Serious Eats

Smitten Kitchen's Big Cluster Maple Granola

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[Photograph: Deb Perelman]

I've been making my own granola since I moved out of my parent's house and realized store-bought cereal that isn't full of corn syrup and soybean oil is pretty expensive. Most of these experiments in home cereal-making have been tasty ones, but they rarely produce crunchy clusters without a heavy hand of sugar.

However, in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb Perelman presents an easy solution: egg whites.

As she writes in the recipe headnote, "Nothing glues like protein." Indeed, this granola was the most well-clustered I've ever produced in my kitchen. The toasted wheat germ adds a boost of nuttiness (and nutrition) while also helping the oats bind together. Since the rest of the ingredients—oats, walnuts, coconut, dried fruit—are fairly typical in granola, it is absolutely the egg white that takes this cereal over the top.

Why I picked this recipe: The promise of big clusters and hearty crunch with a (relatively) small amount of sugar was too tempting to pass up. Also, I was out of cereal.

What worked: Exactly as promised, this granola baked up in generous clusters with just a hint of maple-y sweetness.

What didn't: If you use a dark baking pan as I did, be sure to decrease the baking time by 5-10 minutes. Mine emerged just shy of burnt after the full 50 minutes. I also found 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit to be a little excessive, ratio-wise, so I scaled back to just 1 cup.

Suggested tweaks: While it is easy to tweak mix-ins and sugar levels to suit your taste (and since the clusters aren't dependent on sugar, you can certainly play with that), I'd stick to the same ratio of oats to nuts. If you want to make this gluten-free, you could absolutely cut out the wheat germ and use gluten-free oats.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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