Granola Bars

Recently I was lucky to be gifted with a couple of little packages of saffron from a good friend of mine.  With such a treasure in hand, I invited some friends for an all-Indian dinner.  We gathered at Bret’s Table and prepared the meal cooking from Suvir Saran’s book, Indian Home Cooking while sipping Saffron-Cardamom Lassis.

Since a little saffron goes a long way, I still had some remaining.  Flipping through my recipe database, I was inspired to adapt several granola bar recipes and include a pinch of these fragrant stamens in the recipe posted below.

Saffron is one of the most costly spices in the world as each stamen is harvested by hand.  Try doing that for a week.  Anybody got a pair of tweezers?

It’s a good thing that only a few are required for any given recipe, whether it be for a risotto, paella, or a rice pudding with saffron drizzle.  These ethereal flower “threads” will move whatever you are making up several delectable notches.

However, if you don’t have any saffron, by all means don’t let that stop you from making these quick and delicious bars.  Cut them to any size, wrap each piece in plastic wrap and throw one in your lunch bag.  Or, throw in two and share one with a friend.  And, yes, I still pack a lunch for work more days than not!

1 generous pinch saffron, optional
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (3 ounces) rolled oats
1 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened coconut
1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) walnuts, pistachios or pecans
Scant 1 cup (5 ounces) chopped dried apricots
Scant 1 cup (5 ounces) chopped dates
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

If using saffron, toast in a small dry skillet until just fragrant, remove to a small bowl and grind with the back of a teaspoon or in a small mortar and pestle.  Set aside.

Line a 9 x 9-inch pan with parchment paper, letting the paper hang-over two sides.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix together the brown sugar and butter.  With your impeccably clean hands, mix in the flour and rolled oats until just combined.  Add the saffron, if using, and mix in the remaining ingredients.

Tightly pack mixture into the pan and bake at 350º for 30 – 35 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.

Carefully release the two non-paper lined sides with a knife.  Using the paper, lift out the entire pan to a cutting board.  With a sharp knife, cut in to desired size squares.  Eat one now, then wrap the others and enjoy later.

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