It may sound strange to you, but in my brain, there’s not anything especially unusual about coming up with a recipe. It’s sort of like deciding which way to drive through a neighborhood in a new city: I see my options, and I choose. I might drive on the sidewalk every now and then, and there are the invariable wrong turns, but it’s still just driving.
Then, once in a while, I come across an ingredient that takes me a little outside my comfort zone. That’s what I love about the cookbook I’m working on right now, Pike Place Market Recipes. About half the recipes are mine, inspired by the market’s shops, and the rest come from restaurateurs and purveyors there – and in general, these days, they’re the ones bringing new foods into my life.
Last week, I cooked with malt for the first time. I was testing a Reuben recipe from The Pike Brewing Company. The concept is simple: You take a corned beef brisket, braise it in beer, then smother it in malt syrup, an ingredient used to make some beers, and roast it again until the syrup caramelizes into a thick, glossy sheen on the beef. The resulting sandwich is unusual: rich, salty, and tinged with an earthy, sweet flavor not intrinsic to your typical Reuben.
Walking into a brewing supply store and saying you’d like to buy a cup of malt is like asking a fire truck for a drink from its hose. Somehow, when I went last week, I envisioned it sounding more normal to ask for two cups. The guys at the counter at the store near me stared at me anyway, gobsmacked by the concept of putting malt into anything but a giant plastic vat, but eventually we found a suitable container and the malt wound its way home to my kitchen. And resting on the counter, after four of us had downed an entire brisket’s worth of beef in one meal, was exactly one cup of leftover malt syrup.
Malt is the best way to convince non-beer drinkers that beer is a good thing. Dip a finger in, and it comes out coated with something akin to honey but more full-bodied. It’s sweet without being sugary, earthy without tasting like earth. It’s what honey might taste like if it was made by warthogs, instead of bees. And it’s a darn good substitute for honey in homemade granola.
This cookbook thing? It makes for busy days, that’s for sure. But it sure is a delicious ride.
Malted Millet Granola
Okay fine, you win: this is a strange-sounding granola. But think about it: Malt, the syrup derived from grain (often barley) that gives beer its sweetness, has been used as a sweetener for centuries. Why not use it in place of honey or maple syrup? I made this granola with breakfast in mind, but patted one batch into an even 1/2” layer and didn’t stir it as it cooked. The result? Well-packed granola chunks perfect for snacking.
You can buy malt syrup at any good brewing supply store.
TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: About 15 loose cups granola
1 cup golden malt syrup
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 18-ounce container (6 1/2 cups) old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup raw millet
3/4 cup sliced almonds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats, and set aside.
Combine the malt syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the honey mixture, and stir to blend. Divide the granola between the two baking sheets, spreading it into an even layer on each sheet, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring the granola after 15 minutes (and every 5 minutes thereafter) and rotating sheets top to bottom and back to front halfway through. The granola is done when it’s uniformly golden brown. (Note: The malt caramelizes quickly, so once the granola starts to brown on the bottom, watch it carefully and stir when it starts to brown.)
Let the granola cool to room temperature on the baking sheets. Break apart and store in an airtight container.