Breakfast

For Clumps in Your Granola, Just Add... Water?

April 14, 2016

This post on (Not)Recipes caught our attention for many reasons.

  1. Mmmm, granola.
  2. Look at those pieces—they're practically crackers.
  3. Yes, this tip does sound weird.
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Jadyn Damon
Jadyn Damon
30
It sounds weird but adding hot water to the oat mixture before baking makes great #granola clumps #breakfast
6 comments

As Jadyn explained to inquiring commenters, the technique comes from a recipe for Surfer's Granola on Bon Appétit. A full cup (!) of hot tap water gets poured into a dry mixture of 2 cups of oats (and some optional millet and flaxseeds), then left to soften for about 15 minutes. You mix in oil and sweeteners, then bake for about 1 hour at 300° F.

As a die-hard clump fanatic (I pick out all the clumps from store-bought bags, then leave those individual oats for the losers who didn't get there fast enough), I wanted to put Jadyn's tip toe-to-toe with my go-to clumping method: egg whites.

Photo by James Ransom

So I made a double-batch of Surfer's Granola (to which I added some nuts) and split it into thirds.

  • To one third, I added neither hot water nor egg whites—this was my control. (I'm a scientist, you know.)
  • To another third, I mixed the hot water into the oats and dry ingredients, then added oil and sweetener.
  • And to the last third, I mixed everything together and mixed in an egg white as my last step.
Golden nuggets! Photo by James Ransom

I baked them all for one hour at 325° F and employed the method I always use to ensure maximum clumping action: Do not stir (at all!), then wait for the granola to cool completely in the oven before touching it.

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And clearly, my methodology works—all three sheets produced plenty of clumps! Even the control.

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Top Comment:
“The mixture is usually in one big clump that you can break apart and store. Works EVERY time!!!!!”
— Jean M.
Comment

The differences were slight, and outlined below:

The control granola produced clumps that were the softest—the kindest on my teeth and jaw. The clusters were easier to break apart and there were still some loose oat pieces.

The version made with hot water was extremely crunchy and shattering: The whole thing was a sharp, cracker-like sheet with a shiny bottom that I had to force into pieces. Like brittle! And the next day, the clumps were even harder.

If you enjoy using your teeth like a hammer—and gnawing on biscotti—this might be the method for you.

And the last batch, with egg whites, was my favorite. The clumps had a nice sheen and were easier to break apart. They were less diamond-hard than the hot water clumps, though still a bit crunchier than the control group clusters.

So what's the takeaway here? I'd surmise that, if you're hoping for lots of clumps in your granola—whatever recipe you use—do not stir it. Let it cool completely. You're clump-bound.

And if you need extra assurance, mix in eggs whites; if you don't have egg whites (or if you prefer a jaw workout), use hot water.

Do you desire clumps in your granola? If so, what size and consistency? Tell us in the comments below!

11 Comments

Lise June 23, 2016
I've been adding boiling water to my granola for a long time - never had an issue with sharp hard lumps: Mix oil (which you can cut down significantly with this method) sweetener (maple or honey) and 1 cup boiling water. Stir into granola mix. - THEN KNEAD! The more you knead the larger lumps you'll end up with, and they'll be perfectly crunchy but crumbly I promise.
 
Jean M. June 22, 2016
I make granola ALL the time and have found this is the best 'trick' ever to having clumpy granola. I think it was a Cooks Illustrated suggestion a while back. Once you remove the sheet pan from the over, take a paper towel (spritz with a bit of vegetable spray) and press it over the top of the hot mixture. Press down on the towel (either using your hands or a pancake turner). Walk away and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Remove the paper towel and voila!!! The mixture is usually in one big clump that you can break apart and store. Works EVERY time!!!!!
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. June 22, 2016
Love this tip!!! Thanks for sharing.
 
Scott March 12, 2018
Interesting idea! Maybe a Silpat would be better? Nonstick already, and no worry about it tearing or bits of towel sticking.
 
Kristin April 28, 2016
Have you tried an egg replacement, like soaked chia seeds? I'm curious how it would turn out.
 
mlink915 June 22, 2016
I have had great success using aquafaba (chickpea liquid)!
 
Hannah N. April 16, 2016
Clumpy granola = everything.
 
danielle_centoni April 14, 2016
Great post! Thank you for proving that not all clumps are created equal. I'm a big-time granola maker/experimenter and I've learned that too much moisture can indeed create rocks. Sure, they're clumpy, but they're not "quality clumps."
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. April 14, 2016
I love this comment.
 
Mrs B. April 14, 2016
Quite an interesting discussion on this topic in the comments to this other article you wrote on this very subject https://food52.com/blog/8661-how-to-get-clumps-in-your-granola including the suggestion that the moisture level be increased - puzzling that you now think it's weird.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. April 14, 2016
The quantity—1 whole cup of water—seemed like a lot to me.