Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crisp Granola (Soaked and Dehydrated)

I have some ambivalence about granola. It was among the grain-based inventions of the Victorian anti-libido campaigners before getting adopted by hippies who saw it as wholesome peasant fare. Later it was co-opted by food manufacturers and transformed into a sugary bit of fluff that capitalized on its formerly healthy image. Then its name was applied to gooey, icing-drizzled candy bars, and now it has become a too-convenient label for people like me who rinse their hair with kombucha.

I would dismiss it entirely in favor of fried eggs and toast, but the fact is, sometimes on warm mornings I do want something crunchy to top with sliced strawberries and kefir. Granola is also the easiest cold breakfast cereal to make at home, and I’m a member of the generation that grew up with granola slowly baking in the oven. The smell, now, is wired into my brain, even though I disliked eating it then. I found it both gummy and tough -- a complaint that is still valid.

This granola recipe is quite different. Yes, it’s still oat-based. But it soaks overnight in kefir and maple syrup, then gets slowly dehydrated in the oven until it gains a wonderful shattering-crisp texture. The soaking has some nutritious side-effects, too: the oats break down somewhat, making their nutrients more available to the body.

Like most granola recipes, it’s quite adaptable. I particularly like it with pecans and maple syrup, but you can use molasses or honey as a sweetener, too. You can add dried fruit, spices, extracts, or citrus zest. I adapted this particular recipe from Cheeseslave.

Crisp Granola

Mix together the following ingredients and let stand overnight, loosely covered:
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour or buckwheat flour
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup kefir or yogurt
1/2 cup maple syrup

The following morning, stir in:
2 cups chopped nuts*
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup melted coconut oil or butter
1 tsp. salt

Line two baking trays with parchment and spread the mixture across them evenly. Set the oven to 175 degrees and try to arrange the trays so air can circulate around them. After 8-12 hours, the granola will be dry enough that you can lift it in pieces and flip it over. Let it finish drying another 4-8 hours, until completely crisp. Turn off the oven and let the granola cool down. Crumble into small pieces and store in a sealed container. It keep nicely in a cupboard for a few weeks.

*I prefer to use soaked & dehydrated nuts, as they're less heavy on the stomach. Soak a pound or two of raw nuts overnight in plenty of fresh water and a tablespoon of salt. Drain and rinse, then arrange in a single layer on baking sheets and either dry in the sun on a hot, clear day (bring them in at night so they don't get dewy), or dehydrate in the oven at 150-200 degrees until crisp.