And This Time, I Mean It

granola bars

With just a week left before my move, things have gotten rather frantic around here. I won’t bore you with stories about delays, budget overruns, a bruised eardrum from someone yelling in my ear when I’m standing just a foot away, and so on, but I can now say with confidence that I understand why there are so many pills in the medicine cabinets across France. Chez David has become a mini Vallé des poupées (Valley of the Dolls), with most of my efforts right now concentrating on trying to obtain a minimum of three hours of solid sleep per night. And, of course, making sure blog posts don’t have a single typo in them.

Needless to say, visitors can forget my requests for bringing over corn tortillas or dried cranberries – I need a reload on ExcedrinPM. What I thought would be a relatively straightforward project has become a lesson in how much patience and good humor are left in me. I made the grave error of stepping in freshly poured cement, which has occurred only once during my 53 years on this earth, but someone on the job has not let me forget it and has mentioned it at least seven times since I did it. And it was only yesterday.

craisinsrolled grains
granola barsprune kernel oil

However they’ve finally cleared away a lot of the debris and I could get a clean look at the space to lay out the plan for the kitchen. Designing a kitchen is like a puzzle and since it’s where I work, I need it to be, well..workable – and to get it right since there’s no going back. So it’s hard when someone barks at me to make a decision in four seconds that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life while I’m surrounded by a mess of construction and noise. But the good news is that I have two eardrums, and the other one still has a bit of life it in.

Speaking of clearing debris, I’m still working on cleaning out cabinets and the refrigerator. And speaking of debris, I’m still working on trying to figure out how to preserve the fresh-frozen cranberries in my freezer during the move, when I likely won’t have a refrigerator for a couple of weeks. I’ve also been eying a stray bottle of plum kernel oil, a half-jug of maple syrup in my refrigerator, odds and ends of miscellaneous dried fruit in wadded up bags held together with elastic bands, and a canister of rolled oats, so I decided to give granola bars one last go with a recipe that was in one of my many (many) folders of paperwork. (In that respect, I’ve become very French.)

granola bars

I’ve had my issues with granola bar failures in the past, and swore off trying them ever again, but I had clipped a promising recipe for my nemeses – and what was left of my American optimism hadn’t (yet) been quashed. The recipe was from a chef who I have a lot of respect for, so I was certain it would be sure-fire success.

But reading through the recipe just as I was measuring out the ingredients, my first concern was that there was over one part sweetener for two parts of oats. The whole mixture seemed suspiciously soupy as I mixed everything together. But I persevered and right near the end of the cooking time, when I took a peek insides the oven, the seeds, oats, and dried fruit in the pan were bobbing up and down in a slick pool of sugary syrup, which was bubbling furiously at the edges.

Being an optimist (another American quality that I’m trying desperately to preserve) I let the bars cool, as directed, then peeled off the foil, which was rather difficult because the bars had become welded to the pan. And when I snipped off a taste of the edges, aka the cook’s bonus, my teeth recoiled from the overwhelmingly sweet goo. And this comes from someone who eats sugar for a living.

granola bars granola bars

When I mess something up, I usually keep it around for a few days, picking at it from time to time before tossing it. Being frugal and not likely to toss things away, I almost broke a spatula as I scraped the mixture that had fused to the cutting board, into a bowl and kept it around a while – occasionally pulling out a glazed cranberry or a prying off a few of the sunflower seeds sealed onto the surface. Then, when I realized that the whole thing was a loss, I tossed it.

granola bars

So this time I am moving on from a few things. For one, granola bars, once and for all. And this time I mean it. So now it’s back to the boxes, and burrows of my cabinets. I’ve found a few long-lost oddities that I was considering fooling around with in my nearly empty kitchen, but perhaps I will wait until after the move to give them a go. Although when that date is, I’m not quite sure. In the meantime I’m keeping an ear to the ground for when that will be. The good ear, that is.


134 comments

  • Hi David, hope you’re hanging in there! I feel compelled to say “thank you” for continuing to feed all of your readers with such ‘good stuff’, week after week while simultaneously going through the remodel. No, it’s NOT fun having someone bark at you at anytime, let alone when you’re trying to keep your creative head on straight making decisions. BUT, there seems to be the faint glimmer of the light at the end of the tunnel now. (On a side, I appreciate the honest perspective with the whole ‘granola bar’ recipe situation- nice to see that even long-time pros such as yourself go through some “teeth recoiling” moments.)

  • What’s a foot in wet cement? Nothing! Lately there was a guy who drove his Porsche into wet cement in San Francisco. Do an internet image search for it.
    But I can feel your pain. Before I settlled where I now live (16 years now), I’ve been moving 6 times in 10 years. But it looks like you’re nearly finished. My good thoughts are with you!

  • Aww that’s not good. I feel your pain though, the same thing happened to me with some vegan caramels a few weeks back. I knew that they weren’t going to solidify nicely and of course, they didn’t. I tried to salvage them but half of the mix stuck to the tin foil and the other half ended up on my hands. Clearly it just wasn’t meant to be. I guess that’s what store bought caramels (and granola bars) are for!

  • Absolutely hilarious! I read this twice, and laughed out loud both times.

  • Bag the granola, David! Through trying times, and renovation surely is that, stick to old favorites and certainty. I’ll take a piece of your almond cake over any granola bar I’ve ever eaten, any day. Throw any leftover dried berries to the birds. They have to eat too. Your new pantry can be filled with what you really want, not what you feel you have to use up. And please, throw in typos intentionally right now if you want. No reasonable person could expect perfection from you now (or ever, if you ask me). The majority of us are thrilled with your delightful posts, typos aside. This is from a once upon a time proofreader.

  • You are hanging in there really well. Being as you are in the middle of it all, the debris, the cement, the loud-mouthed workers who think you’re an architect, it’s hard to see THE END of this chaos. I love the humour that you add to your anecdotes and I keep checking back to make sure that this process of buying a place and doing these renovations from an empty space, that it hasn’t killed you! (Not yet, you say!!!)

    I have a suggestion. Go to a toy store and find a large, fluffy, stuffed toy and buy it. Bring it home and use it as the ‘go to’ when you really have had a bad day! Like the stepping in cement day! After all, any psychologist will tell you that during times of great stress, it’s healthy to have an outlet where you can communicate how you are feeling!!! Remember Tom Hanks and his volleyball??

    Anyway, I am cheering you on during the evolution of David’s new kitchen and new home.

    As always, best of luck!

  • What a deliciously honest post. Sorry to hear things are taking so long and you’ve run into so many obstacles. At least you still write one of the most informative and entertaining blogs out there:). Hope that is some comfort.

  • I take comfort in your granola bar experiences–makes me feel less a failure. If they’re giving YOU fits, it might not be my fault mine always end up so dreadful. Cheers!

  • Salut David,
    Your post made me laugh- in a happy way.
    Thankyou.
    Even in Australia we feel your pain (re reno’s) and appreciate your culinary insights. Just the other night my husband made an egg salad inspired by your previous post.
    Bonne Chance,
    Kathryn

  • I hear what you say – you won’t try ever again. But. I thought I was a hopeless case until I tried Deb’s recipe at smitten kitchen. It is fantastic, not too sweet, and after a night in the fridge slices beautifully. C’est promis.
    http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/02/thick-chewy-granola-bars/

  • Hi, david! It’s really great that inspite of all your renovation ups and downs,u are kind enough to take time to blog and believe me your posts are not just posts for the sake of posts,they are so much informative and keep us wanting more from u.it’s interesting to share ur experiences and learn from them.we all r with u in this whole process of shifting home and will b there with all our best wishes for u when u step into ur new home!!!!

  • Oh granola bars – when they work, you wonder why anyone would bother buying them when they’re so simple. But when they fail, it’s disastrous.

    My husband recently tried to make me nut-free macarons (argh allergies), and we quit when it looked as if he was trying to stir pink chewing gum into beach sand.

  • hi david! how exciting that you are getting to design your kitchen. good luck with the move. construction is never pleasant but the results are so worth it. hope to see you in ny at iacp.

    xoxox

    rose

  • I have an almost perverse love of kitchens, so I cannot wait to see your new kitchen. I am assuming that you, too, can not wait to see your new kitchen, which stands to reason. As for granola bars, I just made these: http://savorysaltysweet.com/2012/02/13/crisp-and-hearty-granola-bars/ and they are a gem. I have taken to making a batch every Monday and eating them for breakfast throughout the week. I think it is fair to say that I am more than slightly addicted to them.

  • I also recommend Deb’s thick and chewy granola bar recipe. If you’ve time once you’re all settled in, they’re not too sweet and very adaptable.

  • footsteps in cement photo’s please!

  • It’s okay to leave the granola behind. You are beyond a talented man, with many tastes, pastries and gateux up your sleeve!

  • Today I made your Lemon Tart and the amazing French tart pastry you posted on this blog entry- http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/05/french-tart-dough-a-la-francaise/.
    I can’t tell you how important this is to me. I have been pastry challenged all my life. Something to do with my hands being too warm. I can just manage food processor pastry but that still required me to roll it out another area that I am not skilled at. The resulting tarts were not very appealing to the eye.

    The French tart pastry is so easy and so flaky. I will be trying this with other fillings. Thank you and thanks so much to Paule Caillat for sharing.
    I will be coming to Paris in April. Would you like me to bring you something from Canada? Dried Cherries? Maple syrup ? Ice wine?

  • haha i love this post. i’m sorry life is treating you rough! it will all be over soon it will all be over soon…just keep repeating it (your kitchen that is, not life! :p)

  • Dear David,

    You should be proud of yourself, you have a lot going on in your life and you are still a dedicated blogger! You are a champ!

    I trust that you cannot throw a nice big debris to me online! so I’d like to remind you ‘America’s Test Kitchen’ for a good recipe of granola bars! I tried their granola pieces recipe it was perfect! Well at least maybe you will try that later :-)

    Hang in there…

  • too funny. when ever i move kitchens, (and its a lot, economic gypsies are we) i end up creating something from whats left in the cupboards. last time it was a fruit mince from all the odds and ends of dried fruit, half a jar of marmelade, a ripe pear and the dregs of this and that alcool. bashed together and packed into a jar it kept i the fridge for months until i made some mince tarts at christmastime. sensational they were.

  • Hi David,

    My name is Melissa and I’ve been following your blog for over a year now. The other day, when you posted about the difference between French and American refrigerators, I brought up your point to a good friend of mine, who is from France. We had a good laugh about it, but concluded that there was no difference; though, French refrigerators tend to be much smaller (which did not seem the case in the pictures of the two models you were “comparing”). At any rate, he started talking about foods that he grew up loving and mentioned St. Moret cheese, which I think is similar to Babybel in its soft and mild flavor. Since then, I have been on the hunt for it because his birthday is coming up and I would love to surprise him with it, especially since he misses France a lot. Sadly, I have been unable to find it despite all the searching (physically and online…). Then I had an idea that someone from France might be able to ship some over. I am based in Atlanta, GA. This is a lot to ask, but would you be willing to ship a small case of St. Moret cheese to me? I can pay upfront for the cost of the cheese and shipping and any additional costs. I guess a better question is whether you think it is possible to even ship the cheese over… At any rate, I’d greatly appreciate your help! Though no worries if you do not want to or are unable to. It was a random idea I had to possibly obtain this hard-to-acquire cheese!

    Cheers,
    Melissa

    Here is what the packaging looks like:
    http://www.tabledescalories.com/photos/aliments/1641.jpg

    http://www.foodpairing.com/images/photolib/720_bpm.jpg

  • OH no, David! Did you ever try Kim Boyce’s recipe from “Good to the Grain”? That’s the one I rely on!

  • Bonjour David

    Answering your wonderful newsletter : the word is soupirail – small window in a cave.
    Write me concerning the shower……
    Thanks for your wonderful humor – I’m French with 15 yrs in the US so I appreciate greatly ;-)

    Thanks – it was pointed out to me by a few French readers, whose occasional help with the language I greatly appreciate : ) -dl

  • Hi David,
    Courage, looking at the photos of the OBRA, in Spanish that’s the work site, I do understand. I learned Spanish in Buenos Aires living in apartments I was re-doing
    to sell and become independently rich….OK, I can assume you are now up off the floor from laughing, I’ll tell you about my GRANOLA experience.

    About 40 years ago my nephew sent me a Granola Recipe from SUNSET magazine in California. Using this recipe and of course as I’m a cook, adapting it to my own taste, I became the undisputed QUEEN of Granola in Buenos Aires….for what that’s worth. BUT, I made a lot of cash with my product…never in MY LIFE did it enter my head to make BARS from it. ??????????????????????????

    I guess that Trail Mix, something I detest and Granola Bars are all things used in California. Hmmmm. No comment. I love California but not enough to eat Trail Mix.

    THANKS for all your courage, culinary education and laughs, you are the greatest, don’t know what I’d do without your blogs.

    Geraldine in Spain

  • Granola bars are all about the marshmallows and nut butter. I’ve used this recipe and it works, trust me! http://rhythmofthehome.com/2011/08/autumn-energy-bars-seasonal-recipe/ I’ve varied it in all kinds of ways and it hasn’t failed me yet…

  • Hadn’t visited your site in a while, but I need to visit more regularly. You are hilarious. Loved this post.

  • Hi David, If you still require fridge space I would be more than happy to let you use mine. I have no big catering jobs coming up so I have tons of room in my work fridge. Let me know if you would like to take some of your cold stuff on holiday to the 16th.
    Cookies aren’t necessary either…as some posters suggested. I have enough sweets of my own : )
    Maureen

  • Before making a cross-country move (large home to an apartment w/o an extra freezer!), I knew I had to get rid of everything in my freezer. You know, the kind that has things flying at you when you open it too quickly. I farmed out banana and pumpkin breads, chicken stock, pounds of butter, crumble crumbs, etc., etc. Almost divorced my husband when he tried to throw away containers of nuts I had stored there as well. Purging and “repurposing” can be such an emotionally draining experience that no one but another food “collector” would understand. (And six months later, I am still sadly thinking about the entire Panattone I stupidly left behind on the counter.)

  • I am reassured to have you confirm that even in Paris construction is the pits!
    It will get better!

  • David – I’ve refrained from commenting as so many have expressed similar sentiments. However, I just have to add my voice to the chorus. I love your blog. If we met on a street in Paris we’d pass by. If we met at a party, I’d know you immediately. Many thanks for your familiarity in your blog. And all the very best in your new space. I look forward to many more blogs that make me sigh and laugh out loud. You really are terrific.

    Wendy

  • I haven’t had much success with granola bars either…Best to stick to plain granola.

    It’s comforting to know that even professional pastry chefs can flop a recipe–And something as homely as granola bars! No one will miss them with your pastries around.

  • Oh, David. You must be frazzled! From the photos I was imagining the granola bar goo repurposed with more oats and flour as a fruit crisp topping or as a cheese cake base, but you have probably made countless cooks feel better by admitting in public that you cooked something unsuccessful and threw it out. We know you can cook deliciously and beautifully.

  • David ~
    What a joy in discovering your blog. I enjoy your style of writing, and the recipestips are a gold mine.

    Here is a recipe for chewy, thick granola bars that you can stash away until the next time you say, “NEVER AGAIN.”

    http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/02/thick-chewy-granola-bars/