The credit crunch has forced everyone to cut back on their expenditures, something that doesn't tally too well with being a cyclist. As a student, I am in this position full time, economic depression or not, and so I feel quite well qualified to show you how a little home baking can both improve your bank balance and your time on the bike.
Comercial energy bars are expensive (and in some cases, just plain disgusting), there's no getting around that fact. With a little time and effort on your part, it is possible to make your own great tasting bars, which deliver nutrionally, at a fraction of the price.
With a 360km ride coming up the following day, I headed over to fellow contributos Trevor Allen's house for some good old fashioned home baking. A quick trip down to the local health food shop later, and we had everything we needed to get started.
First off - the ingredients. The recipe is basically a standard flapjack recipe with a few additions to keep things interesting.
For this batch we used:
- pumpkin seeds
- sunflower seeds
- sour cherries
- dried cranberries
- dried figs
- dried pear
For those not so obsessed with the fat content off the bars, the marg could be replaced by butter. We were too manly to weigh any of our ingredients but in general you'd want to use the following ratios:
- marg - 1
- golden syrup - 1
- oats - 2
- goodies - between 1 and 2 depending on how stingy your feeling
On a low heat, combine the marg and golden syrup in a pan until liquid. (The health conscious might be advised to look away now.) Hopefully you have some nicer hobs than these crappy student house ones.
An alternative to all that marg/butter is to use jam. This reduces the amount of saturated fats in the bars whilst also adding another interesting flavour possibility. You could go for a standard stawberry/rasberry jam but how about trying something a bit "out there"?
Whilst that is going on, chop up the fruits and seeds into the size you so desire and add to a mixing bowl. Using a food processor is fast and useful for making your bars homogeneous, but sometimes, it can be quite nice to bite down on a big chunk of fruit mid ride.
Add in the oats
And then pour in liquid and mix thoroughly. Idealy, each oat flake should be nicely coating in the mix, there shouldn't be any dry ones around. This is important else you'll end up with dry and crumbly bars. If the mix is too dry, go back and melt some more marg and golden syrup.
Pack the mix into a backing tray lined with greaseproof paper making sure to really compress the mixture. The ideal height of the mixture should be around 2cm as this enables the centre of the bars to stay soft whilst the outside firms up.
Wack it in an oven pre-heated to 160C for 30 mins (or until golden brown on top). At the halfway stage, take the tray out and cut the individual bars out. This needs to be done with care and a sharp knife since the mixture is still very delicate at this stage.
Taadaaa! The difficulty now is in saving this for riding. Nomnom!
Packing Tip: For easy on bike stowage, wrap the bars in little foil packets. Or if you have gone sticky on your mix then grease proof paper is a good shout (edit). I tend to go lean and as such stick to foil.
So what does it all come to? Total spend on ingredients was about £6 which made 15 bars. Price per bar: 40p. We also worked out that each of our bars had roughly double the calories of most comercially available ones (and more protein too!) so you should only need to eat one half as often. That's easier said than done though!
For 5 years, racing was my life and I went all the way from a newbie bonking after 40 miles, to a full-timer plying my trade on the Belgian kermesse scene. Unfortunately, the pro dream wasn't meant to be and these days, you're more likely to find me bimbling about country lanes and sleeping in a bush on the side of the road.