I could lose myself for hours watching the afternoon light in my kitchen. It flickers gently through the window, delicately decorating whatever is in reach and commanding me to capture its dance. The light moves and I move. My cluttered bowl of onions and garlic, a bag of coffee beans or bottle of olive oil, dishes, even…dirty ones, I don’t care, it all looks like art in the afternoon light.
Cardamom and dark chocolate muesli bars sound terribly fancy, but I assure you this is not an ornate recipe. Despite the somewhat exotic ingredients, these bars are humble in their sweetness. Though I do adore the occasional burst of bitter dark chocolate leaping over the cardamom. Upon first bite I thought they might need a little something extra, but the more I ate these muesli bars the more I appreciated their tone and so I kept them honest.
My original attempt at this recipe came out of a desire to use up egg whites leftover from making pots de creme, which greedily requires only the yolk and which indeed I will be sharing with you soon. I had considered making Rosa’s Almond Biscotti (love) but felt this to be an awkward gift for my host that evening, Rosa. Instead I crafted a muesli bar (two different versions, in fact) for happy snacking. And while I wasn’t overly taken with these initial bars, I decided to roll with it and work on my cardamom concoction. I apologise to Rosa and her family, my parents and farm friends too, for the fact that they received this first draft and not the final version I am sharing with you today because, well, I think they’re rather wonderful.
These bars are excellent fuel for those days when you need to work through the afternoon but are not quite certain how you’re going to make it. If this sounds familiar, I encourage you to nibble on one of these cardamom dark chocolate muesli bars after a short walk outside in the fresh air and trust me, you’ll be set. If a cup of black coffee happens to appear alongside, well… let’s just cheers to productivity.
I appreciate a muesli bar that isn’t too crumbly, and these lovelies hold together nicely. A few things are key to this, I feel. Be sure to not have a mixture that is neither too dry nor too wet – it should feel moist but not soggy. Once firmly packed into a baking tray, I like to let the bars sit in the fridge for 15 minutes or so to help things meld together. And do most certainly allow your bars to cool entirely before slicing. These are my tips for nicely firm muesli bars. If, however, yours turn out to be a crumbly mess, simply crush the mixture keenly with the intention of popping it back into the oven to allow for golden toasting and, sure enough, you will have yourself granola. The dark chocolate may make things a bit messy if you end up in granola town, though I doubt this would displease many.
Dark Chocolate and Cardamom Muesli Bars
Makes 12-14 bars, depending on how conservatively you slice them. Inspired by Oh She Glows’ Soft and Chew Granola Bars. Note: these bars are not too sweet. If you prefer a less subtly sweet bite, add another tablespoon of honey to the mix.
1 & 1/2 cups Rolled Oats
1 cup Almonds (unsalted)
1/3 cup Walnuts (unsalted)
1/3 cup Cashews (unsalted)
2 tablespoons Sunflower Seeds
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
75g Dark Chocolate, >70% cocoa (I used 85% Lindt dark chocolate)
1/3 cup Honey
2 tablespoons hulled Tahini (you can use unhulled tahini but I find it too bitter for my tastes)
1 & 1/2 teaspoon freshly Ground Cardamom (green cardamom pods, bashed with a mortar & pestle until you have a powder of freshly ground cardamom at the bottom. Pick out the pod skins and discard).
1 tablespoon Light Olive Oil
3 Egg Whites
1 tablespoon Water
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a 15x25cm baking pan with baking paper.
2. In a food processor, blitz 1 and 1/2 cups of the oats until they are fine, then place the oat flour in a mixing bowl.
3. Add the almonds, walnuts and cashews to the food processor and blitz/pulse until roughly chopped (a mix of fine and chunky pieces is great). Add this to the bowl with the salt.
4. Warm the honey, tahini, ground cardamom and olive oil in a small saucepan, whisking until smooth. Pour onto the oat/nut mixture.
5. Add the egg whites and stir to combine. Check for wetness here and add 1 tablespoon of water or so if required (you want the mixture to be moist but not soggy).
5. Blitz/pulse the dark chocolate in the food processor until you have a mix of fine and chunky pieces. Fold the chocolate through the oat mixture.
6. Pour into the lined baking tray, pressing down with the back of a spoon (tip: moisten the back of the spoon with water) to ensure firm packing and a smooth, even surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden and the surface feels firm to touch. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove from the baking tray by lifting the baking paper and allow to cool on a wire rack. Slice when completely cool into bars and then store in an airtight container or wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. I like to keep mine in the freezer for freshness sake.