Hallelujah! After mountains of research and FIVE failed attempts in the LunaCafe OtherWorldly Kitchen, I FINALLY created granola CLUSTERS. (One of the secrets is the oatmeal flour paste in the photo below.)
Not microscopic granola clusters that break apart in your hand as soon as you lift the crunchy morsels to your lips. Not a few granola clusters in a batch of otherwise loose, butter and sugar-coated, toasted oatmeal.
But an entire batch of big beautiful granola clusters, which I am actually eating as I type this post, WITHOUT fear of them crumbling into the grooves of the keyboard. Now, it’s not a cure for the common cold, but nonetheless, it feels like a significant victory to me.
Of course, I understand that there are times when you want loose granola, such as when you want to douse it with milk for breakfast or crumble it over ice cream, ricotta, or yogurt for an anytime nosh.
No worries. You can either forgo the binding elements discussed below in Tips & Tricks for Creating Crunchy Granola Clusters, or break up the clusters with a mallet after they have cooled.
Tips & Tricks for Creating Perfect Granola
- Granola requires quite a bit of butter or oil to develop a rich patina and moist mouth feel. You will encounter recipes on the web that specify only 2 tablespoons of oil for 6 cups of oatmeal, but seriously, why bother?
- Because of the high sugar content, granola caramelizes and burns easily in the oven. To mitigate against this, use a low oven temperature and gently turn the granola every 10-15 minutes with a flexible spatula. After a couple of burnt batches, I settled on 300°F for the least risky granola baking temperature.
- Granola is the perfect vehicle for nutritious grains and seeds that you may want to use more often. I love to add rolled wheat or rye flakes, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and flax seeds.
- My standard batch of granola (5 cups of oatmeal) can accommodate ½ cup of thick fruit sauce, fruit butter, or cooked, pureed fruit. Applesauce and pumpkin butter work beautifully.
- Granola should be quite moist when it goes into the oven. This allows time to toast the oatmeal and other seeds and grains before the mixture caramelizes.
- Don’t add dried fruit to your granola until after it has baked. You want moist and chewy, not hard and brittle.
- Granola practically demands vanilla. I use what seems like an exorbitant quantity of vanilla, but it takes a lot for the flavor to come through.
- Maple syrup contributes a warm complexity to granola. So even if your recipe specifies honey, consider replacing half of it with maple syrup.
- Granola may appear overly moist and soft when it is removed from the oven. No worries. It will crisp as it cools.
- One of the frustrating things about granola is that, optimally, the oatmeal should be super crisp and the dried fruit should be plump and moist. But you all know what happens to toasted oatmeal when it cozies up to moist fruit for a couple of hours, right? It gets soft of course. The only way to prevent this is to combine the two elements just before eating.
Tips & Tricks for Creating Crunchy Granola Clusters
- Oatmeal and other grains need something sticky to make them adhere to each other. Moistened oat flour and wheat flour are super sticky. They are also natural additions to a typical granola.
- For granola that forms crunchy clumps that hold their shape over time, add 1 large, beaten egg white and 1 cup oat flour per 4-5 cups of oatmeal. (Wheat flour can be used instead of oat flour if desired.)
- If you don’t have oat flour on hand, simply process regular oatmeal as fine as possible.
- To help your granola stick together in clusters, make sure your recipe includes some sugar or brown sugar.
- Press the granola firmly onto the baking sheet and don’t disturb it for the first 15 minutes of baking.
- After baking, allow the granola to cool completely on the pan without disturbing it. It gets crunchier and solidifies as it cools.
- When completely cool, break the sheet of granola into chunks.
This is the granola of my dreams. Not only is the flavor and texture divinely autumnal, but the super crunchy clusters hold together, enabling me to nosh without scattering toasted oatmeal all over the sofa or keyboard. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Technique Note You can buy oat flour, but if you have a processor, it’s easy to make your own.
5 cups rolled oats (regular oatmeal) (9 ounces)
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (ounces)
1 cup golden brown sugar, packed
1 cup oat flour
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ cup homemade Spiced Maple Pumpkin Butter (or other pumpkin butter)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large egg whites, whisked until foamy
1 cup lightly toasted, skinned hazelnuts (8 ounces)
1 cup dried cranberries (8 ounces)
1 cup golden raisins (8 ounces)
- Butter or oil an edged baking sheet. Reserve.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.
- In a medium glass bowl, combine pumpkin butter, maple syrup, and butter. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, until butter melts and mixture is warm. Whisk in the vanilla.
- Stir pumpkin mixture into the oat mixture. (If you have time, cover with plastic wrap and leave overnight to mellow the flavors.)
- Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheets.
- Bake at 300°F for about 45 minutes. With a flexible spatula, gently turn the granola after 20 minutes to help ensure that the granola bakes evenly. Add the hazelnuts at the 30 minute point, and continue baking until granola is golden brown and crisp, for a total of about 45 minutes.
- Remove granola from the oven, and let cool on the baking sheet. Don’t disturb it while its cooling, or you will ruin the nice clumps that will form if left alone.
- When completely cool, break the sheet of granola into bite-size clusters. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Just before serving, add cranberries and raisins. This keeps the granola from softening.
- The granola will stay fresh for at least one month. It can be frozen for longer storage.
Makes 7-8 cups.
Cookin’ with Gas (inspiration from around the web)
- Ari’s Menu: Pumpkin Pecan Granola
- New York Times: Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots & Pistachios
- Nosh On It: Cranberry Pecan Granola
- Sally’s Baking Addiction: Apple Spice Quinoa Granola
- Sally’s Baking Addiction: Maple Almond Granola Clusters
- Short & Sweet’s: Medium-Big Cluster Granola
- Team Breakfast: How To Make Granola Clusters
- The Chef’s Wife: Vanilla & Raisin Granola
- The Kitchn: Dangerously Addictive Olive Oil Granola
- The Kitchn: How Can I Create Clusters in My Granola?
- The Kitchn: How to Make Chunky Granola Clusters
Copyright 2013 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.