I like things that crunch. In the Fall, I’ll go out of my way to step on the dried leaves…I love hearing that satisfying crunch underfoot. And if the leaf doesn’t crunch, I’m disappointed. The worst are those leaves that look perfectly crunchy, only to have them either disintegrate without a sound or kind of mush up. Harumph!
I also like crunchy foods. Let me rephrase that…I like texture contrasts in food, like nuts in brownies or chocolate chips in ice cream, something I can chew on. I do like crunchy foods solo, like potato chips, but it has to be the right kind of crunch…not so hard that it echoes around in your head like you’re shaking gravel in a can, or not so soft that you might as well be chewing a piece of paper (or your cereal has gone all soggy in the milk…you know what I mean?).
When I talk about crunchy foods that can hold their texture when mixed into something else, the best example is the granola I mix into my morning yogurt (a mixture of plain Greek yogurt, fruit (usually blueberries and/or bananas), some granola, and occasionally a sweetener like maple syrup). Granola is one of those “Goldilocks” foods…it can be plywood hard or leather soft, neither of which are what I want in my morning parfait. No, I want nuggets and pieces of flavor and texture, something to contrast with the creamy yogurt and soft fruit. Something to chew on. So when I came across the recipe for Granola Bark I found on the Smitten Kitchen, I knew I had to try it.
This recipe is highly adaptable to what I have on hand and the texture is that perfect crunch of a granola bar that is just ready to crumble into pieces of nuts, seeds, and toasted oats. I’m not a fan of coconut, so I leave it out and just increase the chopped almonds and seeds by a bit. I like the flavor of maple syrup, so I generally use it without the honey. I’ve made the Bark once with melted butter and once with canola oil, and the oil actually was better because the other flavors were able to shine a bit more. The egg white is crucial…that’s what binds the mixture and gives that wonderful crunchy texture. Using egg whites from a carton works quite well, and no yolk to mess with.
Let’s see how it’s done…
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup, honey or half of each
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) coconut or brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (but I skipped this)
- 3 cups (300 grams) rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
- 1 1/4 cups (175 grams) almonds, chopped
- 1 1/4 cups (60 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup (80 grams) flax seeds or chia seeds, whole or ground
- 1/4 cup (35 grams) sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup (60 grams) almond or hazelnut flour
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive, vegetable or coconut oil, or melted butter
- 1 large egg white, whisked until frothy
- Combine maple syrup, sugar, water, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm.
- Meanwhile combine cinnamon (if using), oats, almonds, coconut, seeds, almond or hazelnut flour in a large bowl.
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed half-sheet (13×18-inch) pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Once liquid mixture is back to room temperature, whisk in olive oil, which will cool it further, then egg white. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well.
- Spread mixture evenly across the prepared baking sheet. Press down firmly to compact it before baking, using another same-size baking sheet or the bottom of a pot. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until dark golden brown, rotating the sheet every 15 minutes to promote even browning. While it bakes, open the oven door a few times to release steam.
- Set on a cooling rack until surface of granola is crisp. Leave oven on. If surface is still tacky to the touch once it has cooled — although I didn’t find this at all — return the pan to the oven and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes. Don’t let it get too dark or it tastes bitter.
- Once totally cool, break into pieces in store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, or in the fridge up to 1 month.
As I mentioned above, this recipe is receptive to alterations…this last time I substituted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for the sesame seeds, and I added dried blueberries to add a bit of chewiness which worked quite well. Leave a comment if you try this recipe, and let me know how you adapted it. I do have to caution you…the Granola Bark is highly addictive! I can and do eat it out of hand, either as I’m breaking it up or straight from the refrigerator. It’s hard to stop, it’s that good! Consider yourself warned…
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!