Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The homemade granola brick failure: it's hard to be a hippy.

Sunday afternoon, we decided to try making homemade granola bars at my parents’ house. I found this recipe, adapted from another recipe, by the very funny author of Meats, Roots, and Leaves—a food blog. I encourage you to read his post, as it’s very witty in a very short number of words. And somehow, because the post was short, and he was relateable, I got it in my head that I could pull off this recipe.


We followed the instructions carefully. In a moment of brilliance at Bulk Barn, when we were buying our ingredients, I grabbed a measuring cup off the rack of ones for sale, and measured each thing as we went so we wouldn’t have too much or too little. As big granola bar munchers, we were curious to see how the price compared for homemade vs. store-bought. Our only difficulty was in measuring the honey: it was sold by weight (grams) but the recipe measured it in volume (cups). I Googled the rough conversion on my smartphone, and bought what appeared to be just enough or slightly more than needed.

Berry and chocolate chip mix.
At my parents’ house, my mom was excited to try the recipe, as she’s really into oats. I don’t know if she realizes this yet, but when oats are involved, she’s right on board. I read the recipe out to everyone, and Mom and Brian carefully measured out each amount into two separate mixing bowls. We could have done a simple combined double-batch, but Brian insisted we put white chocolate chips in ours, and Mom only wanted fruit. I figured a handful of chips wasn’t a big compromise: if Brian is eating a bar made of whole foods and healthy sugar levels, I’m okay with him adding a little cheat into the mix, though it did feel like we’d sort of ruined the whole point of making these things homemade. Ah, well.

We started off baking the oats, sunflower seeds, and almonds in our two CorningWare baking thingies, stirring every 3 minutes. I thought this seemed redundant, but later when we tasted our final product, it was totally worth it. We also used Mexican vanilla; we learned about this vanilla when we travelled to Mexico one time, and it is now something we ask friends to bring back for us. It has a rich, almost creamy flavour and makes everything ten times yummier. I don’t know if it technically matters, but the brand we get is Los Cinco Soles.


Anyway, after melting the honey/butter/sugar mixture on the stove top, pouring it over the dry mixture, and mixing it all together, we baked the trays for the suggested 25 minutes. Mom and I then tried to sample our wares but found that they were crumbling into granola flakes; this is when Brian found us, swatted our hands, and said that the directions clearly stated the bars must cool. Unfortunately, between the honey and the density, the bars were still warm after dinner, and we ended up taking home our tray to cool in the fridge overnight. 


And how did they turn out? Well, let me tell you. I woke up the next morning briefly, when Brian got out of bed at 6am for school…I get to sleep in ‘til 7:00. I usually rouse just enough to notice he’s getting up, then roll back over for another hour of dead-to-the-world sleep. This morning, however, was going to play out a little differently. A few minutes after Brian headed downstairs, I heard a strange scraping sound, which I assessed as being the sound of someone scraping the ice off a windshield; I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. But the sound kept up, scriss, scriss, scriss, making it impossible to doze. I lay there, half under,  not sure what to do, until the sound changed to scrack! Scrack! Scrack!, like the sound of someone whacking something brittle. “Brian?” I called, “What are you doing???” “I’m trying to cut the granola bars!” he hollered. “Give it up!” I said, and he grumbled but stopped his hacking. A few minutes later, after he’d left and I heard the door lock, I closed my eyes for my last 45 minutes of sleep, only to hear our pug Mr Darcy downstairs, licking furiously at something. 

When Mr Darcy licks—which he does constantly, licking the air, the floor, his nose, or his feet; or if you’re lucky, after picking his ears with his back paw, you may catch him sniffing his earwaxy toenails like a connoisseur before licking each one clean—he licks long, hard, and loud. Usually if I yell at him, he snaps out of it, looking startled and nonplussed; but this morning, he refused to stop. Forty-five minutes of incessant licking later, with no extra sleep for me, I climbed out of bed and headed downstairs. What I found explained everything. There was the hacked-at dish of granola bars: Brian had made a valiant effort to saw through the mess, but had succeeded only in dislodging chips and small layers of the concoction, most of which went spraying across the kitchen. Naturally, this is what had kept Darcy busy all morning: he had been meticulously and joyously licking up each and every oat, almond, and sunflower seed off the floor.

At least I didn’t have to sweep, though mopping up the pug drool seemed a non-negotiable.

Mom: always cleans up ASAP.
We’ve been eating the ‘bars’ as chips and chunks, or like this morning, when I poured a handful of the loosened flakes over my yogurt and blueberries. It’s still a filling, tasty snack, regardless of whether you can carry it in your hand or must employ a sandwich baggie when travelling. The tray would have yielded about 20 bars, and we made 2 trays…so that’s 40 bars for $23.00. If we were buying the premade bars of equal nutritional value, 40 of them would have cost us about 35.00, so there’s a savings there, no doubt paid for in time. (Certainly, I would have paid someone the extra $12.00 to reclaim my hour of morning sleep.) But what can’t be beat is the incredibly delicious flavour. I really don’t like the majority of granola bars on the market, but this stuff we made tastes like really crunchy blueberry crumble.

Mom and me!
I had to laugh, however, when my mom texted me the following day and said, “Did you manage to cut up your squares?” When I wrote back no, she ‘LOL’d and pointed out that homemade granola was still a tasty treat. I’m not sure what exactly we did wrong; I suspect my honey measurements were wrong and we needed way more, or we should have greased the pans better, or perhaps Mom’s oven, a notorious over-cooker, just was too hot. My best friend MJ recommended we line the tray with waxed paper next time, but I pointed out that that only would have allowed us to remove the entire brick in one motion, providing us, in the end, with nothing better than a home protection device with which to brain an intruder.

It was a good recipe, but I feel we’ve failed at becoming new-age hippies. Which is too bad, because I really want dreadlocks.

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