Oh, I forgot the most important part. According to most granola recipes, you can be 1 and 3, or 2 and 4—but you can’t be 1 and 4. Why? That’s not fair! And you’re right, it’s not. Just think about a nut brittle recipe. What binds all those nuts together, into an almost indestructible bar? Sugar. The same applies to granola (and granola bars). Sugar—be it granulated white or brown, or syrupy like honey or maple—acts as a binder, creating oats that group instead of separate.
So, what to do if you like clustery, not-so-sweet granola? Give up. Just kidding—of course there’s another way. While our Cookbook Club is totally smitten with Deb Perelman’s second book, I’m still digging up clever tricks from her first one. Such as:
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“Over the years, I’ve dialed back the sugar further and further, and still found the granola perfectly sweet,” Deb writes. “And for the biggest clusters? An egg white. Nothing ‘glues’ like protein.”
Figure 1 large egg white for a batch of granola with 5 to 6 cups dry ingredients (so, oats, nuts, coconut flakes, etc.). Whisk with a fork until frothy, then stir in at the end, after you’ve combined your dry and wet ingredients (so, sweeteners, like honey, and fats, like olive oil). This not only yields a cluster-friendly granola, but a delightfully crisp one. Much like roasted nuts that were coated with egg white first end up way crispier than those roasted without.
A few other bonus ways to yield A+ clusters: Use brown rice syrup as a sweetener (a trick I learned from Gena Hamshaw). Don’t toss the granola mid-bake, and let it cool completely before breaking into clumps. Bake the granola with a sheet pan sandwiched on top. Or, better yet, all of the above.
What are your clumpy granola secrets? Spill ’em in the comments below!
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing stories about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. She now lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, which is all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.