Why It Works
- Melted marshmallows provide gelatin, which sets again once the bars cool, resulting in a chewy, cohesive oat bar.
- Chopped peanuts and peanut butter keep the oat bars from being overly sweet while adding firmness and texture.
- Cooling the oat mixture before pressing in the chocolate chips preserves the chocolate's temper, which keeps the chips from melting.
Chewy oatmeal bars are one of my favorite go-to travel snack foods, especially when faced with budget airlines that don't feed you for free and also don't want you to bring your own stash. Regardless, I try to pop something sort of healthy and hearty (and easy to scarf down on the sly) in my bag before I hop on the plane. I've tried twice to make the chewy variety of these bars at home, but gave up. Nothing worked to get them significantly chewy while staying together. I have come to terms with the fact that using all from-scratch ingredients will simply not get you that really chewy texture that you expect.
Then I got to thinking: The manufacturers are probably not baking their bars. So what no-bake cookie could give me an amazingly chewy consistency? Rice Krispie treats. Which means marshmallow. It made perfect sense that stretchy gelatin would hold everything together.
I took a look at a basic recipe for Rice Krispie treats, then played around with the ingredients to get the right consistency. Because the oats are not baked, I used quick cooking oats, and I toasted them in a skillet first. The most frustrating part was flavoring the bars, as I wanted them more like an oat bar than like marshmallow. Adding lots of honey made the bars way too soft. Peanut butter to the rescue! A little bit of honey, a bit of thick peanut butter, and some chopped peanuts did the trick to mask the marshmallow. Toss in a handful of chocolate chips and just press into the pan. Easy, chewy, and chocolaty.
3 1/2 cups (11 ounces) quick cooking oats
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
28 each (7 ounces) marshmallows
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (see notes)
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (see notes)
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Line bottom and two sides of a 9- by 9-inch cake pan with foil, allowing foil to hang over edges of pan. Butter inside of pan.
In a large skillet, heat oats over medium heat until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large saucepan, heat butter with marshmallows over medium heat, stirring, until melted. Stir in honey, salt, and vanilla. Stir in oats until completely combined.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl or sheet pan. Let cool to just barely warm (see notes). Mix in peanut butter and chocolate chips. Press firmly into pan. Use bottom of measuring cup to smooth top. Let set, about an hour. Lift out of pan and transfer to work surface. Cut in half horizontally, then 5 vertical rows. Bars can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
9- by 9-inch cake pan
The peanut butter and peanuts can be omitted. Replace the nuts with anything of your liking such as crispy rice cereal, coconut, or sunflower seeds.
The mixture is cooled before adding the chocolate chips so that they don't melt. The chips may not want to stick into the mixture, however, so just press them in when pressing the mixture into the pan.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 13g||16%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||24%|
|Total Carbohydrate 38g||14%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Total Sugars 26g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|