made them a sticky mess to consume.
  • Third, even though I let them cool completely before trying to cut them, I really should have popped them in the refrigerator first. Most of them totally fell apart in the cutting process! I photographed the ones that most closely resembled bars, but in truth the majority were more like granola blobs.

Even though my mistakes were many, I do think this recipe has potential. So I am including the original one, the changes I made, and the changes I wish I had made. You can then decide for yourself the best way to adapt.

White House Granola Bars
Recipe from The New York Times
Yields 2 dozen bars (I cut the recipe in half)

6 tbsp grapeseed oil (I used olive oil)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup mixed seeds (I used raw sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup honey (I wish I had omitted either this or the maple syrup)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (I used Sucanat)
1/3 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt
1.5 cups mixed dried fruit (I used the TJ’s Golden Berry Blend)
1 tsp ground cardamom or cinnamon (I used cinnamon)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350º. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, letting a few inches hang over side of pan. Brush with oil. (I used an 8-inch square pan even though I cut the recipe in half. This pan was then much too large. Also, I used non-stick foil and did not brush with oil.)

2. Spread oats and seeds on another baking pan and toast in oven just until golden and fragrant, 6-8 minutes, shaking pan once. (I toasted them in a dry skillet over medium-heat instead.)

3. In a saucepan, combine oil, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt. Stir over medium heat until smooth and hot. In a mixing bowl, toss together toasted oats and seeds, dried fruit, and cardamom or cinnamon. Pour hot sugar mixture over and stir until well combined.

4. While mixture is warm, transfer to prepared pan, pressing into pan evenly with an offset spatula.

5. Bake until brown, 25-30 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack and let cool completely. (I wish I had stuck the pan in the refrigerator at this point.) Using the overhanging foil or paper, lift out of pan and place on a work surface. Cut into bars, about 1.5 inches by 3 inches.

So that is what it is. I’m still searching for a baking success. Unlike the fine folks at this awesome establishment. ;-)

YES! My first trip to Great Harvest Bread Company! Dave and I recently had some business to take care of in Columbia, MD, where there happens to be a location. I was like a kid in a candy store in there!

I ate this unbelievable Blueberry-Cream Cheese scone – which was approximately the size of my head! – on the spot.

And we took home a loaf of the Dakota Bread Kath is always raving about…with good reason!

This bread is soft and fluffy, but with the perfect crunch from all of the seeds.

You could easily just eat it by the chunk, which I did! I also paired it with a hunk of Brie and with some locally-made blackberry jam. Please promise me if you’re ever in a Great Harvest that you will purchase this bread. You won’t regret it!

I bet their White House Granola Bars would have turned out just fine…delicious, probably! ;-)

Are you a baker? Have you had any failed baking attempts like mine? Do you think there’s hope for me??? :lol:


Ever been to a Great Harvest? What did you buy there?

56 Responses to “White House Granola Bars”

  1. Ahh! I love Great Harvest!! That blueberry cream cheese scone looks like such an indulgent treat – I’m so jealous, I could definitely go for one right now with my morning coffee! :)

  2. Lauren says:

    THe granola bars looks great! I always fail miserably with granola bars for some reason. Probably because they are too close to a baked good and me and baking is not a match!

    How cool that you have a Great Harvest. I think this may be the closest one to me too so I’ll have to google it and check it out!

  3. Simply Life says:

    those bars look great to me…as does that bread! :)

  4. amanda says:

    I have never attempted granola bars before but I really want to. You should try this recipe from Fantastic Food http://www.fannetasticfood.com/recipes/no-bake-peanut-butter-granola-bars/ I actually won these bars from her contest she had on her blog about 3 months ago. They are soooooo good.

    • Katie says:

      These definitely seem doable, even for me! I’ll have to give them a shot. Thanks for sharing! :)

  5. Tina says:

    They certainly LOOK good. And I recently realized that we have a Great Harvest Bread Co. about 30 mins away so I plan on going. I realized it bec they were a Groupon one day. Of course I FORGOT to go back to my email and get the Groupon before the next day. Total fail. It was 60% off!

  6. I have alllways longed for a great harvest bakery!! i practically drool over the dakota bread i always see Kath enjoying – and now I will be drooling over the Dakota bread I’ll be seeing you enjoying :P
    And there is definitely hope for you. The failures are what leads to success because you figure out what works and what doesn’t :) I think granola bars are verrrry personal, too. Some like them sweet and chewy – others not so sweet, seedy, and crunchy. I bet you’ll develop your own soon enough :)

  7. Sarah says:

    I have NEVER been to Great Harvest, but maybe we could go to one on a future meet-up?;)I think I’m going to HAVE to get some Dakota bread whenever I do get to one- I keep reading rave reviews about it!

  8. Meredith says:

    I love Great Harvest too! It was such a treat to go to when I lived in Utah during graduate school. The smell was so wonderful and the best (and trickiest) part was that I could walk to it. I miss it now since I live in New England and I don’t think there are any here! :(

    • Katie says:

      That is such a bummer! I would go crazy if there was one within walking distance!

  9. brandi says:

    I DO bake and love it, but I’ve had so many baking flops in the past! It happens :)

    Never been to a Great harvest and I’m totally jealous of that bread! And the scone. Everything looks delicious!

  10. I feel your pain– I am NOT a baker!!! My stuff always ends up wrong!

  11. Well your granola bars look mighty tasty! I’ve had the baker vs cook convo numerous times. I honestly am a horrible cook. Burnt = done to me. But baking, I’m like Martha Stewart on crack. I think part of it is the chemistry behind baking, I can do measurements and mixing and being exact. I wish I were a better cook.

  12. You’re not alone, I’ve had plenty of baking fails! I think the key is to just keep trying and trouble shooting. That way, when it comes out perfect you’re so full of pride you forget you ever struggled!
    A few weeks ago I was watching Top Chef and they had to make pies…one chef didn’t measure anything and her pie came out terrible! Even some Top Chef contestants can’t bake!

  13. Oh i have PLENTY of failed baking attempts. Not to mention plain making ANYTHING attempts. I like to call them Epic Fails and for now on I plan to document them to let everyone know that it happens . . . especially when first trying something out.

    Of course there is hope for you! You learned from your mistakes and that will always be in the back of your head when you make something that calls for a lot of sweet stuff.

    BTW that bread looks drool worthy . . . enjoy!

  14. runblondie26 says:

    I think we’re inclined to be either a cook or baker (ok, some people are not cut-out for either :) I’m definitley the one making the pumpkin pie and biscuits on Thanksgiving and not the turkey.

  15. Opps! Wrong Website :oops:

  16. Shawnee says:

    I don’t bake, only because I don’t want all the extra goodies in the house. But when I do things usually turn out ok. I love making homemade granola bar. Even the hubbs will eat them, but mine always turn out really hard and stick to the pan so it’s a struggle to get them out. I keep meaning to try parchment.

  17. I have had many failed baking attempts! It usually happens when I substitute ingredients, but sometimes it works out! Sometimes you just have to play around with recipes because you never know when one of your creations will end up being delicious :) Those granola bars definitely look yummy- I think I’m going to try it but nix the brown sugar and maple syrup and only use honey. Thanks for the recipe!

  18. Holly says:

    Well, they LOOK great! :-) If it’s any consolation, I am the exact opposite….I feel confident in my baking skills, but not at ALL with cooking! I just had a baking mishap this week, though. (And I reallllly wanted those cookies LOL). It happens! Those recipes are too tricky sometimes. I’ve never made granola bars – they seem really intimidating to me!

  19. I think the granola bars look great! I have had so many problems in the kitchen, I don’t know where to begin. I’ve forgotten complete ingredients (flour, brown sugar, eggs!) They turn out horrible, but at least I get some dough to taste :)

    I’ve been to GH, but it was a while ago, I know I have loved any bread I have ever tried there though!

  20. I love to bake although not every recipe is a raving success. Sometimes, I’ll overbake or underbake things….and sometimes, I’ll mess around with a recipe too much, and the dough will collapse on me, leaving me with uber-dense gross baked goods. Lol..but luckily, these baking disasters only strike every so often. For the most part, my baked goods are delicious! :)

  21. Julie says:

    Wow! That bread with brie and blackberry jam sounds like heaven!
    We always buy some kind of garlic cheesy bread – mmm.

  22. this is the cutest name for bars ever :) i love baking, and it’s definitely something that takes time and practice! it’s been a while since i had a TOTAL baking fail, but it definitely still happens!

  23. christina says:

    i loooooooove their scones! that place is so good.

  24. Heather says:

    KERF had a good, unsweetened granola bar recipe. They are pretty good and you get a bit of natural sweet from the fruit.

    I have been to that GH and the one in Annapolis! I always walk out with way too much stuff. If I had a larger freezer, I know what it would be filled with ;)

  25. Oh we are definitely cut from the same cloth. I am a great cook and a hilarious baker. I have had breads not rise, cookies melt into an entire sheet and a pumpkin loaf come out devoid of any flavour whatsoever. When the baking pans come out it’s always a crapshoot as to whether or not we’ll actually get to eat something.

    The last granola bars I attempted tasted great, but were more like little crumbles so I live in hope that I will find a foolproof recipe one of these days.

  26. Jessica says:

    I love baking! It is something that my son and I do together all of the time : )

    Those bars look really yummy!

    I am constantly on the look out for a Great Harvest, they look awesome! Unfortunatly there is not one in my area yet : (

  27. he he he… Well, you know I heart baking, but I am awful with granola bars! Last time I attempted them, they ended up too thin (like yours), and I wasn’t patient enough with stirring it all together and the good majority of it feel apart. I accepted this and pretended like I meant to just make granola. :)

  28. I think these granola bars sound fantastic! I actually like things reeeally sweet, so I’d probably enjoy them. I’m not a huge dried fruit fan, but maybe, just maybe extra nuts and chocolate chips would suffice? ;)

    I LOVE Great Harvest bread! They’re always so generous with their samples!

    And yes, you most certainly are not a lost cause when it comes to baking. I think it’s the recipe, not you!

  29. That Dakota bread looks awesome! I’ve never tried to make homemade granola or granola bars so I can’t help you there. But I bet you’ll nail it the next time. Baking is annoying b/c it’s an exact science whereas you can do whatever you want when you cook.

  30. Meg says:

    It makes me feel good to know, that while there isn’t a Whole Foods where I live, there’s been Great Harvest for as long as I can remember. My hubby really likes the asiago sourdough. As a kid, I always liked the white bread and the raisin bread. I’ve never tried any of their sweeter treats before though!

  31. Dorry says:

    I made some bars recently and they burned! The recipe said to bake for 1 hour but at 53 minutes, the suckers were burned. I was so sad. They used to have a Great Harvest in Dallas but it closed – there’s one in Austin so I’m planning to stop in when we head there in a week. Can’t wait to try the Dakota bread. :)

  32. Erica says:

    Wow this look great! I am trying this asap! I have been looking for a new granola bar recipe and I think I found it :)

  33. Kate says:

    Sorry, I stray from anything that says “Obama” on it! Even this :)

    • Tara says:

      Why? Would eating these bars suddenly mean (God forbid) you supported the President of our country? It’s really typical of a right-wing airhead like yourself to HATE Obama so much that you have to bring politics into a simple post on a food blog. God help you.

  34. Um YUM!!!

    I would love to give you personal lessons! But only if you bring me some Great Harvest bread. :)

  35. I have the opposite problem — I have a lot of success baking, but my cooking never comes out quite right…glad my bf loves to cook!

  36. There is definitely hope for you Katie!!! Don’t get discouraged! Sometimes I find just creating your own recipe — and just taking inspiration from others — works out better than following any recipe!

    I’ve never been to Great Harvest but I’d like to check it out — I’ve heard there is GF bread there!

  37. homecookedem says:

    We have a GH near us, but I’ve never been. I guess since Andrew has celiac, we just never go and I rarely go out to places like that by myself. But I may have to stick my head in some day and check it out for myself! ;)

  38. I’m not a great baker either. Something always seems to go wrong! Don’t give up though – those bars definitely have potential. I’m sure they’ll be great once you make those changes! :D

  39. I always hear such great things about great harvest and just now looked it up. there is one 13 miles away from me!

  40. Kristy says:

    I do bake and I have MANY failed attempts! lol Those bars did look yummy! :)

  41. Jill says:

    I love to bake, but it definitely can be a little tricky. I’ve had my fair share of flops-yeast bread that never rose, icing as thick as that really old-school, pasty glue, etc. But there’s something so fun about the successful baking attempts that I keep doing it anyway :-)

    One recipe that ALWAYS works for me and that everyone loves is a Taste of Home banana bread recipe. It’s also good with chocolate chips and/or raisins instead of or with the walnuts! http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/Best-Ever-Banana-Bread. I’ve never “healthified” it but it probably would be easy if you wanted to.

    • Katie says:

      My husband is going to freak over this – he is a die-hard banana bread fan. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

  42. Oh no! Sorry about your granola bars. I consider myself a baker, but I’ve had my fair share of mishaps. I’ve dropped plenty of cakes, and forgotten ingredients in plenty of things. I figure practice makes perfect, and every failed attempt is another chance to bake. You’ll get it next time.

  43. When I was in grad school, I used to work next door to a Great Harvest in Minneapolis, where I grew up. I always assumed it was just a little local bakery. Their cinnamon rolls are to die for. And we’d always sneak next door and grab samples of the honey whole wheat bread (awesome all by itself, but even better with butter!).

    A number of years later, when I finally had a “real” job, I was traveling in Montana and was surprised to find one. A number of years beyond that, when I moved to Northern California, I found one just across town! If I’m not mistaken, I even came across one on a recent trip to Honolulu (or a darn good imitation of it). Although they always have the feel of a lovely little neighborhood corner bakery, I think this is actually a pretty big chain. But no matter, I’ve never had a bad product from Great Harvest. So whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it right. I’ll gladly keep shopping there!

  44. I still think there’s hope for you!! :) You already have a good sense of what you should change, so I’m sure next time will be better! And even though you say they came out too sweet…they definitely look delicious!! I think granola bars can be tough anyway. Some people like them ridiculously sweet and then others hate any added sweetener at all. So you’ve just got to find the balance. Plus, it sounds like this was the recipe’s fault…not yours. ;)

  45. Ruth says:

    This may be a personal preference thing, but my granola products always turn out better when I use maple syrup as the only sweetener. The texture is very good and I prefer the flavor. Still, granola blobs can be pretty tasty! It’s all about trial and error, really, so this is a fine first step.

    • Katie says:

      Thank you! I appreciate that! I really like the maple syrup flavor too, so I think next time I’ll just use that and eliminate the other sweeteners.

  46. Arielle says:

    I promise! :] I’m a decent baker/cook so I think I could handle these – REALLY want to try now! I just need some honey & dried fruit. Honey’s already on my grocery list…may add dried fruit. Eh? Eh? Thanks for posting this!

    • Katie says:

      If you do make them, let me know what changes you make and how they turn out! Oh, and if you’re ever in my area and want to come over and give me a baking lesson (or just bake for me – ha!) you are of course more than welcome. ;)

  47. [...] I mentioned earlier this week, baking is not exactly my specialty. So to successfully bake a scratch-made cake or pie would just [...]

  48. [...] know that just a few months ago I said I was no good at baking, but that certainly hasn’t stopped me from trying! I’ve actually been donning my apron [...]

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy