The basic recipe that I've linked above, from Don't Waste The Crumbs, makes a good bar. Salty, sweet, holds together very well instead of crumbling apart like many other no-bake recipes I've tried before. I'll let you go visit her site for the original recipe, but for comparison purposes, I'll tell you that her honey-to-peanut butter ratio is 1:1 and her pretzels are crushed to breadcrumb-consistency.
Pros: Like I said, they stick together really, really well. And they only get fingers a little bit sticky; Little Bear, who hates having messy fingers, didn't have a problem eating them---though he did ask me to wash his fingers when he finished eating.
Cons: They were a little too sweet for me, and they softened significantly in just a short amount of time after removing them from the refrigerator; the day I brought one to town as a snack for Little Bear, it was a very good thing that I had a pack of wipes in my purse to clean him up!
The chunkier version was actually attempted by my younger brother, but I'm going to include it anyway because we learned something important from it. He included the optional peanuts from the basic recipe, which I've never done, and crushed his pretzels by hand to a much-less-fine size than the recipe called for. The largest pieces I saw were a little smaller than 1 cm. He also used the "if needed" coconut oil because his mixture was too dry.
Pros: They were chunkier, more like what I've always thought of as a "granola bar."
Cons: They didn't hold together well at all; they were too dry, and crumbled. The only reason I can come up with is that the pretzels needed to be crushed more finely in order to hold the bars together. He used exactly the same peanut butter I did, it even came out of the same bucket!, so it wasn't a difference in our peanut butters.
An almond butter version, as Yvonne asked about the other week. I maintained the original 1:1 ratio, just substituting almond butter for peanut butter, and used almond extract instead of vanilla extract. For the record, this was the first time I've ever used almond butter so I don't know whether mine was typical or of an unusually runny consistency, but it was not as thick as peanut butter.
Pros: They held together well, and tasted like almond. Stirring the mini chocolate chips into this batch was easier than with any of the peanut butter batches.
Cons: Soooooo sticky! Little Bear refused to eat his until I brought him a wet towel, so that he could wash his fingers after each bite. They were too sweet for me again; I had thought that the stronger salty/roasted flavor of the almond butter would balance out the sweetness of the honey, but the sweet and salty notes were more competing than complementing each other. In my opinion, at least; it turns out that I don't actually like almond butter very much, so take that with a grain of salt.
And finally, our perfect version! I changed the honey-to-peanut butter ratio to 3:5, and crushed the pretzels to a coarse cornmeal consistency.
Pros: These held together very well, even staying fairly firm when I brought them to town with us (so they were out of the fridge for an extended period of time.) And they were not very sticky at all; Little Bear had to be reminded to wash his hands after snack, because he didn't think that his fingers were sticky. They were not as sweet, which I appreciated, and felt more filling, so it worked fine for me to cut them a little bit smaller.
Cons: It was harder to get the mini chocolate chips into this version, and I wound up basically kneading it like dough to work them in.
Here you go: Shifflerhaus No-bake Peanut Butter Granola Bars
2 cups oats (instant or rolled; I used instant)
4 oz pretzels
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups peanut butter
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Line an 8"x10" baking dish with parchment paper. Crush pretzels in a food processor or blender until ground, about the consistency of cornmeal. Pour into a bowl and mix in oats and chocolate chips. In a smaller bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine peanut butter, honey, and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and thoroughly combine; you'll likely wind up needing to use your hands. Dump into parchment-lined pan and press out smoothly, giving attention to the corners. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes or in the fridge for several hours. Remove from pan, cut into bars, wrap individually in plastic, and store in the fridge.
- It would be worth trying the almond butter again using these quantities, except that I don't have enough almond butter left to make another batch, and I didn't like it enough to want to buy more. If you try it out, though, let me know! Or if you think that I must have had a particularly poor first jar of almond butter and there's a better brand that I should try before writing it off altogether, I'm willing to consider it. :-)
- I've just now realized that not everyone uses natural peanut butter, a.k.a. the kind you have to stir before using. All of the no-stir brands that I've seen contain soybean oil, so we can't use them, and anymore it doesn't even seem out of the ordinary to me to stir the peanut butter jar each time I open it. In other words, I can't tell you what will happen if you use no-stir peanut butter in this recipe; if you try it and find out, though, I'd be interested to know how much of a difference it makes.