We Tried It: Puffed Millet Granola
Meet your new favorite snack. (Bonus: It's gluten-free!)
I'm always a little bit skeptical about recipes that are making the rounds on the Internet. Can they really be THAT good? But when I realized that this puffed millet situation came from Gina Nalbone, the pastry chef at Sqirl in L.A., I knew I had to try it. Jessica Koslow, the awesome chef behind Sqirl is the real deal and I knew if she signed off on the recipe, chances were good that the recipe would be great. Behold the millet-y goodness!
Wait, puffed what?
Yep. You read that right. Millet. Like the little round stuff that's in birdseed. The teeny-weeny, gluten-free seed also happens to be a staple ingredient in Asia and Africa. Dried millet can be cooked as you would rice. Puffed millet is sold in bags at some supermarkets and health food stores (or buy it online) and is good for mixing into cereals or snack mixes—or for making this insanely delicious granola.
Before you get cooking, let's discuss this granola a little. It's not like your average oat-and-honey cluster. It's light and airy and super crunchy and flavored with honey and turmeric and cardamom and studded with nuts. Despite a couple of kinda sorta exotic flavors, it's still a crowd pleaser. I've made this recipe for family, friends, coworkers, and even whipped up multiple batches for a cooking class that I was teaching in Des Moines. All told, that's probably 125 people—ranging in age from 3 to 70-something and from all over the country—and I haven't seen anyone who didn't gobble this stuff right up.
Another note: You could put this granola on yogurt, but I think it's best eaten like a snack. I should also warn you that you're going to think that the batch is going to last for like a week and then 20 minutes later you'll find yourself covered in turmeric-coated puffed millet pellets with a nearly empty jar beside you. You've been warned.
Ok. Ok. But do I really have to buy puffed millet?
I think it's worth ordering puffed millet because the light, airy texture is great in this recipe and it looks super-cool, too.
However, because I love you (and I'm from a tiny town in southern Missouri where there isn't puffed millet for 300 miles in any direction) I also tried subbing in Rice Krispies for the millet. Guys, it worked! And it's DELICIOUS!! It's a little sweeter and crispier than the millet version, so it leans more in the dessert direction. Snack on it—or use it as an ice cream topper. Yummm!
My guess is that you could use almost any puffed grain cereal in this recipe. Just make sure that whatever you buy is just the puffed grain, rather than a ready-to-eat cereal blend that's been sweetened or otherwise seasoned. (NOTE: Arrowhead Mills is a widely distributed brand that has a lot of plain puffed grain options.)
A few quick lessons from the millet granola master.
I'm not prone to bragging, but I've now made this recipe about a dozen times, so I've learned a thing or two. The recipe isn't difficult, but these tips will help guarantee success.
Use the parchment.
The mixture is a little sticky before you bake it, so having the layer of parchment on the baking sheet ensures that the granola won't glue itself to the pan. If you don't have parchment, foil works just fine. You can also use a non-stick baking mat (like a Silpat), but know that the turmeric may stain the mat. (I learned this the hard way.)
Use a thermometer.
You need to take the butter and sugar/honey/molasses mixture to 250°. Any thermometer that goes this high will work. Sure, you can make it without a thermometer, but with recipes like this I find that being a bit precise will help you get consistent results. If you don't own a thermometer that goes up to 250°, I'd strongly suggest that you buy one. You can use it for everything from chicken roasting to candy making.
Keep an eye on it.
Every oven it different. I never burned the granola in my oven, but when I was using the oven at my in-law's house, a batch got overcooked. Check on the granola halfway through cooking and give it a stir, then use your nose. This stuff smells incredible when it's baking, so once your kitchen is filled with a toasty honey aroma, the granola is almost done. I've found that it's better to pull it from the oven a little sooner rather than a little later, so just keep an eye on it.