Saturday, August 16, 2008

Experiments with Cooking Granola

As I previously posted, I need some granola to make the Granola Grabbers for Tuesdays with Dorie. Shopping for granola here reminded me of a visit to an orthodox Kosher deli that I went to in Annapolis (was near there on business).

See, I'm from Seattle. We do strange things with food (years later people started calling it "fusion"). We mix it in different ways and it's OK. Apparently, from an orthodox Kosher standpoint, one of the ways I like my roast beef sandwich is bad. Well, beyond bad, just not done. I like roast beef with cream cheese on sourdough. I innocently ordered this and the deli man looked at me with an emptiness in his soul that is reserved for people on death row and grooms starring on the WE Network's Bridezillas show.

I was young and ignorant. I had no idea that Kosher law prohibits the mixing of meat and dairy (this was explained later by a friend of mine).

He actually refused to make it as I liked it. We compromised by having him insert a leaf of lettuce between the meat and the dairy. Actually, that was nice. The cool, crisp lettuce added a new dimension that I enjoyed ... so, I've ordered this sandwich that way from then on.

I've received similar looks here ... granola just doesn't seem to exist here. I guess that should be no real surprise.

So, guess I'll make granola from scratch. Doesn't look that hard. I've taken Alton Brown's recipe (almost never go wrong with his) and modified it a little. Dorie's recipe calls for raisin-less granola and I'm not a big shredded coconut fan. I dropped those.

Since the raisins and coconut comprise a fair portion of the solid ingredients, I cut back on the sugar, oil, syrup, and salt by 25% to compensate.

Yields about 5 cups of granola.

  • 3 cups (240g) rolled oats
  • 1 cup (90g) slivered almonds
  • 1 cup (130g) cashews
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (80g) maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

I tried heating my oven to the required 250F (120C), no joy. My oven is rated to go down to 275F (135C). It only really wanted to get down to 300F (150C). This is normally acceptable ... except in this case. I don't want to burn the granola. So, I turned my oven onto gas stop #1 (275F/135C) and started to make the mixture. I figured that I would run with the oven door cracked.

I measured and put all of the ingredients into a bowl. I started with the dry ingredients, finished up with the brown sugar, vegetable oil, and maple syrup. I used a silicone scraper to mix it all together thoroughly.

Then, I put the mixture onto two half-sized (12" x 18") baking sheets. I spread it out then and went to look at my stubborn oven. Don't get me wrong, I love my oven. It's the only model being sold in town that will fit a full-sized (18" x 24") baking sheet. So, it has it's benefits.

The recipe called for the granola to cook for 75 minutes, checking and turning the granola over every 15 minutes. This turned out to be a bit of a hassle as I'm supposed to be resting due to a concussion right now. I should probably take care of myself better. I didn't want to miss my first Tuesdays with Dorie posting.

I put the two baking sheets into the oven and cracked the door about 5". I let them sit for 15 minutes.

When I came back, the oven thermometer was reading 180F (82C). Not good. I need hotter. So, I turned all the granola and set the oven onto gas stop #3 (325F/160C). And, again, left the granola alone in the big, bad oven for 15 minutes.

This time, when I come back, the oven is nicely up to about 225F (107C). I'm happy about this. This is good enough for making granola. I noticed, however, that the granola that was drying in the rear of the oven was browning faster than that in the front. Ooops.

I didn't adjust the temperature because I was happy with that, but I pushed the granola mixture forward about 1/4 of the tray. Again, 15 more minutes into the oven.

When I came back, I found that the trailing edge of the granola had scorched just slightly. So, I had to toss out a few tablespoons of granola. The rest was looking good. I turned the granola again. This time I had a new idea: the oven seals well, just get the oven up to 250F (120C) and shut it with the gas off. So, I did that for 15 minutes.

That worked well. Very well. I still had 15 minutes to cook, but the granola had already reached a nice golden brown state. Didn't want to tempt fate.

Test Results

Primary Test Group: Very good. In general they'd like it sweeter.

Potential Improvements

Next time I'll cook it in 15 minute segments by turning on the gas, getting the oven to 250F (120C), and putting the pans in with the gas flame off.

Potential Variations

Too many to mention. I used an industrial-quality maple syrup (oh how I miss the good stuff from Vermont). Next time, perhaps I'll make a brown sugar syrup to replace it.


Great, great recipe. I need to set some aside for teh Granola Grabbers I need to make for Tuesdays with Dorie. And, I need to set a bit more aside to photograph (I'd love to get onto Foodgawker someday). Aside from that, this stuff's getting eaten. I guess I should set some aside for the other test groups, too. Gah!

I think I have some plain yogurt left ...

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