Over the years I’ve tried out countless granola recipes, which usually consisted of a basic combination of: oats, mixed nuts and/or seeds, dried fruits, sweeteners (such as sugar or honey), flavorings (such as spices or vanilla), and some fat (vegetable oil or butter.) The problem was that although these types of recipes created a nicely browned, crunchy granola, they did not possess the lightness or clumpiness that I find so appealing in really good granola. I wanted to find out how to achieve homemade granola perfection, so I set out on a fact-finding mission. My goal was to determine how to make a light, crispy, clumpy granola; here’s what I discovered:
1. Adding extra liquid in the form of fruit puree helps the granola cluster. In combination with the fats and sweeteners, the extra liquid helps to bind the oats together.
2. Squeeze the cereal mixture into large clumps with your hands before baking, or alternatively just press the granola down firmly and evenly (with wet hands) onto the sheet pan, to further glue the ingredients together while baking.
3. Use both sugar and a liquid sweetener. The sugar creates a nice crust on the surface of the oats, while the liquid sweetener helps to bind the ingredients. I found that granola recipes that depended solely on liquid sweeteners like honey or maple syrup produced a tougher, chewy granola.
4. Use a combination of old-fashioned and quick cooking oats. (Yes I know this is contrary to what every granola recipe you have ever tried has advised but give me the benefit of the doubt on this one and try it for yourself.) The old-fashioned oats bake-up crisp, while the quick cooking oats help with clustering. Using a combination of these is the key. Granola made with only old-fashioned oats will be crunchy but loose, while granola made with only quick cooking oats will be clumpy, but starchy tasting.
5. Add puffed rice cereal to the granola for an extra lightness and crispiness.
6. Add seeds and nuts only half-way through baking. This prevents them from burning.
7. Make sure to let the granola cool completely before storing it. The crunchiness only develops after it has fully cooled down. Store granola in an airtight container to keep it crispy, and add dried fruit just before serving.
So after taking all this into account, I think I have finally cracked the granola code and come up with a version that possesses all the qualities that I had been after: large clumpy clusters, with a light and crispy texture.