Sunday, March 6, 2011

Granola-ish: Trial (and Invention) By Error

My first attempt at homemade granola was not disastrous, but I can't say it was fully successful either. Here is why: The final product was no doubt delicious, but I wouldn't be able to accurately call it granola, in the sense that it was not crispy crumbly through and through. Instead it came out more like a brittle that was toasty on the top but with a soft layer at the bottom, making it malleable akin to a granola bar. In fact, if I had spread it more thickly, it would have made the perfectly moist cut-and-go bar! Equally as tasty, this one was more of a rip and dip situation, as I tore off pieces and used them as handy scoops for my morning yogurt. And it could not have been more morning; the inspiration came at 6:30am and this is what ensued.

To instant oats (my first mistake, but a blessing in disguise) I added iced coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, raisins, crushed almonds and cinnamon. (If I had more dried fruit - cranberries, mango, apples, etc. - I would have added them.)  The coffee contributed another dimension of flavor as it baked and the orange juice a nice sweetness and a binder with its natural sugars. I spread it out thinly and evenly in a pan and baked it in the oven for 45 minutes at 350. With warm, wafting cinnamon aromas taunting me,  I excitedly pulled that baby out and Viola! I had...um...something granola-ish?
A form of granola
The culprit? Instant oats. What I noticed about them is that they already started to get mushy and oatmealy when I added even cold liquid to it. (Doesn't get more instant than that.) So I didn't get oats that crumbled apart after baking. But what I did get was not too shabby either. The gooey layer set at the bottom serving as an unexpected firm binder while the top got crispy, yielding a delectable brittle-like sheet. This got me thinking that the instant oats would be the perfect base to create the desired texture of a granola bar; all I would have to do is pour out the mixture in a thicker layer, so you would really have something chewy to submerge your teeth into. See, sometimes the greatest inventions come from the greatest mistakes. Though I wouldn't say I've reach granola greatness yet, trial by error may in fact take me there. And until then, I wouldn't dismiss this unplanned and undefinable creation either. This whatever-you-want-to-call-it can stand on its own, if it's what you're goin' for. Thus, in my next attempt for granola that actually crumbles, I'll go for the regular, non-instant rolled oats. I guess this was my wrist slap for the humanistic tendency towards instant gratification. "Instant" didn't take me where I intended, but I don't hate where I wound up either.