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Home-made muesli bars

Cereal bars are  one of the things I used to buy regularly from supermarkets. It’s only laziness that stopped me from making my own. They don’t take much time at all, and are probably much cheaper and more nutritious. Best of all, they taste different every time you make them.

I don’t really have a recipe, just principles of how to throw them together. Muesli bars are a great way to use up stuff that’s been languishing in the kitchen, because they use up bits of everything. This batch started with the fact that I had a bowl of soaked prunes that I’d lost interest in.

Muesli bars

This isn’t a recipe, so much as an account of what I managed to use up. The things that muesli bars absolutely have to have is some fruit juice and/or pulp (to avoid using too much fat) , some fat (but not too much) something naturally sweet  (to avoid using sugar), muesli, and – for my taste – nuts, to give them crunch and protein. Beyond that, you can use pretty much anything you’ve got left, the details don’t matter. Amounts depend on the size of your tin. As long as the mixture binds together well, you can take a guess at the ratio of liquid to dry stuff.

  • Juice and grated zest of an old orange
  • 1 whole grated apple – to save it from being wasted
  • 1 tablespoon treacle – the end of a tin
  • About 1/4 cup of sunflower oil
  • Bowl of prunes that had been soaked in water
  • Chopped mixed nuts – cheap in Holland & Barratt, need using up
  • Chopped walnuts – don’t know how old they are, time to get rid of them
  • Sultanas – because they need using up
  • A bit of mixed fruit soaked in cherry brandy that I found in the freezer
  • A tablespoon of semolina (don’t ask me why, it was just a passing thought)
  • Holland & Barratt muesli base. Not sure how much  – it depends on the size of the tin.
  • Heaped teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of grated nutmeg

Mix it all up, so that it’s a moderately stiff mixture, though not dry. Spread the mixture flat in a shallow oblong  baking tin lined with non-stick baking parchment and cook at around 160 (fan) for about maybe 20-30 minutes, depending on what’s in the mixture. Keep an eye on them, and rescue them before they burn. Cut them into slices immediately, and try to lift them onto a wire rack early, so that they dry out rather than sweat on the paper. They’ll be softer than the average cereal bar, so don’t try and cook them til the’re crisp – they won’t ever be.

These turned out as some of the nicest I’ve made, and I put that down to the dark, sweet flavours of the treacle and prunes, and the old alcohol in the fruit. Who knows. That’s  the fun of real cooking, the iterative process of trying stuff out until you find things that work, the variability of ingredients, the additions and subtractions, the forces of circumstance that subtly change the chemistry of what you’re making. This is precisely what you don’t get with all that stuff that you buy by the box in supermarkets.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist