Some days, you wake up wanting something crunchy and sweet. Specifically, you want granola. But it's a different kind of granola you crave: not the dense, how-did-I-become-so-full-on-a-mere-handful oat-y pellets, but something a little...airier. Something you can chomp on endlessly, by scoops and bounds rather than timid one-fourth-cup-fuls. Something that's tasty and healthy-ish and good.
I present to you the easiest, lightest riff on granola that you will ever make. No baking. No toasting. No roasting. Vegan. Vegetarian. Gluten Free. Five simple ingredients, although you can jazz it up with more if you want. All you need to add is a serious craving and a spoon.
I call it "granola on a cloud" for two reasons. First, you just might feel like you're floating in bliss when you're eating this. And also because the "genius" ingredient - puffed rice - makes it taste like what air might taste like, if it were caramelized and crunchy and in your breakfast cereal.
As always, my basic recipe leaves a lot of room for customization and creativity. You can put your own chef-genius stamp on it - add crushed fennel seeds, a dollop of pomegranate molasses, dried blueberries, chopped pistachios, flax seeds. Or you can just let the flavors of a simple triad - brown rice syrup, honey, coconut oil - sing to the granola cloud like cherubic angels.
And the best part? Even when you've found that you've demolished nearly two bowls of cloudlike bliss in one sitting, you'll still have room for lunch.
- For the puffed rice, I used Arrowhead Mills Puffed Brown Rice cereal. You can use any puffed grain, such as kamut, corn, millet, or Kashi's puffed wheat. Make sure it's unsweetened, and puffed as opposed to toasted (i.e. not Rice Krispies-style cereal. That might create something tasty, but won't give you the "cloud" effect of this recipe).
- Brown rice syrup is what gives the granola binding power without making it sticky-sweet. When you add the hint of honey and coconut sugar, it takes on a unique caramelized flavor. If you don't have these ingredients, use agave nectar or maple syrup with brown sugar; you may need to reduce the amount by a couple of tablespoons (agave is sweeter than the rice syrup).
- Feel free to adjust sweetness to taste. More syrup means it'll be stickier. The final product takes on its crunchy-sticky quality almost immediately upon cooling, and tastes equally good piping hot - or a day or two later. (If it lasts that long!) —Macedoine
Heat up a sturdy, large saucepan and melt the coconut oil on low heat. Add the brown rice syrup, honey, coconut sugar (or brown sugar), vanilla extract and salt. Stir. Add seeds/nuts, if using, and any other stir-ins you want.
Add the puffed rice cereal to the saucepan (still on low heat). Mix with wooden ladle until decently coated. Note that not all the puffed rice will be drenched in syrup - syrup weighs down clouds! But don't worry, it's still gonna be good. (And if it isn't, just add more syrup to your taste and stir away. No-one will judge!)
Remove from stove and transfer immediately to a bowl or plate. Let cool before breaking into chunks (if you can wait until it cools!). Store in airtight container.