Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Great Granola Experiment

Happy Weekend!! This past weekend, I made granola LOTS of granola! . A while ago I posted about my "Beat the Blues" Granola, and while that granola is delicious, I felt like it was lacking a certain something. Upon further thought, I realized what I wanted was a really, really, clumpy granola. The kind you can buy at the bakery that is broken up into chunks and sooo good to munch as a snack, even without milk or yogurt. I have always had a love of clumps in my cereal. When eating Honey Bunches of Oats, I pick through and eat just the bunches. Raisin Bran Crunch? I search out the crunchies. So, I thought to myself, why not make a granola that is mostly clumps with some small oats thrown in there?

Well, I was at Whole Foods a few days ago browsing the bulk section for dried fruits, when I saw that they have a HUGE selection of bulk granola! And on every bin the ingredients are listed. I was able to look at all different types of granola and asses their relative "clumpiness." What I was looking for is a ratio of about 2/3 clumps to 1/3 "loose" (single pieces of oats, nuts, the non-clumps basically). I was immediatley drawn to the beautiful clumpiness of one of these called Aunt Maple's Crunchy Granola (made by grizzlies granola). I studied the ingredients in hopes of discovering what gives it its special clumpy powers. I noticed that the ingredients included maple syrup, sunflower oil, honey, and crunchy almond butter. Basically a grande mix of sticky stuff. Ah ha! I thought that must be it! LOTS of sticky goo to hold it together. So from there I went about my sticky quest buying up every substance I thought might work as a good "binder". I got maple syrup, sunflower oil, honey, and crunchy peanut butter (I think it has more flavor). I arrived home with my loot and commenced the search for a crunchy lumpy recipe. I found TONS of blogs with posts dedicated to recipe's claiming to produce the clumpiest granola imaginable. How to choose??? I continued my research by looking at ingredient lists for every crunchy looking granola I could find, and let me say, I spent a LOT of time browsing the granola selections at Whole Foods, trader joes, New Seasons, and even at good old Winco which has a pretty clumptastic granola they sell in their bakery. I finally decided to try two blog recipe's which use ingredients that commonly pop up on the crunchiest looking granola labels, and for the third batch I decided to use a combination of all the sticky stuff I had bought and just wing it. Thus, the great granola experiment commenced. My plan was to make all three recipes and decide from the results which reigns supreme as the Most Clumptastic Granola. I did tweak the first two recipe's a bit, and I halved them as I was making THREE batches of granola, so I included the links in case you would like to try out the original recipe's for yourself.

Recipe #1

This recipe comes courtesy of Regina Ray's blog. I chose this recipe due to #1 it's simplicity, #2 the use of peanut butter, honey, and olive oil as "binders" (olive oil seemed unusual, which intrigued me...) and reason #3 She seems to share my desire for a good clumpy granola.

Here is the recipe as I used it:

Batch One


2 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup mixed nuts, lightly salted.

The original recipe doesn't specify type of nut, so I used dry roasted sunflower seeds (for the salty part), raw flax seeds, and raw coarsly chopped almonds

1/4 cup honey

3 heaping tablespoons crunchy peanut butter

1 tbsp olive oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop lightly salted nuts into chunks (I would recommend just chopping the almonds while leaving the smaller seeds whole.) On stove, melt peanut butter, honey, and olive oil (little hint, measure out olive oil first and the peanut butter won't stick to the tablespoon). Stir until mixture is thinned and liquidy.

Pour on top of oats and nuts and mix thoroughly to coat.

Layer on baking sheet and bake 10-14 minutes until granola is golden brown. Let cool completely, break into pieces and store in an air-tight container.


This was pretty clumpy! The ratio was about 2/3 clumps to 1/3 non clumps (oat and nut pieces not bound together) The clumps break up pretty easily and it is a very crisp granola. As you can see, the recipe does not call for any fruit. I like this because I have found that with drier granolas, baking them with dried fruit produces SUPER dried out fruit that is chewy and lacks flavor. All in all, this is a great, basic, clumpy granola. I like the simplicity of it's ingredients and think that this is one I will use as a "base" recipe. I plan on making it again using a splash of vanilla, almond butter, and adding in dried strawberries after baking.

Recipe #2

This is from a blog called Cake and Commerce. I chose this one because of it's unusual baking technique and because the auther commented that she had tried out 5 different recipes to find a good clump, and this was her winner. The recipe is vague regarding exact amounts and ingredients to use as the author wants to keep her version a secret (which I completely understand!).

Here is her original ingredient list:

Dry Ingredients:
5 parts rolled oats (do not use instant)
1 part seed(s) of your choice (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower etc)
1 part coconut, shredded unsweetened
2 parts nuts of your choice
Pinch of salt
.1 part sweet spice (cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cardamom etc)
Wet Ingredients
2 parts natural invert sugar (maple, honey, agave etc in combination or alone)
1.5 parts sunflower oil (less if you want to omit fat. Can substitute coconut oil)
1.5 parts water (ONLY if you want clumpy granola)
.5 parts (or less) Vanilla (or other flavoring such as almond, liqueur, juice etc)
5 parts (equal to oat by weight) dried fruit of your choosing (including raisins, if desired. If you like a less fruity granola, reduce by half)

Due to the inspecifity of this list, I was free to use the ingredients I thought would produce the tastiest, biggest clumps. Please forgive my measurements as it was a bit difficult to come up with ratios since I was halving the recipe and I am overly perfectionistic. It actually took me a good ten minutes to sit down and figure out, mathematically, how to halve the recipe. I based my measurements on a recipe where 5 parts rolled oats is = to 2 cups rolled oats (I am no math wiz, but I am borderline OCD so I figured it out down to the nearest tablespoon). I figured if I was gonna conduct a scientific experiment, I better be EXACT. In retrospect, I think it would have been just as succesful if I had estimated.

My calculations.... did I mention the OCD? ya....

My Version
(seriously, dont be scared, you really dont have to be this exact, I'm sure you could just round, like I said, I am a suuuper perfectionist, it's annoying)

2 cups rolled oats (dont used instant)
6 1/2 tbsp sunflower and flax seed mixture
6 1/2 tbsp shredded, unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup + 1tbsp almonds (roughly chopped)
pinch salt (you cant calculate a pinch)
1/2 tbsp cinnamon

3/4 cup + 1 tbsp combination of maple syrup and honey
9 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil
9 1/2 tbsp water
2 tbsp Vanilla
1 cup raisins and dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 275 F.
Combine dry ingredients.
Warm wet ingredients on stove, stir until liquidy. Add to dry ingredients, stir until mixed.

The next part seemed a little wierd to me but it worked out well.Spread granola out on baking sheet lined with parchment. Place another piece of parchment on top, apply pressure with your hands to granola to press down. Place another baking sheet on top, press down, place heavy casserole pan on top of that and put it in the oven for 15 minutes. Luckily the original author showed a picture of this process. So, I will to :)

After 15 minutes, remove top piece of parchment and baking pan. Allow to bake until golden, about 40-50 minutes (mine got a little over golden as I got sucked into a particularly intense Iron Chef episode). Remove from oven and allow to cool. Break up and store in an airtight container.

This recipe turned out really flavorful. It had a good clumps to loose ratio as well. It was much more labor intensive (due mostly to my extreme calculations) and I let it cook too long so it was a bit burned on the edges and darker than I would've liked. The recipe is much wetter than the previous one which increases the cooking time quite a bit. At the end it was definitely more flavorful, but also less crunchy (due to the larger amount of liquid ingredients used).It had a chewier clump than the previous recipe. I am going to have to make this one again without burning it to give it a fair assesment. But, I would say granola one has the slight edge so far.

*I was originally skeptical about this recipe's addition of the dried fruit before cooking as I thought it would come out over dried. However, the extra liquidiness was absorbed and the raisins and cranberries plumped up beautifully. Lesson learned!

Recipe #3
Ok so the third recipe I came up with.For the third recipe, I decided to use a combination of the elements that were particullary succesful from the previous two recipes and utilize all the sticky stuff possible. Once I decided on the ingredients, I crossed my fingers and started mixing. I used molasses as the main binder in this recipe as I really like the flavor it imparts. When I pulled the granola out of the oven, I was ecstatic! It had perfectly clumpy clumps and smelled AMAZING. I couldn't wait to try it and see if the flavor was everything I was hoping it would be. To get it to cool off faster, I decided to stick the tray out on my portch as it was pretty cool outside. Right as I was going out the door, disaster struck!

I tripped and the pan flipped out of my hands and ALL over my portch. NOOOO, my granola!!!! It was now all over the portch and crumbling down theough the cracks onto my neighbors portch! I almost cried! What was I to do? It was 11:00 at night and I wanted my granola!! There was no help for it, I had to start all over again. So after a brief period of mourning/cleaning/introducing myself to my neighbor and apologizing, I tried again. This time it again came out beautifully and I am THRILLED with my new recipe. Here it is:

Winning Granola Combo
2 1/3 cups old fashioned oats
2/3 cup steel cut oats
3/4 cup coarsely copped almonds
3/4 cup flax seeds and sunflower seeds
Pinch of salt1/2 cup brown sugar

3 tbsp molasses (I used mild flavor)
2 1/2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 heaping tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp oil

Preheat oven to 325.
Mix together wet ingredients.
Over medium heat, melt liquid ingredients until runny.

Pour over dry ingredients, mixing well.

Spread granola out on parchment lined baking sheet. Cook in oven for 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes, or when the granola turns light golden brown, turn oven off, open the oven door a bit to vent and allow granola to cool for another 20 minutes. If it looks like it is getting too brown, pull it out and let it continue to dry completely.
When completely cooled. Gently break into clumps (you pick the size!) and store in an airtight container.
This recipe has both of my favorite elements from the previous two recipes (the crispy clumps of the first recipe and a yummy flavor similar to the second recipe). I liked the flavor for this recipe better than either of the previous two, it is peanutty and sweet with a great hint of carmally molasses and brown sugar with maple undertones. The clump ratio is at a perfect balance of 1/3 loose to 2/3 clumps. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am, and happy baking!

1 comment: