"Reclaiming Homemade in a Small Space"

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reclaiming Granola! Clumpy granola at it best.

I am a granola junkie....there is something about the crunchy, sweet oatmeal taste that is irresistible.  I love it for breakfast with skim milk.  I will eat it dry as a snack throughout the day and then for dessert, I will have it with whole milk or even cream!  I will eat it with yogurt......
"And I would eat them in a boat!
And I would eat them with a goat...
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good so good you see!"

I seem to recall begging my mom to buy granola in the store when I was a kid.  As an adult, I can't believe how expensive it is.  Have you looked at some of the designer brands of granola???  It's highway robbery! You know that means that I'm definitely going to try to reclaim it and make it my own.

I also craved some seriously custom granola, with no dried fruit (though you could certainly add some) and without puffed rice.  When I started making my own, I was disappointed with the lack of clumps...it was just individual pieces of oatmeal and nuts.  I wanted clumpy clusters in my granola.  I searched the internet for "clumpy granola" and found a recipe that gave me small clusters, better than none, but I wanted more.  The flavor, though, in that recipe was awesome!  I tried adding water to make it moister in the hopes that, when it baked, it would harden and make clumps. I stirred it like the recipe told me to.  Nope.  Still not clumpy like I wanted.  I continued using that recipe because it tasted so good.  A month or so ago I got my issue of Cook's Illustrated and saw a headline for Super Crunchy Granola.  I was so excited to try it.  It advocated using more oil to make it clumpy and not stirring it.  Aha!  I tried their recipe...it was an improvement on texture but not taste.  And still, not enough clumps.  I had a burst of inspiration and thought I'd take the recipe that tasted so good, Cook's Illustrated's method and just a little more oil and combine them.  I couldn't wait for this batch to come out of the oven.  It was PERFECT!  I could lift up the granola in one sheet and could break off pieces.  I'll have you know that a full third of the granola was gone before that day was over.  Everyone kept coming back for more.

Now before I start, let me give acknowledgement to the shoulders that I stood on to find my granola eutopia:  Alton Brown, Anna from cookie madness and Adam Ried from Cook's Illustrated.

Tools needed:  A lined baking sheet (lined with a Silpat or parchment paper), a metal spatula, 

Super Crunchy, Clumpy Granola:
3 c. old-fashioned oats
1 c. raw, slivered almonds
1 c. shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 to 3/4 t. salt (I used the larger amount...the salty and sweet combo is my fav!)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. maple syrup
4 T. brown sugar
2 T. honey
1 t. vanilla
1 c. dried fruit (opt.) 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, coconut and salt.

 In a small, microwaveable bowl, combine brown sugar, maple syrup, honey and oil.  If the combination of the brown sugar, syrup and honey seems like a bit of overkill, I have tried it with just one sweetener and the results are not the same.  The taste was flat.  The combination of the sugars and the salt is sooo good.  Heat in the microwave for one minute.  This just heats up the sugar so it dissolves and coats the oatmeal better.  Add the vanilla to the sugar mixture.  Pour this over your oats and nuts and toss to coat.
Turn out onto a Silpat lined baking sheet. With a metal spatula, press down hard on the granola.  This encourages good clumps!
Place in the oven for 15 min. then lower the heat to 250 and bake for another 30 or 40 minutes or until the edges are a golden brown.
 Let the granola cool completely.  You should be able to pick up nearly the entire sheet of granola after it cools.  Break it into bite sized pieces and then store in an airtight container.  If you want to add dried fruit, add about a cup now.
One of the best things about granola is that you can really do what you want with it.  I like almonds, but you can add pecans or cashews.  If you don't care for coconut, leave it out.  I'm going to try adding ground flax seed next time.  Certainly, sunflower seeds or sesame seeds would be in order.  This recipe also doubles fabulously....the container above is filled with a double batch.  If you do double it, make sure that you use another baking sheet and divide the large batch in two.  I encourage you to play with different combinations of nuts and flavors in YOUR granola!  Happy crunching!

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