Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Updated Trail Bar Recipe

Having tested my old recipe in training runs and pacing over distances up to 70 km, I thought my bars were awesome. I made a whole batch for Ruth's first 100 miler and she didn't touch them because they were too sweet. (This was okay for me, as I got to pig out on them as her pacer.)

Ye Olde Trail Barres…

In the past few months I've also been doing most of my long runs on nuts and jelly beans (I think there's another trail bar recipe in that, but I'll get onto it later in the year.) So I modified the recipe for Alpine, to make it a bit less sweet, a bit nuttier and less oaty, a bit more concentrated so I could have smaller bars, a bit firmer so it would be easier to carry. But I still wanted it to be the sort of bar I could tuck into the top corner of my mouth and just let slowly disintegrate if I wasn't up to chewing.

I made this batch without chocolate, and bought chocolate to have on the side if I wanted it. For events where there is a very long distance between checkpoints, I prefer my food types to be as separate as possible so I can create my own combinations of what I need. For example, instead of cheese and salami sandwiches, I make cheese sandwiches and carry a salami stick. So, in this case, if I wanted chocolate with my bar, I would shove both in my mouth at the same time; if I just wanted bar, I could have that.

I try to keep them chilled as long as possible, but they held together really well from the start line in the paper and a ziplock bag in the hip pocket of my pack; I ate the second one on my way up Quartz Ridge, so I had been carrying it for about seven hours by that stage, and it hadn't crumbled.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo, and I gave away my leftovers, but they look mostly like a small version of the old bars.

Tam's Trail Bars

Makes about 14 biscuit-sized bars that seem to keep indefinitely in the fridge or freezer. I mean, there are no ingredients there that you wouldn't keep at home for months, right?


1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup Lucky Smart Snax Omega-3 Mega Nut Mix
1/2 cup Lucky Smart Snax Antioxidant Mix
1/2 cup Lucky Smart Snax Fibre Mix
1/4 cup mixed dried fruit
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp molasses
20g butter
2–3 squares Nestlé Plaistowe dark chocolate (optional)


1. Place oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a small saucepan, mix honey, golden syrup, peanut butter, molasses and butter on low heat and slowly bring to the boil while stirring. Bubbles will first form around the edges and it's important to not let it burn or stick.
3. Remove from the heat and allow the wet mix to cool slightly to check its consistency. KIt should look like a caramel mix and the only lumps should be bits of peanut from the peanut butter.
4. Stir the wet mix through the dry mix until it's all thoroughly coated and clumping together. I use a silicone spatula to be more gentle with it, but a spoon works fine.
5. Fill a silicon mini-muffin tray to the top with mixture, then use a measuring cup (or similar) to press down and compress each bar. If any bars seem to have too much of the wet mix, add a couple of extra nuts to help hold them together.
6. Place the muffin tray in the freezer until the bars are set. Then press them out and wrap them in waxed baking paper and you're ready to go!

Notes on the ingredients

I use the Lucky Smart Snax nut mixes because they're easy and I always have them on hand as snacks anyway. You can usually get them in the baking section of the supermarket. Using their Antioxidant mix also adds cranberries, blueberries and sultanas into the mix and the almonds in this mix are not dry roasted, so it makes a nice blend. If you want it crunchier, and more of the oven roasted nuts. If you're not using this brand, just use approx 1 cup of mixed fruit and 1 cup of nuts and seeds, and adjust to taste.

I used to put a pinch of salt but I didn't need it when I added more molasses. I use organic peanut butter made from 100% peanuts, but if you prefer another brand then just keep in mind that they can have other stuff added in to make the spread smoother, which can affect how these set. Therefore you might need to add less other liquids, or more oats, or something.

The reason for the golden syrup is to increase the sucrose concentration, which is an important step as all the fructose in the honey and dried fruit can cause gastric upset when you're exerting yourself. I also think the slight bitterness of the syrup and molasses are wonderful for toning down the sweetness, but if you prefer sweet food and don't have a problem with fructose absorption then you may wish to just use honey.


I use the silicon mini-muffin trays because they're easy to press the bars out of, but you can also use a standard muffin tray lined with baking papers or cupcake wrappers, or a Tupperware T-Bar set, or small plastic containers or even just make a slab of trail bar in a tray and then cut it to size.

If you don't have a freezer the bars will still set in the fridge, but allow at least an hour for that.

If you like chocolate on your runs (which I usually do!), it can be nice to add a drizzle or a thin layer of semisweet dark chocolate after the bars have set. I melt the chocolate in the microwave, covered on medium heat, 30 seconds at a time and stirring well in between until it gets close, and then for 10 seconds at a time until it's ready to pour.