Man Vs Belly – Return to the temple of diet bar doom

So back over here I outlined my initial forays into the world of jam and diet bar manufacture. The former turned out splendidly, the latter, not so much. But undeterred I ventured once more into the fray. I wish I could tell you that I fought the good fight, and the second batch turned out better. I wish I could tell you that – but homemade diet-bars is no fairy-tale world.

Now it wasnt quite as bad as prison rape but the only other person who ate one of them described the experience as “its like someone interfered with fruit and then made a bar out of it”. Not the most glowing review. But I’m getting ahead of myself. At the end of the last post I’d described the first batch of puffed rice bars as disappointing but edible. A night in the fridge did not help their cause. They were eating mushy blandness. I’d initially decided to wait a while before trying to make more but what seemed like the literal taste of boredom spurred me on and I decided to make batch no 2.

2014-03-24-20.54.09The biggest problem with the first batch was the fact that they lacked that essential crunch, I figured they’d absorbed too much moisture from the gelatin or banana butter. So how to counteract this? Well the obvious way seemed to be to give the puffed rice some kind of coating. And the obvious way of doing that was to toast it. I checked a few online recipes and there was some argument for pan vs oven toasting. I opted to go with oven toasting in the end. It was pretty handy, spray a pan, throw on the rice (unfortunately the pan was too deep for a fully uniform layer and I too lazy to do it twice), give it a spray and throw it in a pre-heated oven at 220 C for six or seven minutes. I checked it after three minutes and half of it was already very “well done”. So I took it out at that point and sampled it. It was actually quite nice, fairly subtle flavour and nice and crunchy.

With the puffed rice ready I got to making my glue, in went the vanilla essence, a little sweetener, a little salt and a jar of banana butter. At this point I was idly combining them when I remembered I needed a “sticky” combiner. For some reason I completely forgot that my plan was to use gelatin and added in one tablespoon of honey (Nooo 1 ProPoint) before I remembered. This actually turned out quite well, one point across an entire pan of bars is fine and it adds a nice hint of flavour. After that I mixed my gelatin, let it harden till it was syrupy and combined with the rest of the “glue”. Then I mixed in the toasted puffed rice and proceeded to stir like a mother fucker.

2014-03-25-13.09After it was well mixed together I tried a spoon, for test purposes you understand, and it was lovely, crunchy, chewy, just what I wanted it to be. I lined a pan and pressed it in, this time I took some care flattening it down (via a rolling-pin and then my manly callused palms) and made sure there were no bits hanging over or no weird bulges which would lead to cracks. Once everything was ship-shape I braved the literal storm outside to throw it over in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up before moving it to the fridge. The recipe actually said to leave it in the freezer for 30 minutes minimum but that hadn’t worked too well the last time and other similar recipes disagreed. That done I went upstairs to read for a bit. Cut to twelve hours later when I wake up. With more than a little trepidation I retrieved the bars from the freezer, waited for them to thaw a little and chopped them into bars. Then with trembling (and now sticky, fuck you bars) hands I tasted it. I was filled with disappointment. Not crushing disappointment like with the first batch. The second batch wasnt crispy but it also wasnt a mushy mess. It was firm and the honey did help with the flavour (I need to pick up some agave). But it also wasnt particularly appetising. I’ve been eating it over the last day or two and its, well, its ok at best.

At this point I decided to abandon puffed rice, it was awkward to get, expensive and just didn’t seem well suited to what I wanted. Goodbye my rice krispie dreams! But I’d a new dream now, Oats would save me! (Spoiler: They didn’t!). I’m a big fan of oats, I’d used them for lots of stuff before and toasted oats seemed a surefire way to go in terms of making decent diet bars. I looked through a few recipes and eventually synthesised a recipe I was happy with. I did look at “No bake” bars but to be honest the last two attempts hadn’t convinced me so I decided to go with something that involved lots of heat.

It did take a little more searching to find something that didn’t use flour or butter but I was eventually ready to roll (and fucking starving – which is inevitable after searching through recipes online). Now the majority of recipes called for rolled oats and experience suggested that for my purposes they would be the way to go. I wouldn’t be able to get any till the weekend but I wasnt in a huge rush. Oh wait. Whats this? A recipe that uses ordinary porridge oats? Well sure why the fuck not!

2014-03-26-15.16I didn’t bother with the flaxseed (or linseed if you want to be a seed hipster) and I replaced the mashed banana’s and peanut butter with banana butter. But it didn’t take long to throw together and while it did require even more stirring than the puffed rice (I bought an expensive food processor but I hate cleaning it so I’ll just whinge about stirring instead) it came together well so I was filled with hope. And hope is important. After all despair requires it.

So into the oven it went and I had some lunch while I wait for it to cook. Twenty minutes past but there was no golden brown colouring in evidence (which I now think may be due to the lack of coconut oil). I ended up giving it thirty-five minutes before it browned up. I took it out and set it to one side to cool. As soon as I tried to cut into it I was made painfully aware that this fucker would be holding together at least. After switching to a bigger and sharper knife I cut it into something approaching bars. The insides were a little worryingly white, perhaps I should have used more banana butter? Ignoring the warning signs I ate a bar of it. It tasted like chewing. Just chewing. No flavour. Just chewing. Did I mention it was chewy? (As fuck).

2014-03-26-17.56My spirit was nearly broken, or at least badly bruised. But perhaps these were redeemable. The texture wasnt so much unpleasant as painfully tasteless. Ok, I had an idea. This was going to cost me some points (which are more precious to me than blood it seems). Open the drawer, grab the dark chocolate, snatch some soya milk from the fridge, a bowl a spoon and some sweet microwave on defrost time later and I’m whipping together some ghetto dark chocolate ganache and drizzling it on my bars. Theyre in the fridge hardening up as a I type this. With the honey and the chocolate (which I just realised I miscalculated the points for, bollocks) I thought they worked out as five propoints for the lot, but it’s actually seven propoints for the remaining bars i.e. a point each. Half of most store-bought diet bars but let’s be honest most store-bought bars are probably twice as nice.

I’m going to use the rest of my monkey butter with some yoghurt for supper. But Saturday I’ll make some more and I’ll get my rolled oats and I’ll make my bars and they’ll be delicious and my hair will grow back, EVERYTHING WILL GROW BACK!

Update: The chocolate did save them, they’ve gone from disappointing to decent (even with the one ProPoint cost)

Vent your spleen