Strawberry Granola · GF (about 6 cups)
When talking about the perks of life in the kitchen, most non-cooks focus on the edible. The infinite supply of chocolate and ice cream, the cookies, the exotic fruits and the ample bourbon. Those on the inside often cite the creativity, the energy, family meal.
Generally speaking, “not having to go shopping” isn’t considered a perk because “having ingredients” is such a fundamental part of the job. I don’t care. Not having to go shopping rules and I’ll count it as a perk if I want. But sometimes it can backfire. And sometimes that’s a perk in disguise.
While making strawberry granola to garnish basil pots de creme, I noticed the oats looked odd. But other than double checking the package (yup, “rolled oats”), I didn’t think too much about it. Later, I watched in horror as the granola liquified in the oven. I went over the process in my mind but couldn’t think of anything to explain what was happening to my granola.
Against all odds, the granola wound up absorbing all the liquid within 45 minutes and turned out crunchier and clumpier than ever. After some investigation, I found out that our vendor had sent over a sack of (mislabeled) quick oats by mistake. Having never used quick oats before, I didn’t realize what they were. Which worked out for the best, because I would have just sent them back and never discovered the secret to maximum granola clusters.
But it’s not all about the texture, this granola has an intriguing flavor too. Rather than using honey, maple syrup or molasses, it uses the liquid from macerated strawberries. The baked granola has a deep, roasted strawberry flavor balanced by a touch of acidity and hint of vanilla.
Double Strawberry Granola
12 ounces strawberries, washed
2 1/2 ounces sugar
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1.2 ounces (1 bag) freeze dried strawberries*, pulverized in a food processor
12 ounces sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces quick oats
Slice the strawberries thinly, toss with sugar and let macerate for about one hour. There’s no upper limit on how long you macerate the berries, so if it makes life easier, you can do this part well in advance. Next, strain the liquid from the berries using a fine mesh sieve. You will have approximately 4 ounces of liquid. If you have any extra, set it and the sliced berries aside for another use (hello, strawberry sundae).
Preheat the oven to 325° and line 2 sheetpans with silpat or parchment paper. At work, I use a convection oven and found 325° to be the perfect temperature for baking, but if you have an oven with a bottom heating element you may want to consider reducing the temperature to 300° or double panning the granola to insulate the bottom. I bake my granola for a total of 50 minutes, but due to natural variation from oven to oven, you may find you need more or less time.
In a medium bowl, combine the 4 ounces of strawberry liquid, melted butter, vanilla bean scrapings, freeze dried strawberry powder, sugar and salt. Stir with a rubber spatula until the vanilla seeds have been evenly distributed. Next stir in the oats. The mixture will have a vibrant red color and a thick, dry consistency.
Divide the mixture between the two sheet pans. Use a spatula to spread the granola into an even layer, as thin as you can manage.
Bake for 15 minutes, then pull the trays from the oven and stir thoroughly to ensure the granola cooks evenly. The granola will seem more wet than when you started, but don’t worry.
Bake another 15 minutes, then stir again. The granola will have begun to darken.
Bake for another 15 minutes, stir again, then spread the granola back out. The granola will have darkened more, due to the caramelization of the sugars and the oxidation of the fruit. This is normal. Now use your spatula to break up the granola into your “ideal” texture. Leave lots of clusters if that’s how you like it, or take your time to really break up the granola if you prefer a more cereal-like texture.
Bake for a final five minutes, then remove from the oven. What you see is what you’ll get, so this is your last chance to break up clumps; it’s too late to create them.
Cool the granola completely, then transfer to an airtight container.
Amp up the strawberry flavor even more by using strawberry reduction instead of the macerated strawberry liquid. Or change it up altogether with a blue, black or raspberry version; just swap out the freeze dried strawberries for a coordinating freeze dried berry.
Jun 18, 2012 · 11:48 PM
I make granola all the time and always thought the golden rule was “don’t use quick cooking oats”; I’m reminded once again that rules are made to be broken!
· Sue@theviewfromgreatisland · http://theviewfromthegreatisland
Jun 19, 2012 · 9:42 AM
@Sue, I know, right?! I’ve have always followed that rule with complete obedience. Quick oats are evil. But if you like clumpy clusters of granola, I’m convinced that quick oats are the way to go. I’m going to experiment with using half quick oats and half rolled to see if I can strike a balance (for Mr. BraveTart who likes a looser textured granola)…
Jun 19, 2012 · 9:53 AM
Oh man, I love grocery shopping! That’s actually a big bummer for me about working in kitchens- there’s less time to cook at home It’d be better if our family meals were something to look forward to, as opposed to sticking whatever is in the freezer in the fryer and calling it a meal.
Jun 19, 2012 · 10:01 AM
Oh yes! I recently discovered that the key to good granola is quick oats too! I had always wondered how the store-bought types always contained those nice oatty clusters – I could never make those happen with large rolled oats. A mix of large rolled oats and quick cooking oats is definitely key to great, chunky granola!
· Calantha · http://www.piecurious.ca
Jun 19, 2012 · 11:33 AM
Happy accidents are the best! This “Serendipity Strawberry Granola” is pure genius. I learn so much from you. Thanks for sharinng.
· saltandserenity · http://www.saltandserenity
Jun 19, 2012 · 12:39 PM
@Jade, yeah, family meal for us is standing up at the window in the kitchen 30 minutes before service. Good stuff, but not a relaxed environment. You can do all my shopping for me!
@Calantha, you’re so ahead of me! I too have never been totally pleased with granola previously, now I know why.
@saltandserenity, Serendipity Strawberry has a nice ring to it, no?
Jun 19, 2012 · 2:21 PM
@debi, it will last a week or two at room temperature. It doesn’t seem to last quite as long as a typical granola, I think because of the high fruit content. And thanks for the heads up on the link, I’ve fixed it now!
Jun 19, 2012 · 5:40 PM
Thanks for sharing your secret! Accidental discoveries like this are really what makes cooking fun. I cannot wait to make some cluster-y granola!
· Rachel · http://blog.muffinegg.com
Jun 19, 2012 · 8:34 PM
Full disclosure: I thought this sounded super gross when I saw the header. But now that I read the post it looks completely brilliant, which is why I love your blog (and for the Star Trek references). I loved your serious eats columns too, are you no longer posting there?
· Eva · http://cocala.blogspot.com
Jun 19, 2012 · 10:47 PM
I made this tonight – it looked so yummy and I had the ingredients on hand, but mine burned! : ( My oven temp is pretty solid and I double check it with a second thermometer. It read as 325, I even turned it down when it started getting dark. One pan was worse than the other, but they both started turning dark brown in the first 15-30 minutes. Any idea what else could have gone wrong?
Jun 19, 2012 · 11:20 PM
@Rachel, I hope you’ll like it!
@Eva, traffic to the restaurant has increased so exponentially since the F&W news that I’ve had to take a bit of a hiatus from Serious Eats. I don’t have any staff to defer the work to, so I’ve just been the busiest little bee!!
@Dawn, oh no! The granola does darken significantly, but from a combo of the sugars browning and the oxidization of the fruit. I think this photo doesn’t quite do the darkness justice, the bright green background and fruit do make for a brighter overall picture. But in any event, it sounds like you’re describing actual burning, not just a cosmetic darkening?
Something I didn’t think of (and that I should go back and make note of in the recipe) is that I’m using a convection oven at work, so I’m getting very even heat. It may be that the top/bottom heating element of a conventional oven is too direct and causing some problem.
Jun 20, 2012 · 12:46 AM
Yes maybe that’s it. As I watched them cook they were getting darker and I figured that was to be expected, but then I could smell it burning slightly. I took them out before the last 15 minutes was up – one pan was a little burnt but edible, the other one was definitely burnt. The one that wasn’t totally burned was tasty, I’m going to give it another try when blueberries come out!
Jun 20, 2012 · 2:55 AM
The granola looks great. I could snack on it all day.
Jun 20, 2012 · 10:04 AM
@Dawn, if that’s the case, I would try reducing the temp to 300° and double panning for a little extra protection.
@Joy, thank you ma’am!
Jun 20, 2012 · 11:22 AM
Another great post, Stella.
I usually only used quick oats in shakes as I found they blended better than rolled oats. My granola always tends to be fairly lose, so this is a brilliant tip! I love innovations that come from accidents…if only all mistakes led to such blessings, haha. Can’t wait to try this, especially since it pairs with your amazing basil pots de crème.
Jun 21, 2012 · 8:14 PM
@Isobel, it has such a deep flavor from the caramelization of the fruit sugars. I’m eager to keep experimenting (maybe half quick half rolled) but enjoyed the results enough to share. Hope you like it!
@luv2cook, haha, glad I can come to the rescue! And check out Isobel’s comment about using quick oats in smoothies.
@Susan, ugh, I barely do. Our dishwasher doesn’t come to the restaurant until 5, so I literally do all of my dishes. It is a good chunk of time!! I’ve never made granola bars but I’m dying to try. Stay tuned!
Jun 22, 2012 · 6:51 PM
@Jendo, so glad I could redeem quick oats! Thanks for the kind words.
Jun 25, 2012 · 2:34 PM
Yum! I bet this would be a delicious frozen yogurt topping!
· The Culinistas · http://twitter.com/#!/TheCulinistas
Jun 25, 2012 · 2:58 PM
@Culinistas, heck yeah! Pretty much anything creamy and a little fatty works perfectly with it (a bit of fat helps balance out the acidity from the strawberries… .
Jun 28, 2012 · 2:28 PM
To Stella re 50-50 quick and rolled oats. It works, I add a little spelt flour, but I am going to try without for a GF version. Great minds think alike, as sugar I used the syrup leftover from skimming strawberry rhubarb jam and a bit of OJ.
· emanuela · http://www.sevencooksinc.com
Jun 28, 2012 · 5:09 PM
@emanuela, oh awesome! Thanks for reporting in. I imagine that the syrup used can be varied a number of different ways, strawberry rhubarb sounds great!
Oct 11, 2012 · 2:18 PM
I should have read the comments before trying this recipe. I had the same problem as Dawn. One pan turned out too dark and had a burnt flavor (and was rock hard). The other wasn’t burnt, but was WAY too chewy. Is 12 oz sugar correct? The strawberry flavor was great, but this recipe is super sweet. I baked at 325 for 15,15,15 with a double pan (no convection oven). I love this idea, so would love to get it to work. Is your final texture light and crispy? Maybe the air from the convection oven dries it out more?
Oct 11, 2012 · 6:52 PM
Hi Andrea. Aww, I hate hearing one pan bit it.
The sugar dosage is correct; I use this for a dessert garnish rather than a breakfast food, so the sweetness is definitely on the higher end. You can tame it down with a generous sprinkling of salt, and I think you could probably scale the sugar back somewhat. To a certain degree, the sugar helps the granola crisp, but try it at 8 ounces and see how that treats ya. The final texture is super-crisp; I do use convection, which no doubt speeds it along. You might try baking with the oven door cracked, which would let the excess moisture out and prevent the granola from steaming itself as all the liquids cook off.