May 7, 2012
Kitchen flops are usually only good for one thing: stories. "Hey, remember the time I forgot to put sugar in that cake and served it to your mother? Was that a nightmare or what?"
When I set out to create a gluten-free version of crunchy granola bars, à la Nature Valley's, it never occurred to me that I might have a potential flop on my hands. I mean, it's granola. You toss some oats, sugar, and nuts into a bowl and bake. What could go wrong?
Turns out that baking isn't the problem with crunchy granola bars; it's the cutting! Pan after pan of crunchy, brittle granola proved hard to cut. No, scratch that. Impossible to cut.
I tried cutting the bars while warm. I tried cutting them while cold. No matter what I did, they still broke into little granola clusters. Never did I spend so much time thinking about how to cut a baked good. A few times the granola did cut into bars. Then you'd bite into the bar and it broke into jagged shards in your hands. What a mess.
Thankfully the flavor was spot-on. So much so that every time I complained about my "flop" of a recipe, I ran into trouble: everyone loved the sweet-nutty granola clusters.
Early in the process, I used almond flour instead of almond pieces to ensure a little almond flavor in every bite. Paired with maple syrup and a generous amount of kosher salt, the granola was simple but really flavorful. "Who cares?" said my friends. It was time to let go of the bar-shaped expectations. This isn't bread or cake--foods that if they crumbled when cut signaled a serious flaw. This was granola. Really tasty granola. Unlike most granola that's crumbled up into little pieces, this recipe turns out big crunchy clusters perfect for eating right out of the hand.
While my quest for crunchy granola bars isn't over, I won't be tinkering with this recipe any more.
And with the outdoor summer season fast approaching, this granola is a perfect snack for hikes, picnics, or outdoor sports.
*This recipe first appeared as part of my SeriousEats.com column, Gluten-Free Tuesday.
6 cups (18 ounces) gluten-free old-fashioned oats
1 cup (5 ounces) almond flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) brown rice flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup canola oil or olive oil
1 cup (7 ounces) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 300 °F;. Line an 18 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set pan aside. In large bowl, toss together oats, almond flour, brown rice flour, and salt. Pour canola oil evenly over the mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat mixture evenly with oil.
- Combine maple syrup and dark brown sugar in a medium pot. Warm mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about six minutes. Gently stir the mixture frequently. Remove pot from the heat. Add vanilla extract. Stir to combine.
- Pour sugar-mixture over oat-mixture. Stir with a wood spoon to combine. At first, the granola will be thick and sticky. Continue stirring, breaking up an lumps of sugar/oats with the back of the wooden spoon, until the sugar-maple is evenly distributed.
- Press mixture very firmly into prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and aromatic, about 45 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Immediately score granola into bars. (The granola might break into smaller pieces when scored. This is fine.) Allow granola to cool. "Snap" bars into bite-size nuggets. Store granola in a covered container for up to two weeks.
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I'm the author of Easy Gluten-Free Baking and How to Cook Gluten-Free. I'd be thrilled if you purchased a copy today!