February 25th, 2014
Granola bars have always presented somewhat of a challenge to me. I haven’t been able to find a wholesome store-bought granola bar that doesn’t taste like cardboard or isn’t too sweet. Have you? I’ve also had a hard time coming up with a good granola bar recipe myself, they often come out bland and overall boring. Still, I have been determined to have one delicious granola bar in my repertoire and these Sweet Potato Buckwheat Bars with cardamom have got to be it.
I can talk about my love for cardamom for hours – in my opinion, almost anything can benefit from its flavor. No wonder that it is one of the most expensive spices in the world, its taste is absolutely heavenly. A little cardamom goes a long way though – those little green pods are like little ticking bombs of flavour. I just learned about the existence of smoked cardamom, from here, and will surely include it the next time I make these bars.
The preparation here is quite simple – a few scoopfuls of very nutritious grains, nuts and seeds mixed with a kind of sweet potato ‘caramel.’ The bars are not only incredibly tasty but also densely nutritious and filling. Also, they are very flexible in preparation. My older daughter, Masha, who takes most of the photos for Golubka and lives in NYC, treats my recipes as any recent college grad would – simplifying them and using only the ingredients that fit a tight budget. She made these bars without cardamom, brown rice syrup and no nuts – just sunflower and pumpkin seeds, which are cheaper, all to very good results. She also tried baking them and loved what she ended up with. As variations, you can add cocoa nibs, dried coconut, dried fruit, hemp hearts, maca powder, sesame seeds, toasted rolled oats or quinoa flakes, different grain puffs, chia or flax seeds, and various nut butters. Just make sure to keep the dry to wet ratio the same.
I talked about my love for winter Olympics in the last post, and it has been an incredible two weeks. Having these bars on hand (I made a double batch!) for the whole family to snack on and to include in Paloma’s lunchbox has been helpful, as my attention has been guided away from my kitchen and straight into Sochi.
Sweet Potato Buckwheat Snack Bars with Cardamom
1 1/2 cups raw buckwheat groats – soaked in water for a minimum of 1 hour, rinsed and dried completely, or quinoa puffs
1 small or 1/2 large sweet potato
1 heaping cup assorted nuts/seeds (I used 1/2 cup hazelnuts, 1/4 cup each almonds and pecans)
1/2 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or a mixture of both
4 cardamom pods ground in a mortar and pestle
1/2 cup sesame tahini
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
2 tablespoons honey
pinch sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Prick sweet potato skin with a fork several times and bake for about 40 minutes or until soft throughout. Cool, peel and mash with a fork.
2. Lower the oven temperature to 350 F (180 C). Place nuts on a baking tray and toast for 10 minutes. Transfer onto a kitchen towel and remove the skins. Then toast your seeds for 5 minutes.
3. Add nuts to a food processor and pulse until broken into small to medium pieces. Combine the nuts, seeds and buckwheat groats in a large mixing bowl.
4. In a small saucepan, warm the brown rice syrup with honey, tahini and almond butter, mixing until well combined. Add in the sweet potato mash, salt and cardamom. Combine into a caramel like homogenous sauce. Pour it over the granola mixture and mix well.
5. Cover a 9 x 9 baking dish with parchment paper, extending it to the sides of the dish. Scoop the mixture into the dish, pressing it inside in a compact and even layer. Place into a freezer for about 30 minutes or until firm.
6. Remove from the baking dish and cut into bars. Keep refrigerated or even in the freezer – the bars will never be completely frozen, just perfectly chewy and crunchy at the same time.