Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Crunchy, Clustery Granola with Honey Buttermilk Pralines
A few years ago I went through a short and not-so-sweet phase of trying to make my own granola. I was so focused on it being healthy that it was never sweet enough or really all that enjoyable otherwise. No clumps or clusters, and almost always over-baked and lackluster. I gave up for quite a while, but recently decided to give it another go- this time allowing myself a little sweetness.
This recipe is hands-down, without argument the best granola that I've ever made. It's also dramatically different than any other recipe that I've tried. It's best if you make it the night before you plan to eat it- as it needs a little bit of time to really crunch up and do what it needs to do.
For the pralines you need:
1 1/4 cup organic sugar
3 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup)
1/4 cup buttermilk (regular milk is also fine)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp sea salt
2 1/2 cups assorted chopped nuts and coconut (I used pumpkin seeds, almonds, pecans, and large flake coconut)
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reaches 235° F. Remove from heat, and stir in nuts until well coated. Pour nut mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper and spread out thinly and evenly. Let this sit to cool while you prepare the rest of your granola mixture.
Note that this praline recipe makes about double what I ended up using in my granola. We put the rest on ice cream.
For the granola you need:
1 lb oatmeal (whatever you have on hand is fine- I used a 5 grain rolled cereal mixture, and the original recipe uses quick oats- do NOT use instant oatmeal!)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 scant cup sugar
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 egg whites (optional, but they really help to form your clusters!)
Preheat oven to 300° F. Using a food processor or blender- grind about half of your oats into a fine meal (not quite a powder, but significantly smaller than what you started with). Add ground oats to a large bowl with whole oats, cinnamon, and ginger. In a medium saucepan combine sugar, honey or syrup, butter, water, and salt. Heat over medium-high heat, just until butter has melted and the mixture starts to bubble. Pour over oat mixture, and mix well, until the entire mixture is the same consistency and moistness. Beat your egg whites just until frothy, then pour over your oat mixture and once again mix until combined.
Divide the mixture onto two baking sheets, spreading with your fingers and allowing to sit in clumps. Bake in 20-25 minute increments- gently stirring the granola on only one pan, leaving the other in one in its original large clumps. It should take about an hour to an hour and a half for it to be sufficiently dried out and toasty. The un-stirred pan may be done before the other- just keep an eye on it!
From here you're going to do two different things with each pan. For the pan that you haven't stirred at all while baking- let it sit until completely cooled (overnight if possible), then break into large clumps. These will be your big oatlicious clusters. For the pan that you stirred during baking- pour the granola into a large bowl while still slightly warm. Break your cooled praline into small chunks with your hands, and add about half (or however much you want) to the bowl with granola. Using your hands work the pralines into the granola. They'll get really soft since the granola is still warm and try to stick together in big clumps. Just keep working with it, breaking the pralines into small chunks as you go. Once it's your desired consistency allow it to sit until completely cooled- again overnight is best.
Mix your two batches together, and add any other additions that you want. Now is the perfect time to add any dried fruit, candied ginger, or other goodies that you like in your granola.
Makes one giant lovely batch.
Recipe adapted from here, here, and here.