Most granola bar recipes call for dried fruit, but I prefer roasted berries as they become jam-like when baked in an oat mixture. Instead of cooking them down into a full jam, toss fresh strawberries with a small amount of oil and sugar and allow their flavor to concentrate in the oven. Beyond adding flavor to the granola, the thickened berry juice partners with honey to help the ingredients stick together so that they can easily be cut into bars after baking.
When strawberries are in season, this is a breakfast or snack that helps to make use of berries that are past their peak or overripe. In place of poppy seeds, which are a classic pairing, add black sesame seeds for an almost nutty flavor. The bars give the speckled appearance of strawberry and poppyseed combinations, but the flavor is unexpected and delicious.
1 pound strawberries
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ cups rolled oats
½ cup toasted wheat germ
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup black sesame seeds
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees. Quarter fresh strawberries, toss them with canola oil, and place them in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the berries. Keep an eye on the strawberries and remove when they are soft and most of their liquid has evaporated, but a sticky, thickened juice remains in the dish. The berries will burn if they are left in the oven too long. Spoon the roasted berries and juices into a bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees for the granola bars. Prepare a 9-inch square baking dish by lining it with foil and oiling lightly. Stir the oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, sesame seeds, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Heat the honey and oil in a small saucepan until the mixture combines and becomes bubbly. Pour it over oat mixture and stir until fully combined. Add the roasted strawberries and juices and mix thoroughly.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Lightly oil another piece of foil and place it on top of the mixture. Press hard until it is packed down and flat on top. This also helps the mixture to stay together so that the granola bars do not crumble when cut. Reserve the additional piece of foil. Bake granola for 25 minutes.
Place the baking dish on a cooling rack and place the lightly oiled piece of foil on top again. Press down or use weights to compress the granola again. Remove the additional foil and allow the granola to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Lift the granola from the pan using the foil lining in the dish. Allow the baked granola to cool completely before cutting into bars.