Granola is a food increasing rapidly in popularity around the world both as ready-to-eat breakfast cereal and cereal bars. There are several drivers for the growth of granola including increasing awareness of the health benefits of oats (high fibre, slow energy release and gluten-free); the relentless growth of the cereal bar market while as a breakfast cereal it is quicker and more convenient than oatmeal (porridge)
New systems to produce baked granola cereal and bars have been developed by Baker Perkins to meet rising demand for these tasty, versatile products: granola has a truly global appeal and there are production plants in Asia, Europe and North America. Baking rather than conventional drying of granola is the central feature of these new lines: baking imparts better taste, appearance and texture than drying, markedly improving consumer appeal.
Granola consists of oats coated with oil and then sugar; the oil prevents sugar being absorbed by the oats before baking or drying. In the drying process oats do not have time to cook thoroughly, and much of the starch in the oats remains raw. Baking, on the other hand, ensures complete cooking of the oats which gives a softer texture and fuller flavour than drying.
Baking is a slower, more thorough process: baking temperature is much higher than drying giving improved control over caramelisation of the sugars and leading to greater depth of flavour.
The baked product is also more consistent than the dried alternative. Dried granola cereal tends to vary in size with large, tough clusters at the top of the bag, descending to fines or dust at the bottom. The characteristics of baked granola cereal are a consistent cluster size throughout, and a product that is softer and easier to eat.
Granola can be formed into a broad selection of appealing products. The basic mix can easily be enhanced with inclusions such as dried fruit, nuts, seeds, honey or chocolate chips to turn a cereal or bar into a luxury added-value product.
The healthy image of granola can be developed with the addition of minerals, vitamins and protein to provide good for you benefits. Foods high in protein and fibre are becoming mainstream as consumer diet awareness grows; cereals and bars are a convenient and palatable carrier for these beneficial products, and existing recipes can be easily augmented.
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