And it also feels a little funny when I think that my last entry here was about granola (and muesli), because it is precisely what I am going to write about today. Yes, granola. Not your usual granola though, it's matcha granola. Yes, us Japanese never cease to find a new, less exploited way of using our beloved matcha in.
The idea of using matcha in granola has been in my mind for some time, but I never had a chance to actually have a stab at it. Then over the New Year's, I was eating a slice or three of matcha stollen with candied chestnuts that a friend of mine had baked for me, and decided that it was about time I got down to this matcha granola business, perhaps with some chestnuts thrown in the mix. It was partly because I was at my sister's in Tokyo, where I had hardly any baking supplies to use; granola would be one of the few things I could throw together there.
First I did a bit of research (i.e. googling 'matcha granola'), and found a couple of recipes both in Japanese and in English. I went for this one (in Japanese) for matcha chestnut granola as a starting point, adding a bit of tweaking here and there.
The recipe makes a point that you should cook your oats and nuts at a very low temp so the matcha would not lose too much of its striking flavor and color, and that you add your dried fruits after the oats etc. have been cooked and removed from the oven, which is something I tend to do with any granola recipe. I stuck to these points, then brought it a bit further by sort of dry-frying my oats first, before I throw in other ingredients and add powdered matcha. This way, you can reduce the time for the matcha to be heated in the oven, which should help preserve its bright color and flavor in the finished granola.
As other ingredients, I used white sesame seeds (included in the original recipe - good match for matcha), macadamia nuts (because I preferred mild-tasting nuts for this), pistachios (for the color), pumpkin seeds (ditto), green sultanas (ditto), and a mixture of berries - dried cranberries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, and red raisins.
Tenshin Amaguri, or 'Tianjin-style' sweet roasted chestnuts which we have in common in Japan as a snack, as suggested in the recipe. Along came a good handful of chunks or matcha chocolate, which was my idea - or more precisely, my riff on the lovely Kerrin's idea; you see, once you have started adding chocolate chunks to your granola, it's hard to go back.
My first batch came out fine, not too bad for a first try - but not excellent, either. I tasted a bitterness, which I guessed was due to the fact that I had, rather foolishly, used pre-toasted sesame seeds. And I didn't like the noticeable tartness of cranberries in this particular mix; I found it clash the flavor of matcha. I also found the taste of honey, my choice of sweetener, slightly off too. The addition of matcha chocolate, meanwhile, was a huge hit and well made up for all the other shortcomings of the whole thing.
On my next try, I made sure I used raw sesame seeds to begin with, ditched dried cranberries, and replaced honey with maple syrup, as the original recipe does so. I didn't change the part of par-baking the oats first.
This time the granola came out beautifully, just as bright in color and flavor as the first batch, not a hint of distracting bitterness or tartness.
Both the kuromame and sweet potato cubes are fairly sweet, but they worked nicely in the not-too-sweet granola. They are probably both hard to find outside of Japan, though, but I assure you that the granola tasted great without kuromame, sweet potato, or even chestnuts.
I tried and throw some crashed freeze-dried raspberries into the white choc batch, and loved it too. They added such an electric touch to the otherwise mild-colored and -flavored granola I think.
Instagram, I'm writing it up here. I've only made it twice and cannot say it's perfect, but perhaps you could start from here and adjust it to your liking.
2 cups rolled oats
1 heaping cup mixed nuts and seeds (I used macadamias, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds), roughly chopped
1/3 cup white sesame seeds, untoasted
2 Tbs powdered matcha, plus more for finishing
2-3 Tbs vegetable oil, preferably a neutral-tasting kind
4-5 Tbs maple syrup
a pinch of salt
1 heaping cup mixed dried fruits (I used green sultanas, dried raspberries, currants, blueberries, red raisins... not cranberries!)
1/2 cup matcha chocolate, chopped (optional, but highly recommended; substitute with white or dark chocolate if unavailable)
1 cup Tenshin amaguri roasted chestnuts, chopped (optional; may be substituted with candied chestnuts but in a smaller amount)
Preheat the oven to 120C/250F. Line the baking sheet with parchment.
Spread the rolled oats over the lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice along the way. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven on.
Tip the par-cooked oats into a large bowl, and mix in the chopped nuts and seeds. Add the matcha and toss, so that the whole thing is evenly covered with the powdered tea. Add the oil, then maple syrup and salt, and mix thoroughly.
Spread the mixture back onto the lined baking sheet, and cook for 20-30 minutes, until dry but not browned, stirring once or twice along the way.
Remove from oven. Add the dried fruits and a good sprinkle of matcha, and stir well. Let cool completely before adding the chopped chocolate. Add the chopped amaguri chestnuts just before serving if using. Serve with milk and fresh berries, if desired.
Recipe adapted loosely from this.