In the early, narrative chapters of my newest cookbook, Gluten Free Classic Snacks, there's a whole section on “Ingredients and Substitutions.” I talk about everything from dairy-free substitutions for dairy ingredients to how to swap out refined sugars for unrefined ones.
Since each of the recipes in the book is a “copycat” recipe, we use plenty of refined sugars. If you want the precise taste and texture of the original, packaged snack, that's what it'll take. But that doesn't mean that we can't go in another direction, which is why the book provide tons and tons of guidance on how to do just that. If you're looking for something that is designed to be a bit better for you, try our recipe for homemade protein bars.
So when I decided to create a recipe for Yogurt-Coated Gluten Free Chewy Strawberry Granola Bars, I went for it: I cut way, way back on the refined sugars (the confectioners' sugar in the yogurt coating is the only kind, since there's no unrefined confectioners' sugar!) and even replaced the gluten free flour blend with almond flour. The result?
Not only gorgeous, but seriously delicious. Plus, these gluten free granola bars aren't baked, which makes them pretty ideal for continuing to make as the weather gets warmer (perfect to pack for a quick refueling during the spring sports season!). If you really want to make things easy on yourself, you can skip the first step of toasting the gluten free rolled oats and coconut chips. But it really really helps intensify the flavor and improve the texture of both. Plus, it's a really low-temp oven (just 275°F), and only about 7 minutes until they're done toasting.
There are a few ways to make a yogurt coating, but I went with the easiest way: Greek-style plain yogurt + melted butter (or coconut oil, if you like) + confectioners' sugar. The only potential substitute for the refined confectioners' sugar is Swerve Confectioners' Style Zero-Calorie Sweetener, which works amazingly well, but it doesn't come cheap, I'm afraid.
What's that you say? You'd like an even thicker yogurt-coating? Well, then double-dip of course! Not in the gross Seinfeld-style way, but in the way of dipping the bars in the yogurt coating, allowing them to sit until nearly set, and then dipping them again. But the coating won't set as firm, and you will probably need to keep the bars refrigerated until you're ready to serve them. And if you were hoping to make these with more conventional ingredients, like all sorts of delicious refined sugars and without the almond flour, turn to page 234 of Gluten Free Classic Snacks. I'll meet you there. :)
Yogurt-Coated Gluten Free Chewy Strawberry Granola Bars
For the Granola Bars
3 cups (300 g) certified gluten free old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup (60 g) unsweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups (45 g) gluten free crisp rice cereal (like Erewhon brown rice cereal)
1/2 cup (60 g) blanched almond flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 ounces freeze-dried strawberries (I buy mine either at nuts.com or Trader Joe’s)
5 tablespoons (70 g) virgin coconut oil (or Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable oil—or unsalted butter)
3/4 cup (120 g) coconut palm sugar
3/4 cup (250 g) honey
For the Yogurt Coating
6 ounces Greek-style plain yogurt (anything from 0% fat to 4% fat—your choice)
2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter (or virgin coconut oil) (or Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable oil), melted and cooled
3 cups (345 g) confectioners’ sugar
Make the granola bars. Preheat your oven to 275°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with two sheets of unbleached parchment paper, crisscrossed in the pan, with enough paper to overhang the edges, and set it aside. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper, and place the oats and coconut flakes on it. Shake the oats and coconut into an even layer, and place int he preheated oven. Bake until the oats and coconut are just beginning to brown and the oats are becoming fragrant, taking care not to let them burn (about 7 minutes). Remove from the oven and transfer to a large bowl. Add the rice cereal, almond flour, salt, baking soda and freeze-dried strawberries, and mix to combine well. Set the bowl aside.
In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the coconut oil, palm sugar and honey, and melt over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Pour the melted coconut oil and sugar mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix to combine well, making sure to moisten all the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Scrape the mixture into the prepared square baking pan and press down very firmly and evenly to compress the granola bars into a very compact, even layer in the pan. Cover the baking pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very firm (about 2 hours).
While the bars are in the refrigerator, make the yogurt coating. If your Greek yogurt seems relatively wet, place a cheesecloth or tea towel over a fine mesh sieve, position the sieve over a large bowl and transfer the yogurt to it. Close the cheesecloth or tea towel around the yogurt, and squeeze the yogurt, allowing it to drain through the sieve until it is as thick as possible. Place the yogurt in a large bowl, add the melted butter and mix to combine. The mixture should be thick and smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and whisk vigorously until well-combined. Cover the bowl and allow the yogurt coating to sit while the bars finish cooling. The yogurt mixture should thicken as it sits.
Finish the bars. Once the bars are chilled, remove them from the refrigerator and lift them out of the baking pan by holding onto the overhung parchment paper. Slice into 10 or 12 (depending upon the size you prefer) equal rectangles and place on a large sheet of parchment paper. Dip one side of each bar into the thickened yogurt coating and invert, yogurt side up, back onto the parchment. Allow to sit at room temperature until set.
Adapted from the recipe for Gluten Free “Quaker” Chewy Granola Bars, Chocolate Chip variety on page 234 of Gluten Free Classic Snacks.