Thus, we could empathize with secondbasil when she lamenting on the Hotline this week that every time she adds raisins to granola before baking they become rock hard after baking. The easiest solution to this problem, and the one we’ve always employed, is to simply add the raisins (or other dried fruit) to the granola after baking.
But, as secondbasil points out, there is a serious downfall to that method—the dried fruit roams free in the finished granola and doesn’t get incorporated into clusters. Our clump-loving ears perked up when we heard a potential solution: One of our own team members, Account Executive Jane Poretsky, suggested soaking the raisins in warm water for 30 minutes before baking the granola. Food52er lleello concurred, adding that stirring a capful of rum into the soaking water adds more flavor and cuts the sweetness.
To find out if this method worked, I made a batch of granola (with a frothy egg white for clump-maximization) and split it into (unequal) thirds:
- In the first portion, I used un-soaked raisins. I’ve made the mistake of adding raisins to granola before cooking once before, so I knew the results of this weren’t going to be good (hence the small portion), but I forged ahead to see just how bad it would be.
- In the second portion, I used raisins soaked in warm water and a dash of vanilla brandy. Yes, lleello recommended rum, but that might be the only bottle of alcohol not found in my liquor cabinet, and besides, Laurie Colwin got me hooked on vanilla brandy—if something’s good in cake, it’d be good in granola, too, right?
- In the final portion, I used raisins soaked in plain warm water.
After 45 minutes in the oven at 300° F (plus cooling time to maximize clumps), these were my results:
As suspected, the raisins in the first portion (above) were indeed rock-hard, blackened, and crunchy. Yes, they stayed in the clusters, but even people who profess to enjoy burnt things would not eat these miniature charcoal briquettes.
The raisins in both the second (above left) and third (above right) portions stayed incorporated into clusters and they stayed soft and chewy. Success! The brandy-soaked raisins were indeed slightly more flavorful when comparing the two types of soaked raisins on their own, but I didn't notice a reduction in sweetness, and it was hard to tell a difference between them when comparing full bites of granola.
If you're not a granola-cluster fiend, there's no need to mess with the time-consuming step of soaking dried fruit, just stir it in after baking your granola. But if you believe clusters are the best part of granola (and they are), soaking is the way to go—a little advance prep work, and you're rewarded with chewy fruit nestled right into your clusters.
Tell us: What’s your favorite type of dried fruit in granola? Are you on Team Raisin or Team Dried Cherries?