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The Genius Granola Trick You Haven't Heard of Yet

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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.

Alanna Taylor-Tobin's Stolen Granola with Extra Clumps
Alanna Taylor-Tobin's Stolen Granola with Extra Clumps

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.

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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!”

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.

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 Down with gummy clumps.
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).

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.

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

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Alanna Taylor-Tobin's Stolen Granola with Extra Clumps

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Makes 3 to 4 cups
  • 2 1/2 cups (1/2 pound) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) whole, raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) whole, raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup (2 ounces) light brown (or unrefined) sugar
  • zest of 1 small orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons / 3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (yes, 1 teaspoon)
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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 kristen@food52.com.