When I was growing up, I used to experiment in the kitchen. I experimented everywhere really, now that I think of it. I would pull things apart (old telephones and radios and such) and put them back together just to see how they worked. I once built a crude transformer (the robot car not the electrical device) out of Legos. I taught myself how to use computers by double-clicking on every file on the computer to see what it did.
The kitchen was no different. I learned some basics by working alongside my mom on lots of recipes, but I obviously didn’t learn everything. There were some mishaps, but one in particular comes to mind. I remember making a cake using what I had on hand. It was a lemon cinnamon cake, a bold flavor mixture to be sure. But what really made it stand out was the texture. It came out as a dense, rubbery mess. Fascinating, but inedible. I think where I went wrong was not knowing the right proportions to use as far as solids, liquids, fats, and leavening. I’m pretty sure I used baking soda and baking powder in it, but I couldn’t tell you how much.
Experimenting was totally fun, whether it worked out or not. I don’t always get to experiment as much these days, but baking is one place where I can. This recipe was a bit of an experiment. It was also a “use what you have on hand” or “clean out the pantry” type of recipe. I wanted to try to make something new. And I wanted to use up a bunch of oats, pretzel M&M’s, and various bits and bobs of chocolate (leftover from previous recipes).
I came up with the idea for oatmeal crusted brownies. The chocolate crusted banana blondies served as inspiration. I thought I would make a crust with the oats and M&M’s and put it on a regular brownie. So I used the brownie part of the pretzel toffee brownies, and I used the aforementioned blondie recipe for rough numbers/instructions on how to put the crust together.
I lightly ground the oats in the food processor to make them more like quick oats. Then I did the same with the M&M’s, but more so, as they were bigger to begin with. I made sure the total volume was the same as the crust in the original recipe. Unfortunately, I didn’t take good notes while I was making it, but the prep I had done ahead of time suggested that I used 2 cups of oats and 1 cup of M&M’s. I mixed the two together (along with the butter, brown sugar, and salt) and baked the crust per the original recipe.
Once that was done, I made the brownies following the instructions from that recipe. (One thing I do differently is I just melt the chocolate in the microwave. You do it for short bursts, mixing and checking each time.) Then I poured it over the crust and baked it. I thought about putting stuff on top, but I figured the crust had enough stuff in it.
I was originally going to call them “oatmeal and pretzel M&M crusted brownies”. But then I would have put people to sleep by the time I finished saying the name. Thankfully I settled on “granola brownies”. Partially because it’s shorter and easier to say, but more importantly, they taste kinda like granola. You can definitely taste the oats, but you only get a hint of the M&M’s.
If I had originally set out to make granola brownies, I probably would have gone about it differently. I would have used different ingredients and possibly constructed it differently. So now that I stumbled upon them, I may have to put some thought into the recipe and try again.
I may also try making these again but differently. One thought I had was to use less oats, grind them up a bit more, and then add in some other flour. This way I could make them oaty without having the oats be overpowering. Another thought I had was to grind up the M&M’s less, so their flavor would be more pronounced. Also worth considering is making a crumble with the oats and M&M’s and sprinkling it on top.
Why so much effort into re-imagining them? Well, the reaction to them was mixed. People generally really liked the brownie. This makes sense, as I’ve used this brownie recipe before, and it’s awesome. But the granola part didn’t go over as well. I really liked that part of it, but others not as much. I don’t think anyone hated the oats, but they didn’t really do anything for most people, so they were just kind of in the way. And who wants to have something in the way when you’re enjoying dessert?
So, lots to ponder here as to how to redo these. If anyone has any other thoughts, ideas, or suggestions, I’d love to hear them. And if you have any of your own experimental recipes/stories that you want to share, please do!
Granola crust adapted from this recipe from The New York Times.