That’s the way the granola bar crumbles

granola bars

I think the highlight of my Christmas dinner this year was when I entered the family kitchen, where I arrive bearing the dessert, and promptly dropped the the whole thing on the floor, where it shattered into a million pieces. I sighed, and guessed it was a fitting end to a fragmented year. Having seen more than my share of kitchen catastrophes in my time in various professional kitchens, like getting yourself stuck in a traffic jam, there’s not much you can do once the damage has been done and I’m glad that I’m able to laugh them off.

This year, one of my catastrophic ideas was to tackle granola bars. I see recipes out there all the time—usually some sort of combination of oats, dried fruits, sometimes nuts, and invariably lots of sweeteners to hold everything together. I wanted to make a bar that was really grainy and nutty, without being overly chewy or sugary, but not one of my experiments turned out as I expected. And what I was left with after each of my attempts was a cutting board with some combination of oaty crumbs, miscellaneous dried fruits, dried out seeds of some sort, and a wounded ego.

granola bars

But aside from my granola bars not working out – despite my best efforts, 2011 seemed like a pretty tough year outside of my kitchen as well. There was good news and bad from our neighbors in the Middle East, natural (and unnatural) catastrophes in Japan, we saw the continued polarization of America (which makes me wonder how much longer we’re going to be able to use the word “indivisible” in our pledge of allegiance to each other), as well as a topsy-turvy financial roller-coaster that wound its way around the globe.

One thing I think we can all agree on in America is the proliferation of what are called “energy bars.” As far as I know, no research exists that conclusively proves that these bars, many with the same ingredients in regular candy bars and the same number of calories as a Snickers bar, are any better or worse for you than a tablet of good chocolate. However I will just assume that all the oats and dried fruit make up for the overload of sweetness in some of them, and because they’re handy for travel and so forth (and because I am a sucker for the promise of marshmallows, peanut butter, and chocolate chips as being part of a healthy snack), they get a pass.

granola bars

What I can’t forgive them for are their dense, dough-like texture. And although I still grab a Clif bar whenever I’m back in the states and taking a plane, I’ve brought them back to Paris and stuffed them into my kitchen cabinet for a future trip. But then, I’ll come across one of those chocolate chip-peanut butter or Smores bars whose expiration date had passed and pause before tossing it out.

(Although I’ve learned that expiration dates are sometimes ‘suggestions’ and not always followed, and I’ve been served a few past-dated food in my time, one which included a recent stint in a restaurant restroom where I was afraid that Catherine Deneuve – who was dining in the same establishment – was going to come into the restroom and find me curled on the tile floor in front of the toilet.)

Fortunately that didn’t happen – well, the Catherine Deneuve walking in on me part – but what also didn’t happen was me finding the perfect granola bar in 2011.

granola bars

Interestingly, the French do have their own version of “energy bars” and I’ve slipped one into my carry-on for a trip, only to pull it out in a fit of ravenous hunger at the airport, only to find something that is about the size of a pack of gum. I’ve learned now to stuff a whole box into my carry-on since a whole box is roughly the equivalent to the size of one American energy bar. (No wonder we Americans have so much energy!)

granola bars

But in terms of granola bars, now that we’ve reached the end of 2011, I’ve given up the idea, dragged my “Granola Bar” file into the trash…and am moving on. Not because I don’t like granola, or granola bars – especially the ones with any combination of chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallows in them – but because it’s the end of the year and I’ve decided to start 2012 with a fresh, clean cutting board.

granola bars

Lord knows, I’ve got plenty on my plate, or cutting board, and sometimes we cobble together what we do have, even if it’s not picture-perfect, and make it work. Or realize that sometimes, well…that’s just the way the granola bar crumbles. And that’s that. And when it does, it’s okay to just wipe the board clean, and start anew.

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  • December 31, 2011 11:58am

    Look on the bright side, David! This way you have a goal for 2012. May it turn out to be a year as perfect and tasteful as your other recipes.

  • Danielle
    December 31, 2011 12:18pm

    I’ve never been able to master loose granola. What I make tastes good, but never comes together in those nice clusters you get in premade granola. My cranberry, pecan, and semi-sweet chocolate idea was so good, but still not quite what I was going for texturally.

  • Elaine
    December 31, 2011 12:38pm

    David, I’m surprised that you have kept your sanity despite all the calamities. I’ve done the fetal position so many times in the middle of my kitchen from cooking mishaps. I can’t imagine working in a kitchen without falling to pieces. Then again, I’m also surprised the U.S. has not fallen to pieces yet.

    Well, the French say it best: C’est la vie!

    By the way, no granola recipe? :O(

  • Jenny
    December 31, 2011 1:03pm

    I tried and tried to get granola to work but it only turned out rubbery, chewy and tough. I finally decided to leave out the sweetener and oil and add the sweetener right before I eat it along with milk and fruit. The recipe uses mixed oats, almonds, lots of all kinds of seeds, orange juice, zest, and vanilla. I bake it and comes out crispy which I like. I wonder if you could bake the granola mixture and then add the binder later like you do rice crispy treats? You probably tried that though.

  • December 31, 2011 1:34pm

    I am not a huge granola fan but you made me laugh and that is a gift beyond reckoning. Your posts are always informative and entertaining. Thank you and blessings to you in the new year!

  • December 31, 2011 1:44pm

    Oh lord! What was the dessert that hit the floor? And was there anything else to eat for dessert? Because, for me, Christmas dinner would be a dud without the sweet ending. Luckily at my house there was raspberry trifle and your caramel-pear ice cream with hot salted caramel sauce (really dark, ’cause I like that bitter edge.) Once the ice cream appeared, the trifle was ignored. So I ate it for breakfast the next day. Dessert for breakfast is the best! Cheers from the Antipodes, Karen

  • Brett
    December 31, 2011 2:18pm

    Are you familiar with the British flapjack? Delicious and they always seemed more life sustaining than the American granola bars.

  • December 31, 2011 3:30pm

    You realize that now you’re going to get a ton of granola bar recipes, don’t you?

    The dessert crashing to the floor? Loved it (and I’m sorry).

    • December 31, 2011 3:50pm
      David Lebovitz

      I tried a whole bunch of granola bar recipes and just decided it’s time to move on. We all have things we can’t quite get right and I’m okay with that. On to the next recipe/challenge! : )

  • December 31, 2011 3:47pm

    I see someone else has already mentioned what I was going to – flapjacks! Bought ones are invariably too sweet, but they are easy to make. Your basic combination is oats, demerara (turbinado) sugar and butter…. melt the latter two together, stir in the former, spread on greased tray to thickness of your choice and bake until done. It’s quite hard not to let them burn, though, so thicker rather than thinner. And if they are really, really good, you could always top with a layer of melted dark chocolate….

    Many people’s recipes for flapjack involve golden syrup, which I dislike, and which is really unnecessary! I have experimented with honey, though, and also mashed banana and peanut butter stirred into the melted mixture, which was really rather good….

  • December 31, 2011 3:56pm

    Who needs granola bars when you can bake and take biscotti on a plane? :-)

    Bonne année!

  • December 31, 2011 4:18pm

    David, I cannot make beautiful cakes as you do…even weighing out the gluten free flours to translate the recipes in your books…I have to leave gluten-free cake making to the professionals – they just never live up to my hopes and dreams. But granola bars – those are my specialty….mine do have a heavy load of sweeteners – I use a mixture of brown rice syrup, honey, brown sugar…and bind that with butter, a dollop of nut butter and spices. My current favorite bars are a little more adult in profile – smoked paprika with pecans or cocoa coconut curry bars with ginger.

    Next time you’re in Chicago, join me in the kitchen – you can fix my cake techniques, and I’ll tune up your granola bars. Happy New Year – thanks for another year of beautiful stories, recipes and photos!

  • kayenne
    December 31, 2011 4:21pm

    you know that fruitcake bar you posted twice about? they’re much better than any energy bar i’ve seen on the market. i’ve made a couple of versions using local dried fruits and other bits and they are a hit!

    been considering making another version with rolled oats and coconut flakes… i’ll bet they are yummy!

    Happy new year, Dave!

  • December 31, 2011 4:21pm

    Agh! I kept thinking you were setting us up for a switcheroo in which you revealed the recipe for THE PERFECT GRANOLA BAR. But that’s the ol’ American penchant for Hollywood endings. Great post, David. Thanks for another year of entertaining, informative, and inspiring reading and recipes. Here’s to another. Happy 2012!

  • Susie
    December 31, 2011 4:34pm

    I think your habit of packing nuts and dried fruit for a trip is already light years ahead of all these so-called energy bars. The fruitcake bars you posted last year (?) would be a treat to anyone ravening in an airport. The granola can stay its crumbly self – it seems to want to anyway – and you’re still here and ready for what’s next.
    Happy New Year – I hope it’s a good one!

  • December 31, 2011 5:03pm

    Fitting new year speech! Wipe it clean and move on.
    I have not been able to find any that I like in packages and I dont even attempt to make them. And once I eat, I get this itch that I have to floss my teeth due to the sticky suckers in the bar.

    I do agree with the American politics. I got my citizenship last year and I was so happy that I could finally vote after ten years in the States. But I am disgusted with the politics more and more now.

  • jd
    December 31, 2011 5:04pm

    I echo Stacy “… you made me laugh and that is a gift beyond reckoning. Your posts are always informative and entertaining. Thank you and blessings to you in the new year!” I think you are both eloquent.

    Very best to you for 2012.

  • December 31, 2011 5:55pm

    Ah, David, A zen moment at the end of the year. It’s good to “let go”.

  • Stephen
    December 31, 2011 5:55pm

    The cereal bars made by Jordans (of Original Crunchy for “the munchies” fame) in the UK seem okay to me, better than anything I’ve had in the US. They’ve been making them for over thirty years and I haven’t grown tired of them yet.

  • ken
    December 31, 2011 6:08pm

    happy new year david. thanks for a year filled with delicious fun and info.

  • December 31, 2011 6:10pm

    I love lemon Larabars.

  • Pamela
    December 31, 2011 6:14pm

    Perhaps, take a look at some Pan Forte recipes: the medieval power bar!

  • Lynn
    December 31, 2011 6:17pm

    David, I’m so sorry about your Christmas dessert and the failed granola bars. You work so hard and it must have been so disappointing to have that happen to you especially at Christmas when you expect that everything will be happy and perfect. I hope you can get some much needed rest and encouragement and have a better 2012. Paris is always so beautiful in the springtime!

    PS, I was thinking about the video you posted a few weeks ago and how delicious the sardine pate was that you showed us how to make. And I made it with the wonderful furikake you recommended — I had never heard of that…now it’s a great addition to my kitchen.

    • December 31, 2011 6:22pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve seen, and experienced, so many cooking catastrophes working in professional kitchens and testing recipes at home, that you just realize they’re a fact of life. (Kind of like traffic tickets; if you drive, at some point, you’re going to get one.)

      In the end, it’s not the end of the world and it’s just food. And while it’s annoying to lose something, it’s not the fin du monde (end of the world).

  • December 31, 2011 6:23pm

    Sometimes giving up on a problem gives our brains the space to come up with a solution…or not. I personally am giving up on trying to make agar-agar work in gelatin desserts.
    By the way, this New Year’s Eve dessert is thanks to you: Profiteroles with coffee ice cream, salted butter caramel sauce, and French candied almonds from The Perfect Scoop. Oh, and a Maida Heatter fudge sauce–no offense. I will be extra careful carrying the platter to the table.
    Thanks for the great writing, photography, and recipes in 2011–all the best in 2012!

  • December 31, 2011 6:27pm

    I, too, long for a truly healthy snack bar– one that is low calorie, filling, and packed with nutrients. Then again, I also long to be tall and thin.
    Happy New Year, my friend. I hope the year ahead brings all good things– including challenges you meet and those you are wise enough to walk away from.

  • December 31, 2011 6:29pm

    David, thank you for this wonderful post, along with all from 2011 and before… WIthout knowing it, you have become like a member of our family. We look forward to each new post with great anticipation, and then we chat about what you write, just amongst the two of us, and often with friends. What you write, the way you write, and your great photos truly light up our lives. Merci mille foi for giving us the gift of your blog. Tous nos meilleurs voeux pour l’annee 2012! Leo and Linda

  • elizabeth
    December 31, 2011 6:33pm

    All best wishes for a healthy, happy 2012, David. I have a suggestion. Since you’ve dropped the granola bar from your repertoire, how about taking off in an entirely different direction: hot sauces! I’m looking at hundreds of recipes made from both hot dried chiles and fresh and don’t know where to start. Add mangoes? How much garlic? Tomatoes, no tomatoes? Would love to hear what you come up with because you bring excellence to whatever you focus on (despite being granola bar challenged). Just an idea…

  • Penny
    December 31, 2011 6:36pm

    David, Saw that you want masa harina for your homemade tortillas (date bar post). I can bring some to you next week. Let me know and I will haul it to Paris.

  • tuula
    December 31, 2011 6:39pm

    I love you David. All the best for 2012!!!

  • December 31, 2011 6:44pm

    I had the same experience when I attempted granola bars this year as well. I was left with a pile of, well, granola. I was pretty bummed, but my spirits were lifted when my mom (gotta love moms) said the crumble was delicious! So we grabbed spoons and dug in! I hope you have a lovely 2012!

  • December 31, 2011 6:46pm

    Thank you for another year of inspiration David! I am making your salad nicoise to go with the NYE pizza and baking your banana cake with chocolate frosting for the feast tomorrow. All best to you in 2012 – slaud, amor & dinero!

  • December 31, 2011 6:50pm

    I will eat anything that says “healthy marshmallows and chocolate.” Even if they took a trip to the floor.

  • Linda H
    December 31, 2011 6:52pm

    Happy 2012, David, and thank you for the entertainment and education!

  • Linda
    December 31, 2011 6:57pm

    Happy New Year, David. Thanks for all your hard work in 2011. I’m eagerly anticipating more of your adventures in 2012. Linda

  • December 31, 2011 7:06pm

    Ah, bummer about your Christmas dessert! Happy New Year to you, David. You and your posts and tweets always make me smile :)

  • Debra
    December 31, 2011 7:07pm

    I love the idea of letting something go with the passing of the old year. And vive chocolate bars! Happy New Year!

  • Katie K
    December 31, 2011 7:12pm

    I know you’ve given up, but I’m sending you a link to the recipe that works for me, in case you change your mind:

    I hope next year is wonderful for you.

  • December 31, 2011 7:17pm

    Drop Christmas dessert on the floor, yikes that was a bad year ending.
    Our Christmas had many sweets as well so I guess missing one wouldn’t be so bad but one of yours would be horrible.
    I understand about the granola bar conundrum. The ones here use a lot of corn syrup and glucose to hold them together for that pull apart sweetness.
    I found that a combination of almond butter and honey worked well for my bars, then keeping the fruits out till the last minute to prevent those tooth breaking chunks.
    Looking forward to following your granola bar quest this year.

  • December 31, 2011 7:19pm

    Another vote here for your fruitcake bars! I’ll take them any day over a crumbly, dry, too sweet energy bar. Add some chocolate, and wow!

    Feliz y próspero año nuevo 2012!

  • Anne Marie
    December 31, 2011 7:26pm

    Many thanks for another year of wonderful, funny, informative posts. I often wonder how you work in any sleep time with all you are up to. Best wishes for a fruitful, dessertful 2012.

  • AnnaZed
    December 31, 2011 7:41pm

    Never underestimate the power of the Clif. I should be ashamed that the 25 year old college student in our midst eats one five days a week while by-passing all sorts of delectable things created by me, but really I’m not. They get him out of the door when combined with an elaborate fruit smoothie that I make for him (that included cooked oatmeal, which makes it very smooth and nice) that takes me about 15 minutes to make for him.

  • December 31, 2011 7:41pm

    Well, I think it’s wise to move on from granola bars. They are too high in carbs and not worth the calories, as far as I’m concerned. Your caramel/salt ice cream with the shards of carmel in it is quite another thing altogether and worth every last cream and sugar blessed calorie. I made it for Christmas/Chanuka dessert for my family and had the foresight to make two batches because everyone loved it and went back for seconds.

    Happy New Year!

  • Don in Atlanta
    December 31, 2011 7:43pm

    I have no experience with granola recipes. However, it being New Year’s Eve I wanted to thank you for your blog this past year. I discovered your writing in 2011 and always look forward to reading your latest entry.

  • December 31, 2011 7:53pm

    Love the “foodie” metaphor–a “clean cutting board”, instead of a “clean slate”. I’m going to use that one!

  • Alexandra
    December 31, 2011 7:59pm

    I say skip the granola bars and just eat the granola. Alton Brown has a recipe that I use all the time for granola….it’s easily found on-line. The only change I make is to add dried cranberries in place of the raisins he suggests.
    Thank you for this entertaining and helpful blog, David. Looking forward to your 2012 posts.
    Happy New Year to all. Peace and love.

  • Margaret
    December 31, 2011 8:35pm

    David, hey maybe you should leave Paris this time of year and spend a few months wintering in San Antonio. You could sip prickly pear margaritas outside by the river at La Gloria. or…

    We also have good farmer’s markets here, BBQ, and Central Market which has every food you could dream of (and plenty of masa harina). The Culinary Institute of America moved here recently too. It’s not Paris, but has an up and coming food scene. I recently read about two bakers who used to work at Bouchon Bakery in California are now living here and selling their pastries at a farmer’s market at the Quarry Market…

    We would love to have you visit us and who knows, maybe you would get a great idea for a cookbook!!

    • January 1, 2012 10:38am
      David Lebovitz

      I was in San Antonio this year, doing classes at Central Market with their amazing citrus. And don’t worry; I ate plenty of bbq, and Tex-Mex foods – and came back with a few treats in my suitcase, too.

  • carol
    December 31, 2011 8:58pm

    David, a question off the subject of this blog…do you have any ideas for where in Paris I could find one of the blue steel type madeleine pans? I understand they are the ones that get the madeleines more browned and with crispy edges. I did not see any in E. Dehellerin when I was there. What kind do you think work the best?

  • December 31, 2011 8:58pm

    So glad to know it’s not just me who’ve suffered some cooking disasters. I’ve totally lost my roll dough mojo and have just had to ride above–small pun. Here’s to a better 2012!

  • December 31, 2011 10:05pm

    Macarons are my granola bar…… so close but just not right…….
    haven’t been able to give up on them yet.
    Happy New Year David! Will be looking forward to your recipes and stories.

  • December 31, 2011 10:13pm

    I have found this recipe from your friend over at Smitten Kitchen to make an excellent granola bar. It’s a re working of a fool proof recipe from the kitchen at King Arthur.
    It has infinite possibilities of combinations and tackles the “glue” that’s needed to hold the bars together. On another note – America may look pretty dismal when viewed from across the atlantic, but from where i live in New Paltz NY there is a lot of hope, lots of young energized people, lots to look forward to…and the world is still a beautiful place. Happy New Year!

  • December 31, 2011 10:49pm

    Feliz 2012!

  • Stacy Lawson
    December 31, 2011 11:31pm

    The healthier the granola bar the less I like it… Forget the super-charged protein missiles that settle in my stomach like a food-version of the titanic… True I’m not hungry after one, but I also don’t feel well. I’m wondering if it’s just better to stick with nuts oats, bits of dark chocolate and fruit… Oh right… someone already came up with that one– trail mix. Happy and Healthy New Year.

  • Joycie K
    December 31, 2011 11:32pm

    I don’t know how they make them, but the flapjacks and the granola bars at Fleet River Bakery in London are the absolute best — probably because they’re a little more like cookies than just oats and fruit and nuts. I requested the recipe but didn’t even get a word back from them. Next time you’re in London, you must try them. And see if you can wrangle the recipes from them. They’ll completely change your mind about granola bars. Unfortunately, I live in California, so I don’t think I’ll be there any time soon.

  • December 31, 2011 11:48pm

    I am SO glad you posted this. I have tried and tried to devise a good granola bar and have failed miserably every time. I’ve given up now and occasionally create a cookie that’s “in the granola bar spirit.”-I think the manufacturers must have some secret cement to make theirs hold together. I’ve also concluded from several failed experiments that “healthful” and granola bar simply can’t coexist–the only results even verging on edible were far to fatty, salty, and full of calories to fit in the nutrition-wise category. If you get a chance drop by–just posted on 2011 food trends I’m happy to say goodbye to.

    Hope you have a great New Year.

  • ranchodeluxe
    January 1, 2012 12:02am

    No worries. Your cookies or ice cream or savory recipes will sustain! ‘Kind’ bars at the local health food store are prett darned good if one insists on an edible bar. Happy New Year from the high plains, y’all.

  • Carol McFrland
    January 1, 2012 12:08am

    I was so relieved by the absence of a recipe! I usually take my Nonna’s biscotti and some cheese when I travel.

  • January 1, 2012 12:15am

    I hear you David. I’ve been trying this year to get my granola recipe to where I like it, without success. Ah well, I’m not giving up quite yet. Happy New Year!

  • January 1, 2012 12:18am

    I can’t make flapjacks so have never attempted granola bars (which are just granola bars in basic form!). However, it took me 10 years to make meringue successfully, I don’t know why it was so difficult because now it always works! So if 2011, wasn’t the year, you conquered granola bars but there will be a year you do! For what it’s worth this year, because of you, I made cherry jam, thank you for that, it was amazing!!

  • January 1, 2012 12:34am

    Have you tried binding them in caramel instead of Karo and honey? Bingo.

  • Elaine
    January 1, 2012 1:03am

    I just had my cheesecake take a tumble and spread itself out in the boot of a taxi a few days back. Wanted to kick myself so badly after that especially since it was a birthday cake! Luckily I didn’t have to endure any scoldings from the taxi driver and the birthday boy was cool :)

    January 1, 2012 1:23am

    Hey David: No worry. Your granola cereal recipe is the best in the land. I love it! -Suzanne

  • January 1, 2012 1:33am

    Ah, being a chocolatier, I, too, am familiar with dismal failures in my kitchen. Amazingly, I keep going back for more. The price of a passion, I guess. If there is a next time and If any of those granola bar pieces are hygenically edible (who’ll know?, per Julia Child) scoop them up and make a happy-mistake bark.
    Though I have most of your books, I only discovered your blog mid year, and it’s brightened up many a day. Thank you for sharing your delicious experiences, recipes, laughs and insights. Keep them coming, tho I, too, don’t know how you manage to do it all.
    Happy New Year, David

    • January 1, 2012 10:49am
      David Lebovitz

      Chocolatiers make a lot of mistakes. One Parisian chocolatier told me he spent 6 months trying to figure out how to make one of his collections of chocolates.

      I was once in a chocolate factory in the US and a crew was opening a mountain of boxes, filled with chocolate bars, and unwrapped each one. Apparently the tempering machine wasn’t working correctly or something and all of them had to be re-melted and remade. The chocolate company was over 100 years old, so if they can goof, the rest of us shouldn’t feel so bad when it happens to us, too.

  • January 1, 2012 2:15am

    David, sorry about your Christmas dessert :( I have had one failure after another in the kitchen this month and had been feeling quite defeated. Thanks for lifting my spirts and allowing me to realize that everyone (even professionals like yourself) don’t always have perfect recipes. I hope you have a wonderful New Year and I look forward to reading your new posts in 2012!

  • Shari
    January 1, 2012 2:17am

    Hey, since you’ve put your quest for the perfect granola or energy bar on the back burner for awhile, try the granola bars from Smittenkitchen. I use dried tart cherries, walnuts, pecans, coconut, oats, oatbran, and wheat germ for the dry, and peanut butter, butter, honey and maple syrup for the wet ingredients. Need I say more?

  • Annika
    January 1, 2012 2:41am

    Happy New Year! Looking forward to your 2012 posts!

  • Shari
    January 1, 2012 2:47am

    And I would also like to wish you a very Happy New Year David! I love ‘visiting’ you at your site, and my days are better for it. I’ve had so many disappointments, mishaps, disasters, or whatever you want to call them in the kitchen, and sometimes a person just has to step back, and go in a different direction for awhile, as I’m sure you already know. I can honestly say that I’ve learned many, many things from my mistakes, -not necessarily things I wanted to know, but knowledge just the same. And there have even been a few happy mistakes. However, the times when your goals meet your expectations…..pure bliss. A few years ago, my aunt was bringing a chocolate cream pie to our house for Christmas dinner. We had a rare blizzard type snow that year, and it was impossible to tell where the street ended and the yard started and when she tried to step over the curb to enter our yard, she stepped in a hole and did the funniest ‘dance’ trying to save the pie. And save it she did. We stood at the door and laughed so hard watching her sacrifice her dignity to ‘save the pie’. It was great, and will always be remembered fondly. : )

    • January 1, 2012 10:46am
      David Lebovitz

      Often the laughs are more memorable than the dish! But glad you enjoyed both with your aunt : )

      Mistakes are a good way to learn something and it seems whenever I read an interview with some successful executive, she or he usually says how important it is to make mistakes and learn from them. I know there’s likely a ton of granola recipes out there, perhaps one has my name on it, but I was up for the challenge of making my own from scratch. I guess I should be glad that there was no ‘dance’ that was captured on video of me trying to save mine…

  • Margit Van Schaick
    January 1, 2012 3:07am

    All the best for 2012! Thank you for your wonderful work: I have learned so much from reading your posts, including how best to create and maintain a running blog. You are incredibly hardworking, reliable, informative, enjoyable and funny! Again, thank you so much!

  • Patti
    January 1, 2012 3:26am

    Thanks for all of your posts this past year David! I look forward to reading them as they always make me smile! I’m sorry about your Christmas dessert – it happens to the best of us! Have a Happy New Year!!

  • Lillianne
    January 1, 2012 4:54am

    Grateful for all you’ve shared this year. I’ve stretched my boundaries with your dependable instructions. As long as there’s chocolate in this world I see no need for a granola bar.

  • January 1, 2012 4:58am

    wow, it seems your granola bar year is a bit of a metaphor for life in general. like everything else, the granola bars will end up to be only a miniscule frustration, so who needs them anyway? bettter things to come. besides, clif makes a pretty good new bar, called the mojo bar. no on marshmallows, but yes on pretzels and chocolate and nuts. :) happy new year!

  • Robert
    January 1, 2012 5:24am

    David, you make so many wonderful things, and give us great recipes in your blog and books, thanks for telling us about a failure among all the achievements. Now when something doesn’t turn out well, I can say, “Even David doesn’t hit the bull’s-eye every time.”
    Have a great 2012!

  • January 1, 2012 7:08am

    Your granola bars look pretty darn tasty to me…crumbs happen.

    Oh well :)

    Happy 2012!

  • January 1, 2012 8:35am

    Yeah, sometimes the best advice is, if you don’t succeed, just quit. I just read the wonderful cookbook/memoir Beyond the Great Wall. The authors say they are not including the recipe for those long noodles that are pulled between two hands again and again because they can’t figure out how to do it themselves. Isn’t honesty wonderful?

    I think the end of the year is a good time to get rid of things you don’t use. I just donated 3 bags of towels to a feral cat rescuer. It’s a lot harder to get rid of kitchen utensils, however.

    • January 1, 2012 10:42am
      David Lebovitz

      That’s right. Some foods you just can’t recreate at home, or make in home-sized batches. And things like those long hand-pulled noodles (like macarons, to some extent) are more about technique than an actual recipe, and it’s something that needs to be learned.

      After writing a number of cookbooks, and testing a whole lot of recipes, I’ve learned that after a few tries, if something isn’t working, perhaps it’s best to move on to something else..

  • Belle
    January 1, 2012 8:45am


    You are one of the few passionate souls on the web who truly understands food. You have a natural grace and a way of presenting your creations with casual elegance. Thank you for all of your posts, they are at once witty, humble and inspiring. I wish you a new year filled with energy, hope and love.

  • Brittany Rose
    January 1, 2012 10:51am

    Happy New Year, David! You always have such great, passionate stories and posts that always make me smile. I hope your 2012 goes wonderfully!

  • Sandy Castro
    January 1, 2012 12:17pm

    Happy new year,David! All the best..

  • January 1, 2012 12:56pm

    If anyone’s after a fab “energy bar” slice, I’m in love with this Cardamom Oat Slice. After spending a semester cooking with students in our Indonesian language classes, I had a lot of leftover Australian-Indonesian ingredients (they had to re-invent the ANZAC biscuit!). This slice used them up nicely and has since become a staple! But I don’t want to see an ANZAC biscuit again any time soon.

  • January 1, 2012 6:14pm

    Like yourself and many of the other commenters on this post, I too, have struggled to master the granola bar without adding excessive amounts of oil or sweeteners. I’ve made a few that have come together, but never have they produced the earthy nut and grain texture I was aiming for. It might not be possible. I’d rather just throw a bunch of toasted oats and nuts into a bag and forgo proper etiquette and pour it into my mouth on the go. :)

  • January 1, 2012 6:33pm

    Happy New Year, David!

    I love that you threw out the granola bar file. For many reasons. So many of the American “energy” bars contain soy protein, which, as it happens, I am highly intolerant of (indeed, the Clif website has an entire “allergy reference table”). If I eat those bars, well, I’ll spare you the details. Even if you didn’t find success, I’m so glad none of your granola bar attempts included soy!

    New Year’s Eve brought out a similar urge here – I spent the better part of the day clearing out “the old”, “the worn” and the “never gonna happen”. Then, I saged my apartment to be sure even the essence of those was gone.

    Thank you for all that you share with us – your wit, your wisdom, and yourself~xoxo

    • January 1, 2012 7:00pm
      David Lebovitz

      One of the good things about cooking for yourself, is that you know what’s going in to what you’re making – so for those with food intolerances (and thanks for sparing the details!) you can be reasonably sure of what you’re eating.

      Sorry we won’t be spending time on any beaches this year, but with a clean cutting board, I’ve got my work cut out for me with a roster of new projects, and recipes!

  • Jenny
    January 1, 2012 7:27pm

    Congrats on Saveur Magazine’s best professional 2011 blog award — I certainly agree with that! I thought you said you never win anything….

  • January 1, 2012 8:12pm

    You now have 5 million new suggestions for granola bars– but nigella lawson’s is great! Or, Kashi GoLean crunchy bars, and Luna bars are both awesome high protein & refined sugar free bars that are not bloblike.

  • Karen Vicki
    January 2, 2012 12:35am

    Happy 2012, David, and thanks for all of your generous blog entries this year. I read every one! I am still using your great caramel recipe with a little variation. It is the best.

    A peanut butter cookie that isn’t too sweet could be good for carrying on a plane, high in protein with great flavor. I have found that lots of bars require an enzyme supplement to digest properly or you can get stomach cramps (then the so-called energy is wasted). The original muesli from a health clinic in Switzerland back when required the oats to be soaked overnight in a small amount of water, then they were eaten with raw grated apples and fresh lemon juice with milk in the morning. I have eaten this and it is a good morning thing… Karen

  • Lien Diep
    January 2, 2012 4:41am

    I’ve tried many many bars and your fruitcake (friendship) bars are my favorite.
    Bonne annee!


  • Jodie
    January 2, 2012 4:51am

    Have you tried looking up recipes for “Museli bars”? That seems to be our version of the granola bar you’re talking about, but definitely doesn’t have a dough-like texture. It’s more crunchy and chewy. Tastes like it’s held together with a mixture of golden syrup and honey, if that helps.

  • Skippy
    January 2, 2012 9:08am

    Granola bars aren’t worth the trouble. If you want something healthy and convenient to eat, grab a banana and some nuts. If you want chocolate and marshmallow, well, have some chocolate and marshmallows!! (oooh, in a Mallomar…)

    2011 was the worst year of my life. I am symbolically throwing out all the disasters of the year with your failed granola bar experiments. May they all be soon forgotten!

  • January 2, 2012 12:45pm

    murlu yıllar…

  • Sini
    January 2, 2012 2:30pm

    Happy New Year 2012! I’m sorry about your christmas dessert…I’m sure it would have tasted heavenly. I adore how much you put effort into testing and creating new recipes :D

  • January 2, 2012 4:03pm

    I’ll take your word that those bars aren’t great, but they look pretty good to me. Wishing you a happy new year and many, many scrumptious granola bars, or whatever else you hope for in 2012!

  • Susan
    January 2, 2012 5:49pm

    I’m thinking some of the speculoos (sp?) spread and some dates (cooked in some butter (and brandy, maybe)) might help hold the bars together better.

    Happy New Year, David.

  • Pilar
    January 2, 2012 6:24pm

    Hi David, Happy new year! Thanks for your sharing recipes and funny stories along the year. We are looking forward to more. All the best

  • Terra Vizzini
    January 2, 2012 7:47pm

    Thank you for sharing and Happy New Year. I’ve been a bit shy with baking over the holidays as I took my first stab at making macarons. The first batch did not turn out, but the second ones were okay. I made them 5 days ahead and kept them in the fridge, but they were getting soft when it came time to eat them. I will keep trying! I hope you make your way to Toronto, Canada some day soon….if not, we’ll have to go back to Paris :)

  • Terra Vizzini
    January 2, 2012 7:49pm

    P.S. I made chocolate chip cookies from your recipe and they were divine! Thank goodness they turned out for me. They were a big hit with everybody. Merci beaucoup!

  • Troy Swezey
    January 2, 2012 11:41pm

    “expiration dates are sometimes ‘suggestions’” Funny…and very true. How come so many items must be used 7 days after being opened? Why not 6 or 8 days? Oh! Because 7 days is a calendar week. How convenient.
    David you and I come from the same line of thought on that…as well as what is wrong with keeping certain foods together on the same shelf. :)
    Wishing you a fabulous year David!

  • Amy
    January 3, 2012 12:06am

    So after all these beautiful pictures of granola bars, no recipe? I don’t know how they taste, but they look good to me.

  • david
    January 3, 2012 5:01am
  • Marisa
    January 3, 2012 6:57am

    I love the Fruitcake Bar recipe you posted a while back so so much, and for me, it’s in the same family as the granola bar. Good luck with whatever you decide to tackle with your clean cutting board!

  • jennifer
    January 3, 2012 7:10am

    I just bring my loose non sugar granola using a jar or a bag and eat it with a spoon. Healthy is more important than the bar.

  • jennifer
    January 3, 2012 7:13am

    Love your video! I have been baking up side down apple cake using your up side down cake recipe for a week. My kids ask for it every day. I use 1/3 of sugar required.

  • Jenny
    January 3, 2012 11:48am

    If you’re looking for an airplane snack you should try Alice Medrich’s wonderful honey hemp bars from her Chewy Gooey book.

  • January 3, 2012 12:33pm

    Love reading your blog, David.
    Happy New Year!

  • Margaret
    January 3, 2012 1:30pm

    The Vegan World Fusion granola bars are good, I promise. I think it runs more or less like this, I may have adapted it slightly:

    > 330g/3 cups oats
    > 130g/1 cup spelt or wholewheat flour
    > 170g/1 cup chopped nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pumpkin
    seeds, sunflower seeds in any combination)
    > 100g/ 1/2 cup flax seeds
    > 1 tsp sea salt
    > 1 tsp cinnamon
    > Good pinch ground ginger
    > Good pinch cloves
    > 200 ml/ 3/4 cup olive or safflower oil
    > 200 ml/ 3/4 cup maple syrup
    > Preheat oven to 180°C. Combine dry ingredients. Mix oil and maple syrup
    and combine well with dry ingredients. Line a roasting tin or baking tray
    with baking parchment and spread out mixture evenly. Compact it lightly
    with the back of a spoon. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
    Allow to cool and then break into chunks. If you mix it frequently during cooking time, breaking it up, use it as a breakfast cereal.
    > You’ll find all the unusual ingredients in healthfood shops.
    > Variations: add 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup good quality black chocolate (at
    least 70%), 1/2 cup dried cranberries, etc., etc.

  • Joan Bedard
    January 3, 2012 4:41pm

    Happy New Year, David! I was delighted to watch you on ABC last night explaining why the French have banned ketchup in their schools.Keep on surprising us with your appearances. Love seeing you on TV!

  • KimB
    January 3, 2012 11:26pm

    In addition to granola bars, I’m interested in what you made for Christmas Day dessert which made its debut on the floor. ;-)
    I too had a kitchen disaster on the 24th whereby a whole, fresh leg of pork slipped my grip and fell into a too full 12 quart pot of sweet and salty brine. At least it gave me a good excuse to wash the floor and cabinets inside and out before guests arrived on the 25th…

  • Anna
    January 3, 2012 11:38pm

    I had the same struggle this year. Didn’t give up yet though. I have an idea a bar that omits all the oats and for sticking the whole thing together with Renuka coconut cream. I’m going to try it as soon as I get home!

  • Elisa Girard
    January 3, 2012 11:54pm

    These hold together really well and don’t contain any added sugar:
    Snacking Bars (gluten-free)

    1/2 cup almond butter
    2 smashed bananas

    1/2 cup almond meal
    3/4 cup nuts/dried fruits
    1/4 cup seeds
    1 cup oats
    2 stevia packets
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 350`. In a skillet, heat almond butter and banana on medium heat until smooth. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add banana mixture. Stir well with a fork and press into a sprayed, small rimmed sheet pan using plastic wrap. Bake 23 minutes. Cool and cut into bars. Enjoy!

  • Joanna V
    January 4, 2012 12:25am

    I love a good granola bar, until I look at the ingredient list and realize they aren’t really that healthy! I would have been happy to try any you deemed a success but can’t really blame you for throwing in the proverbial kitchen towel. Am looking forward to new projects you share with us – and hoping 2012 will be a better year in many ways.

  • Anna
    January 4, 2012 2:52am

    Re: your dessert mishap – have you seen the documentary “Kings of Pastry”?

  • Carolyn Z
    January 4, 2012 5:01am

    I’m getting caught up on the TiVo and just watched this documentary. David posted this program on his blog, so I’m pretty sure he has seen the spectacular sugar creation shatter into mostly dust.

    • January 4, 2012 7:52am
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I’ve seen it and wrote a little about it a while back. It’s a great documentary..and very exciting ~

  • January 4, 2012 6:55pm

    David, check these out People are coming up with recipes for Larabars. You could make some killer ones!

  • January 6, 2012 9:11pm

    Personally, I’m a fan of minced dried fruit and chopped, salted nuts held together with just enough good quality unsweetened baking chocolate. The slightly healthier version includes some sort of puffy crunchy whole grain breakfast cereal like brown rice krispies, pureed dates, a smidge of honey or fruit juice concentrate (cherry, pomegranite), and chopped nuts. They can be France or US sized.

    Give them a try one day… if you have a bit of cereal around.

    I gave up on the oat involvement years ago.

  • Eddie C
    January 8, 2012 6:42am

    There was an Oatmeal Cookie Bar in US Army field rations (called MREs) when I was in the service in 1993 to 1995 that many people loved, including me. It was not overly sweet or chewy. It was a slightly sweet, compressed oat bar that tasted nutty and whole-grainy, even though I don’t think there were nuts in it. I bet some could be picked up online somewhere for “research purposes.”

  • NatasjaB
    January 10, 2012 10:57pm

    haha, granola bars were on my to-try-list too this year. They’re not perfect yet but already proved far more popular then store bought during our ski trip last week!

    My recipe is based on Nigella Lawson’s recipe using condensed milk as ‘glue’.
    Besides that: oatmeal, dried cranberries and apricots, pecans, mixed seeds, dark chocolate chips and a little honey.

  • January 19, 2012 8:39pm

    Glad to read you have food disasters, too :) I was bringing two fresh pans of italian sausage lasagne to my kids’ school for their staff when I turned a corner and it all fell onto the floor of the car :(

  • Clare D
    January 24, 2012 3:19am

    I had to just laugh b/c my Christmas dessert had the same fate. I made your recipe for French tart dough in the oven- amazing! Then filled it with a chocolate ganache. I put it on a cake pedestal & stored it the outside fridge. After cooking a multi course meal for all my in laws, I go to present the final masterpiece. Kersplat, on the floor it went as I stepped into the dining room. No saving. I was heartbroken but a glass of vino ( or a few) later I had the thought- what a fitting end to a tough year. Thank you for all your recipes. I am a former NorCal resident with a love for travel & a passion for baking. Your recipes and blog write-ups are entertaining and tasty!