Breakfast

The Genius Granola Trick You Haven't Heard of Yet

April 26, 2017

In 2012, I made the claim that if you can stir, you can make granola. And while that is still true—and a number one selling point of homemade granola, in addition to taste, customizability, and economics—five years later, I’ve learned you don’t even have to stir.

Because, while most granola recipes call for shuffling the oats around every 10 minutes or so in the oven, with this genius technique there's no need—and in fact you should not, as I learned from Alanna Taylor-Tobin, pastry chef-turned-blogger-turned IACP award-winning cookbook author.

By baking granola pressed between two baking sheets and never stirring, you allow the sticky, slow-toasting oats to fuse into one big crispy, browned sheet—like a very thin, very good granola bar that you can break up into whatever size clumps you desire. Thanks to the extra insulation and diffused heat from the top sheet tray, the relatively low oven temperature (325° F), and Taylor-Tobin's instruction to pack it a little thicker around the edges, the granola bakes evenly and doesn’t burn.

Until this recipe came along, I thought I hated clumps in granola. When I first published Nekisia Davis’ hallowed genius olive oil & maple granola in 2012, Food52er fearlessem pointed out the irony in my praise: “I’m sure this is tasty, but to me a granola recipe that touts that there is 'absolutely no clumping' is missing the point of granola!”

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She had a great point, and I later realized I'd never experienced the joys of homemade, properly dressed clumps—a totally different breed than the pale, gummy balls of oats that come in boxed granolas you buy at the grocery store. The beauty of this sheet pan sandwich trick is that you can get the good kind of clumps, quick, without adding egg whites, flours, or starches as you might have seen in other recipes.

Down with gummy clumps.

Taylor-Tobin humbly calls this recipe “stolen granola,” because she originally memorized the recipe from her pastry school teacher Clair Legas, which she'd in turn stolen from Casey Hayden when the two worked at Moose's in San Francisco (It's a great story—you can read it on her blog).

I’m sure this is tasty, but to me a granola recipe that touts that there is 'absolutely no clumping' is missing the point of granola!
Fearlessem

But I don't think you can call it stealing when you credit the lineage of a recipe so thoroughly, and adapt it to suit your tastes, as Taylor-Tobin has done. “I’ve also used the base recipe to make: gingersnap, maple bourbon brown butter, rum-kissed coconut, cardamom honey, and black sesame versions. (Clearly I like granola a lot...)," Taylor-Tobin told me. There's even a popped amaranth ditty in her book The Alternative Baker.

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Top Comment:
“Just wonderful AND if you are making a cheesecake : I add even more melted butter and press it into the cheesecake mold and the granola ( we call it muesli ) makes the perfect base for the perfect dessert. Lovely. c”
— Cecilia G.
Comment

By these standards, she and I would both encourage you to steal this granola, too.

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps a genius dessert? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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28 Comments

Sandra M. July 4, 2018
I also would love the condensed milk recipe/riff....
 
Don May 5, 2017
I know this is going to sound really cranky, but brown sugar and butter in granola?! I like to at least have some semblance of healthiness...honey and olive oil!
 
Florence L. May 1, 2017
Condensed-milk-lovers, do you believe malt powder does the trick, too?<br />
 
asbrink May 1, 2017
It wouldn't have the same luscious stickiness factor, but flavor-bomb-wise, FOR SURE. You should check out this very timely article by Stella Parks from Serious Eats on this--she recommends malt powder as a baking additive in general! http://www.seriouseats.com/2017/03/what-is-malted-milk-powder.html
 
Florence L. May 1, 2017
Fantastic, this should help using up the 2 boxes sitting in our pantry! I'll also try it in my granola (my go-to: https://food52.com/recipes/9317-cardamom-granola) and I'll let you know how it works. Thanks very much for the link!
 
asbrink May 1, 2017
Please do! I'm waiting to use up my supply of regular milk powder before I switch over to malted. While I think the effect will be fairly similar for most applications, I'm super curious as to if there will be a roasty taste upgrade!<br /><br />And YUM, I love cardamom, so I'll have to try that recipe for my next batch of granola! Especially if it's Molly Wizenburg-vetted. And it looks as though it should have enough wet ingredients to clump no-stir. Thanks so much! :)
 
Florence L. May 1, 2017
My husband bought a can of barley malt extract - it's syrup! Looks like it will add a lot of stickiness to anything ;)
 
asbrink May 1, 2017
You know what...I've totally purchased that before to make Peter Rinehart's bagel recipe, but it never occurred to me to use it as a regular sweetener in other applications...genius!!
 
Florence L. May 3, 2017
OK so the granola didn't get any stickier than usual but browner, and has a pronounced malty taste. I used a good half cup of the malt syrup and had to add 1/4 cup of raw sugar as it wasn't sweet enough (and I don't sweeten much at all) but already malty enough. Bottomline: nice & interesting and could do again, but no revelation
 
asbrink May 3, 2017
Hmm interesting! I'm impressed at the strength of the malty flavor! I think I will stick to the malt powder rather than the syrup then. I like to use honey or maple syrup as my sweetener. Thanks for sharing! :)
 
Florence L. May 3, 2017
additional comment: My husband was over the moon and thought the malty flavour added a lot of depth. He might have been reminded of whisky.... How do you think the powder will be different? Just curious from a scientist's perspective.
 
asbrink May 3, 2017
The powder won't be as malty since it's a malted MILK powder--it's got malt barley in it, but it also has milk powder, flour, sodium bicarb, salt, sugar, and other things mixed in. The milk powder component is the main thing I'm after--it adds creaminess and richness. That's why I'm using plain nonfat milk powder right now. The malt flavor is just a plus for me. Also I won't be using quite as much since I'm not relying on it as a sweetener--probably just 1/4 cup.
 
Cecilia G. April 30, 2017
Just wonderful AND if you are making a cheesecake : I add even more melted butter and press it into the cheesecake mold and the granola ( we call it muesli ) makes the perfect base for the perfect dessert. Lovely. c
 
Ttrockwood April 30, 2017
I'm sure my granola clumping secret ingredient is frowned upon but i make fantastic granola that makes slightly sticky clumps. Sweetened condensed milk. No other sweetner in the recipe needed either. I stir once or twice because my nyc rental apartment has a crummy oven and is prone to burning things in select spots.
 
asbrink April 30, 2017
Okay...that sounds INCREDIBLY delicious. Trying it ASAP.
 
glutwin May 2, 2017
Absolutely IN NEED OF your particular 'riff'/recipe!! Pretty please...could you please share your secret via a recipe share? I really do think sweetened condensed milk would truly create the satisfaction-based clumping!!
 
Josh D. April 28, 2017
My lovely lady clumps.
 
Mayukh S. April 28, 2017
i thought this was fried chicken
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 28, 2017
Take it back!
 
Miachel B. April 27, 2017
This is a GENIUS TRICK.
 
asbrink April 27, 2017
I've always preferred big-clustered granola but find it to clump just fine on its own with a single sheet pan as long as I use a recipe with enough wet ingredients--honey, maple syrup, oil, nut butter, what-have-you. I used to add an egg white but have stopped even doing that to absolutely no detriment. My go-to recipes are the Homesick Texan's [LOVE the amount of powdered milk in this one] (http://www.homesicktexan.com/2008/01/uncle-austins-granola.html), Gabrielle Hamilton's in her Prune cookbook [to which I add plenty of powdered milk :) ], and Deb Perelman's in her Smitten Kitchen cookbook (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/11/smitten-kitchens-big-cluster-maple-granola.html).
 
asbrink April 27, 2017
Oh, and I never stir.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 28, 2017
Thanks asbrink—more rogue non-stirrers out there than I realized! What do you love about the powdered milk? Does it help with clumping, or flavor, or both?
 
asbrink April 28, 2017
Oh my goodness, the powdered milk is such a flavor bomb! Christina Tosi calls it the MSG of baking :). But you can SMELL the difference if you bake a batch of granola that has a few tablespoons of nonfat milk powder in it. I mean, normal granola smells amazing when it bakes as is, but with the milk powder, it's just heaven. I never make a batch of granola or a loaf of bread without it--I usually do 2-3 tablespoons for a standard bread loaf, but I'm more generous with granola since it's obviously more ratio-forgiving--usually a quarter cup for a standard half sheet pan's worth.
 
gochuGoose April 27, 2017
I thought I was the only one that did this! It's also nice to add a dash vanilla to the mix, then sprinkle a bit more brown sugar/salt on top after you've packed down the mixture - gives the clumps a hint of toffee-ness.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 28, 2017
Love the idea of an extra sprinkle of brown sugar.
 
mrslarkin April 27, 2017
This sounds fab. I wonder if the sheet pan trick might work with other granola recipes? I just might have to try.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 27, 2017
I haven't tried it yet, but I've been wanting to—please let me know if you do!