Friday, August 21, 2009

Crunchy granola (with "fluffy" okara)

At last Zoa reveals her true vegan colour: brown, and feeds into the vegan stereotype: crunchy granola. What's next? Lentil loaf? Brown rice casserole? I've had a few pretty good brown rice casseroles in my day, and I'm not promising never to post a lentil loaf recipe here, but on the whole I like my food colourful, fresh, and pretty. Granola is actually quite attractive, in a macro, golden-brown-palette kind of way (and yes, once I saw the photo, I did find and remove the whole sunflower seed w/shell). I keep this recipe in my private book under the "desserts" section…it makes about 8 cups, and a little goes a long way. It's adapted from this one, which is even more dessert-like.

One addition of mine is the use of oven-dried (sometimes called "fluffy") okara. The okara seems to absorb the oily sweetness of the wet ingredients and cooks up into crunchy delightful little nuggets—I love it. However, if you don't have any okara on hand, just leave it out, or substitute more nuts, and the recipe will be just as good.

These proportions are a guide, not etched in stone. Feel free to substitute, leave out, or add in, anything you wish. The important thing is that, after some mixing and stirring, the dry ingredients are not "dusty" but just slightly sticky and dampened by (but not swimming in, unless you're looking for a butter brickle type product and please don't get me started on that) the wet ones before you put it into the oven.

3 cups rolled oats
½ cup each chopped almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1-1 ½ cups oven-dried okara (see below)
½ cup canola oil
½ cup liquid sweetener (maple syrup, corn syrup, agave nectar, your choice)
1 cup raisins, or ½ cup each raisins and dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Stir together the rolled oats, nuts, coconut, and okara (if using).

Mix the canola oil with your liquid sweetener and add it to the dry ingredients, stirring until everything is well blended.
Turn the mixture out onto a large cookie sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, checking periodically and carefully turning once or twice, until the mixture is toasty, golden, and fragrant.

Scoop everything back into the bowl and add the raisins/cranberries. Stir well and let the whole thing cool, again stirring periodically. This cooling process can take some time, but be patient.

The original recipe says it will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for two weeks, but I generally put it into several smaller containers, freeze all but one, and keep that one in the refrigerator.

Oven-dried ("fluffy") okara

My okara gnocchi recipe calls for okara straight from the machine, but if you are planning to dry your okara in less than four hours, you need to squeeze as much moisture out of it as possible. I use large squares of old sheeting for this purpose, and let the okara cool until I can manipulate it without burning myself, then pour it onto a cloth square, wrap the edges up, and start twisting, until I get something like this:

Spread your thoroughly squeezed okara out in a cookie sheet or pan of some sort and put it into a 200F oven until it's quite dry, but not browned, stirring once or twice.

Mine takes about an hour to dry. I don't fuss about lumps and so on, as I like them in granola, but you can always run the finished product through a food processor if you want perfect crumbs for adding to baking, making Bryanna's okara parmesan, etc.

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