For anyone who’s been following along with chef Jessica Koslow and her beloved L.A. restaurant Sqirl—their oversized boats of ricotta toast with L.A.-only jam varietals; the cookbook that’s maybe even more of an art book—you won’t be surprised that her team has made our next cult granola.
Nor will you be surprised that Koslow launched the recipe (in full) in a photo on Instagram. Or that it has a kooky mouthful of a name (and ye shall be named: Turmeric Millet-nola!). Or that it was inspired by something nostalgic, then torn down and rebuilt into something entirely new.
Nonetheless, the rest will surprise you. And the result will change what you crave in your granola—airier, crispier, more warmly spiced. Here’s how they got there, led by pastry chef Gina Nalbone.
Their first trick is in ditching the oats completely for much lighter texture than you’re used to—Sqirl’s version is made from wee balls of puffed millet, but any puffed grain would work (both Arrowhead Mills and Nature’s Path brands make a lot of different ones).
Puffed rice is probably the easiest to find but corn, kamut, and quinoa are out there too (and all are sold in big bags online). Each grain puff brings its own unique, cartoonish shape and flavor to the party, and most—though not all—are gluten-free, if that’s important to you. Feel free to mix and match.
The second, even more enlightening move is in adding baking soda, which, when combined with a slightly acidic mix of wet ingredients heated to around 250° F, unleashes millions of tiny air bubbles and turns the mixture from a burbling deep brown to creamy and frothy. “The baking soda is there to help with texture and soften the whole,” Sqirl pastry chef Sasha Piligian told me. “So you aren’t biting into hard candy.”
Baking soda is responsible for the texture in lots of candies we love—it helps make the snap in peanut brittle; the powdery pockets in honeycomb candy; and, in the case of homemade caramel corn or Cracker Jack, the addictive gentle crunch with just enough softness you won’t hurt your teeth. This last one is where Nalbone and the Sqirl pastry team found their Millet-nola inspiration.
You might not think you should be allowed to—or really even want to—eat Cracker Jack for breakfast, but there are a few reasons it’s okay. There’s a relatively modest amount of sweetener relative to grains and nuts—the puffballs are just barely held together with the foamy caramel. Plus there are warm spices—turmeric, cardamom, a teaspoon of bittersweet molasses—and salt to balance it all out.
And if you use honey or brown rice syrup instead of harder-to-find glucose, you’re going down a delicious, less-refined sweetener path anyway. These days, after taking a month-long break from refined sugar, I’m pretty sensitive to overly sweet things, and this one doesn’t set off any alarm bells (compared to my usual store-bought granola, which now makes my head feel like circus music is playing at frat-party volume).
Also, who says it’s just for breakfast? Koslow’s #1 suggested use for it is as a snack (you will be very popular on all those road trips, plane rides, hikes, and treks to the beach you’re about to go on this summer if you bring your Millet-nola). At Sqirl, the pastry team has used it all over their desserts, as a topping for ice creams, cakes, donuts, and malabi, the milky, Middle Eastern pudding similar to panna cotta. Piligian is contemplating adding it to cookie dough.
Use it everywhere; make it often. Tweak the grains, the sweeteners, the nuts, the spices. Go buck wild. But I’ll warn you: The same thing that’s on the Cracker Jack box is even more true here. The more you eat the more you want.
- 4 1/2 cups (84g) puffed millet (or other puffed grains)
- 1/2 cup (60g) roughly chopped pecans
- 1/3 cup (40g) sliced almonds
- 1 3/4 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (75g) lightly packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (32g) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup (111g) glucose (or honey, brown rice syrup, or corn syrup)
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon teaspoon baking soda
Photos by Julia Gartland
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you to writer, cook, and former Food52 editor Caroline Lange for this one!