09 September 2013

Grape Nuts

 Some time ago, I was a boxed cereal stocker, but that stopped when I became more interested in baking. We've been living in our apartment for about a year now and I have never bought a box of cereal. I'm not saying this with any sort of snoot attached. I'm just more inclined to minimalism. A batch of muffins or scones stored in the freezer, grain-free or grain-ful, or a seasonal loaf bread that sits on the counter a few days, or a jar of granola in the cupboard for the week usually offer plenty quantity to fill out mornings on the breakfast front and negates going into the cereal aisle at all. But making a non-granola cereal has been on my radar for quite a bit because it just seems rather obviously doable if you have flours and an oven. The ingredients are pretty scant, and yet the whole thing connotes intimidation. These are things that factories and "experts" make. Well, it doesn't have to be that way.

I chose a rendition of Grape Nuts for this recipe because it's a simple start as there's no rolling or chilling involved. I toyed around with looking at a few recipe concepts before barely adapting an often passed around one that seemed like it countered the whole issue with why people don't often make their own cereal (at least me--other than granola). Admittedly, I'd originally intended to make the Graham Nuts recipe from Good to the Grain, which calls for both Graham and whole wheat flours, not just whole wheat, and involves a slightly different process of cooking, but in the end I opted for the time less spent (and nearly identical recipe list) with a slightly different technique in tow, and was quite pleased with the results regardless.

Do you know how grape nuts are made? While there are, of course, a few ways to go about making a cereal of this nature, it all comes down to a similar formula when you make it at home: you bake a "patty" (see photo at post's bottom) comprised of whole wheat flour, salt, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, buttermilk and vanilla. At this point you will not really want to be digging in because what emerges looks and feels rather odd (but it does smell delightfully nutty with notes of cinnamon). Respect process, people.

The smooth, cooked "wheat patty," which resembles a piece of whole wheat flat or pita bread, then gets cooled (essential), torn into pieces and simply ground in the food processor to your desired "nut size." It will be like you're pulsing torn bread into bread crumbs. I know, all this nomenclature of patties and nut size is not really milk for the foodie-artisinal sect, but bear with me. You then bake said ground up pieces of the patty again, so they dry out, cool and store them airtight. And that is it.

So, while Grape nuts are inherently "plain" on some level (ok- on most levels, the obvious one being they are not exactly snacking material outside the cereal and milk zone, like say, peanut butter cocoa puffs, granola clusters and the like), they make a great blank slate to be dressed with the milk of your choice, a little honey perhaps, and some sliced fruit. I love banana on them, and also apple (maybe because of the art on the store-bought box), or strawberries and raisins. It is a wonderfully Amish way to start the day, not to mention pretty low-maintenance. 

If you thought making your own cereal was not worth the effort and easily cancelled out by purchasing the $5 box, I suggest you try this. This particular recipe does not beg more than an hour of your time and can be made in advance, (it keeps a few weeks airtight). It's win-win; it's part of your complete breakfast.

Have a stellar week, everyone.

Notes: The recipe below made exactly a pint mason jar of cereal. If you'd like more at your service, feel free to increase it. Note that times may vary though with baking and are reflected in my recipe version. Make sure you smooth out the patty thinly, regardless.

And while we're on the topic of frugality, I'll note that I DIYed both the brown sugar (For a cup of each, use a ratio of 1 Tbsp molasses to 1 cup regular sugar) and buttermilk (1 Tbsp lemon juice to 1 cup milk and let it sit 10 minutes)

Homemade Grape Nuts
Barely adapted from All Recipes

3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (105 grams)
Scant 1/4 cup brown sugar (45-50 grams)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
1 tsp honey

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir buttermilk, vanilla and honey together, then pour into dry mix and mix well. Pour mixture into prepared baking sheet and spread evenly with a spatula.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until browned and firm, 20 minutes. Cool patty in the baking sheet for 10 minutes then remove and cool completely to the touch on a wire rack.
  4. Preheat oven to 275 degrees (I used 300 as that is my oven's lowest setting)
  5. Break cooked patty into chunks and put through food processor, in batches to give you nut sized crumbs. Pour crumbs over baking sheet.
  6. Bake in the oven until dry, stirring every 10 minutes, about 30-35 minutes. Allow crumbs to cool completely on the tray on a rack, and store in an airtight container.

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