Cacao-Carob Clusters (+a vegan's guide to perfect granola clusters)

by - December 21, 2015

Whenever I buy a new packet of Granola (yes, buy. I can't make my own in uni because we don't have a kitchen) (yes, I know!), I pick out the massive clusters first until all I am left with is the itty bitty bits you cant really eat without a spoon.

And what's the fun in eating with a spoon?

Making my own granola is fab because I get to decide dictate what goes in it. Mum doesn't like it when there's cinnamon inside? Add cinnamon (defence mechanism). Store-bought never really has the correct seed/fruit:oat ratio, so I add disgusting amounts of pepitas and raisins. 

Only issue with homemade is that it really never is as clustery. Spoons are needed. Bleah.

I am very aware that granola is (usually) eaten on yogurt slash with milk and thus requires cutlery. But really eating it without a spoon with your hands cuts down on time and effort and you can do it in a lecture/ on your way to a lecture / back from a lecture /in bed. 

So really, for convenience' sake, I am going to help you out here.

Google 'how to make cluster-y granola and you get a lot of answers. The most popular, and perhaps most successful, of which involves using an egg white as a binder to clump it all up. I have actually tried this egg-white-cluster-magic before, back when I ate eggs. 

But now I don't. So you see my problem.

After fiddling about in the kitchen for a bit, making granola almost every other day (I do this normally, I seem to eat granola in my sleep #nootherexplanation) I have figured out a couple of things that work some plant based cluster magic

1. Flaxseed egg as a binder - wait, won't that be too wet? A flaxseed egg has a whole lot more water in it than one egg white. But it works. I actually read somewhere that a little extra moisture (ick hate that word but HAD to) adds to the clumping potential. Hurrah. 

2. Rice flour. If you don't have rice flour you can simply take some of the oats you are using, blend them up into a flour and pour it back into the mixture. 

3. Dry it low and slow with minimal 'oh-let-me-stir-this-about-with-my-spatula-to-get-even-browning'. Yes, this comes with its risks (read: burnt edges and lots of soggy oats in the middle of the tray) but if you set the temperature right and keep an eye on it you should be able to get away with it. You can still stir it about if it seems to be cooking too much at the corners. But instead of taking your spatula to the tray like a witch stirs a cauldron (if you will), use it to pick up large batches of granola at once and flip it about, like you're shovelling it.

4. Use a smaller tray so you can pack it all in

This obviously applies to any granola recipe you have, so you can clusterify your favourite recipe and any one already on my blog. But here is a new cacao-carob recipe because, as I said, I make granola almost 3 times a week and I have ample recipe-brainstorming opportunities. 

Cacao Carob Clusters

1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax and 3 tbsp water, stirred and left to sit until thick and egg-white like) (you can use 1 tbsp ground chia as a substitute)
1 1/2 cups granola
1/2 cup raw quinoa
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 tbsp cacao/cocoa powder
2 tbsp rice flour
1 tbsp carob powder
4 tbsp rice malt syrup
6 tbsp maple syrup (or more rice malt)
1/4 cup chia seeds (I use organic burst!)
1 tbsp maca, optional
pinch of salt

Preheat an oven to 180C and line a medium to small baking tray with foil or parchment paper. Toss all the ingredients together and mix to stir well until everything is evenly coated and distributed. Pack it all into your prepared tray, pressing down on it and making it into an even layer. Place it in the oven for 16-20 minutes, keeping an eye on it towards the end to make sure the edges do not burn. If they do seem to be browning too quickly, remove it from the oven, flip it about whiel taking care nto to break it up too much, then put it back to dry out some more. Let it cool, and it will crisp up a lot more, before storing it in an air-tight jar.

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