After 15 years of working from home, I think it is safe to say I have mastered the art of the snack. Not too decadent, but sweet enough to satisfy that craving usually derived from boredom or procrastination, these seed clusters fit the bill for the guilt free snack or, as I have discovered, an excellent breakfast on the go.
Working in the kitchen presents a minefield of temptation: jars filled with nuts, countless different chocolate varieties, ends of leftover cake and biscuits. All at an arm’s reach. Which is why I like to have these seed clusters to hand. The perfect mid morning snack when breakfast has not played out in that ideally serene mindful start to the day, and also a great afternoon pick me up, especially when sharing with younger ones.
The original recipe was given to me by my friend Lisa who had received it third hand from her sister. Her clusters are more florentine-like and sweetened with sugar, dried fruit and chocolate. While I do happily scoff the florentine like dessert version when at Lisa’s, I immediately saw the healthy snack potential on first bite.
You see, I share a struggle with the great David Leibovitz to make the perfect healthy granola bar. The best ones are more like a flapjack – the delicious oat-based treats laced with butter, sugar and often with the addition of chocolate and ridiculous amounts of dried fruit. And thus completely countering any “healthy” benefits.
These seed clusters are a game changer- they tick the tasty box and the somewhat healthy box. Plus they are dairy, refined sugar and gluten free for those who are interested.. The egg whites keep them soft in the centre, and the date syrup has just enough natural sugar to crisp up the outside. And once I mastered the little snack balls that I can almost pass off as a cookie, I started experimenting with them in bar form. While they are not quite as good in texture (there is less surface area to crisp up in the oven when made on a sheet pan), they can be cut to any size. I prefer slightly larger ones for an ideal breakfast on the run.
Like many of my recipes, these clusters are very adaptable and the ingredients can be varied to suit your taste. Feel free to use different nuts or seeds, any nut butters work, and you can change the sweetener to honey/agave/maple syrup, although that will increase the overall sugar content. Play around and make them your own. You won’t be sorry.
Makes approximately 16 clusters or granola bars
150g (1 cup) sunflower seeds
130g (1 cup) pumpkin seeds
30g (1/4 cup) sesame seeds
40g (1/2 cup) flaked almonds
40g (1/2 cup) unsweetened desciated coconut (or coconut flakes)
50g (1/4 cup) millet (this is totally optional – I like it for the crunch)
80g (1/4 cup) date syrup
60g (1/4 cup) cashew or almond butter (personally I prefer cashew)
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 160C (300F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or line a 20cm (8 inch) square tin or equivalent with parchment.
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir together until all incorporated. You can do this with a wooden spoon or with your hands.
From clusters with a small ice cream scoop or with two dessert sized spoons and place on a baking sheet. You can also do this with your hands, but you will want to wet them first with water as the mixture is quite sticky and this will help.
If you are making them into bars, pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and smooth the top completely.
Bake clusters for 15-18 minutes until they are dark golden. Bake the bars for about 25 minutes until the top is golden and slightly crispy.
Cool the clusters on the baking sheet until they are almost cool and fully set. Continue to cool on a rack.
If you are making these a baking dish, score them into bars as soon as you take them out of the oven with a sharp knife. This will help to keep them together once they are cool. You will need to re-slice along the score lines once they are cool.
These will keep in a sealed container for about 5 days.