Lake Isle Press

Friend Bars

Middle Eastern and European sweets made from nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and a sweet syrup binding—such as gozinaki in Georgia and pasteli in Greece—have been around for centuries. Here, the essential idea finds new life as an uncomplicated, nourishing energy bar.

Friend Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped assorted raw or toasted nuts and/or seeds (e.g., cashews, sunflower seeds, green pumpkin seeds, peanuts, pecans)
  • 1/3 cup crisp brown rice cereal
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (e.g., raisins, apricots, berries, dates)
  • 1/3 cup organic light corn syrup or brown rice syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt (optional)

Directions

Before you start making plans to substitute your favorite brand of agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup for the specified syrups, hear me out: it will not work. Instead of a stack of bars, you will have a pile of crumbles. I could go into a lengthy chemical discussion about the structure and properties of various sugars, but I won’t (which will simultaneously disappoint my retired-chemist father, but please my editor). Just trust me on this one and I know you will be thrilled with your results.

Makes 10 bars

1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Preheat oven to 325°F.
3. Stir together the nuts or seeds, cereal, and dried fruit in a large bowl.
4. Add the syrup and salt (if using) to the nut mixture and stir until evenly coated.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Place a large piece of parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap (coated with nonstick cooking spray) atop the bar mixture and use it to spread, flatten, and very firmly compact the mixture evenly in the pan. Discard the paper or plastic.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 17 to 20 minutes or until slightly browned at the edges, but still somewhat soft at the center. Let cool 20 minutes in pan on a wire rack.
7. Using the liner, lift the mixture from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 10 bars. Cool completely.


Variation - Almond Apricot Bars
Use chopped dried apricots for the fruit, 1 1/4 cups almonds for the nuts, and add 1/4 cup unsweetened flake or shredded coconut. Add 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest or lemon zest along with the syrup.

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