This recipe has been a rather long time in the making. It started with a feeling of nostalgia, evoked from photographs of our travels in Austria. I can still recall the sublime beauty of that country as if I had just returned this morning. I remember the overwhelming awe and gratitude I felt in the presence of the vast mountain range that surrounds Salzburg, and the sense of wonder, of having travelled through time, while exploring the ruins of Durnstein castle, once home to an imprisoned Richard the Lionheart.
The castle is nestled in the Wachau Valley – otherwise known as the Valley of the Apricots – and is a short trip away from Vienna. There is perhaps no other fruit more celebrated in Austria than the apricot, and nowhere is that more clear than in this delightful town along the banks of the Danube River. If you can name it, they’ve probably found a way to add apricots to it. From wines and liquors, to candy, crepes, and soaps, they make use of every part of the fruit. Even the seeds are edible, and delicious when sold roasted and seasoned or covered in chocolate.
Looking through our photos, I was overcome with a longing for these lovely little fruits, and realized I needed to come up with a way to share them with you. This was still early in the year, when apricots weren’t yet in season, so I knew I’d be starting with dried fruit. Finding unsweetened and unsulphured apricots took some time (you can find them at most health food stores, though they are unfortunately pricey) but was worth the wait. I avoid any foods with preservatives, especially knowing they can be used in disinfectant and bleaching products with equal ease.
Part of my recipe development process involves keeping a lot of notes. I wish I was a bit more romantic about it, carrying around a leather-bound notebook and scribbling away furiously like the artistic types in films, but I just use the notebook app on my phone or, more frequently, write draft emails to myself. So I started listing things I would like apricots with – crepes, jams, cookies – before finally settling on granola bars. From there it was a pretty long process of adding and removing ingredients. Oats or no oats? Honey or maple syrup? Baked, balls, bars? I realized I was looking for a specific flavour profile – similar to a really fantastic bag of gluten free apricot and coconut cereal I found at a vegetarian street festival in Vienna – and it became easier from there. Crunchy, chewy, not-too-sweet and majorly satisfying – these bars hit all of those notes.
I brought some in to the CE office to see what my similarly health-conscious co-workers thought of them, and they were a huge hit. They are great for getting you through a long stretch between meals, and a half bar does wonders to satisfy any mid-afternoon sweet cravings.
Just keep in mind that you have a little prep to do the day before making these. I recommend soaking the buckwheat in the morning, and then rinsing and draining before you go to bed (buckwheat gets coated in a rather slimy substance when soaked, it’s perfectly normal and safe). Then just leave it in a fine sieve to dry overnight. They won’t be bone-dry but they won’t be completely soaked either. Do the same with the almonds.
Soaking nuts and grains before consuming is really important, because it increases the availability of their nutrients and makes them more easily digestible. Raw nuts and seeds like buckwheat contain enzyme inhibitors which prevent the seed from sprouting (turning into a plant). When we eat them in this state, we also eat their enzyme inhibitors, making these items really difficult to digest, since they will prevent our own enzymes from breaking down the food in our digestive tracts. This inhibits our ability to absorb the very vitamins and minerals for which we were eating the food in the first place. Activating nuts by soaking them in water causes them to release these harmful enzymes, and at the same time, increases their nutritional value significantly.
To make these completely raw, simply ensure that your nut butter of choice uses unroasted nuts. You could make my jungle nut butter with raw nuts instead of roasted easily (and have plenty left over for snacking on!).
No-Bake Sprouted Buckwheat + Apricot Granola Bars (makes 12 bars)
~ gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free, raw option ~
- 1 cup puffed brown rice cereal
- 1/2 cup raw buckwheat kernels, soaked overnight and then dried
- 1/2 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight and then dried
- 1 cup organic dried apricots, chopped
- 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 tbsp ground flax
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 cup dried Medjool dates
- 1/2 cup jungle nut butter OR 1/4 cup almond butter and 1/4 cup coconut butter
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 1.5 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Line a 9×13 baking dish or glass pan with parchment paper.
- Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl and then mix well to combine.
- Add the dates and coconut oil to a blender and puree until smooth. You may have to soak your dates, depending on their freshness and the strength of your blender.
- Pour this mixture, along with the nut/coconut butter, lime juice, and vanilla extract into the bowl with the wet ingredients and stir well. It will be very thick, make sure you really work everything together so all the dry ingredients are coated.
- Give it a taste – if it seems slightly bland, add more lime juice.
- Pour this mixture into your lined pan and spread evenly. Use an offset spatula (or spoon, or your hands) to press down as firmly as you can. This will help set the bars.
- Place in the freezer for around 30 minutes, until everything is well set, then remove and cut into bars.
- Individually wrap and keep in the fridge until ready to eat (they hold together better when cold) or in the freezer for longer storage.