Thursday, November 02, 2006
Hi, I’m back after a long hiatus with an armload of new recipes and a determination to post them more frequently. Plus, thanks to the magic of Blogger Beta, the functionality of this site has increased exponentially—I’m now able to categorize posts by type of recipe, thereby giving you a more useful way to look at the archives and pick recipes you might like to make. And if you make them, please let me know, because that makes me happy! Unless you make them and hate them. Then keep it to yourselves.
So, granola. My mom got this recipe from a friend of hers and made it regularly while I was growing up. I ate it occasionally and liked it well enough, except that it was annoying to pick out all the pieces of dried fruit (not really a dried-fruit fan, especially when it interrupted the nice granola texture). Little did I know that it would completely spoil me for regular, store-bought granola, which, no matter what kind, always tastes wrong to me, different texture, different flavor (no cinnamon, please), too sweet. I eventually realized that if I wanted granola exactly the way I like it, I’d have to make it myself.
This is a really easy recipe, but the first time I made it was a complete failure. As in, I had to throw it away because it was inedible. I was so disappointed—I think it’s the first time I’ve ever had a recipe just plain not work. In retrospect, the disaster was a perfect storm of mistakes and bad conditions: I was trying to cut the recipe in half but did a bad job of it, so there was too much oatmeal and not enough liquid, and then I piled it too high on the baking sheets so it didn’t cook evenly, and I cooked two pans at a time so that in my tiny oven, one of them was always a few inches from the heat source, and then the recipe heat was a little higher and the cooking time a little longer than what was needed, and with one thing and another, the granola ended up burning. Have you ever smelled burnt oats? I don’t recommend it. The second time I made the recipe, it turned out edible, but still too browned. The third time was the charm—and every time since then it’s cooked up like a dream. I try to make it every few weeks, and I get happy when I wake up in the morning and know I have granola in the cupboard for breakfast. It’s a filling, healthy meal and you can make it exactly the way you like it. In fact, it may totally spoil you for store-bought cereals in general; I hardly ever buy them anymore, except as a stopgap measure when I'm too busy to make more granola (though I'll still admit an abiding fondness for Life, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Honey Bunches of Oats). With practice, it's really easy to make, and the prep time isn't long. Sure, it bakes for a while, but that makes it a good activity for an evening or a weekend afternoon, when you can watch TV, read, or clean while the granola bakes, stopping every 15 minutes to stir (having a good kitchen timer to remind you is helpful).
The recipe below is my personal version, adapted from the original recipe with my burning-avoidance modifications and personal preferences. Postscript, May 2008: A while ago, when I was throwing a fit about the cost and availability of quick-cooking oats (the Quaker kind is expensive and rarely on sale at my local chain grocery store, the cute little neighborhood co-op with 89-cent-per-pound bulk oats closed, and the behemoth Whole Foods that replaced it didn't carry quick oats in the bulk section, although they later added it upon my request), in a shocking twist of events my mother revealed that she actually uses regular rolled oats to make her granola, and has been doing so for years! I sampled her version during a recent visit to Minnesota, and had to admit it was pretty tasty, though I have yet to switch away from the quick oats myself. So I'm revising my recipe to give you a choice: if you want a chewier, coarser, more muesli-like version, go with the regular oats; if you prefer the oatmeal finer, a little more cooked, and more readily formed into clusters like those you might find in an ordinary breakfast cereal, go with the quick oats. (I will say that the quick-oat version is a bit easier to eat on a rushed morning, which may be why I haven't yet made the switch. That, and the fact that I feel a teeny obligation to buy the quick oats at Whole Foods, since they stock them just for me!)
1½ pounds quick-cooking or regular rolled oats
High-quality, flaked, unsweetened coconut to taste (I probably use about ½ cup, maybe a little more--oh, and I won't tell anyone if you use shredded and/or sweetened coconut)
1 cup chopped nuts and seeds (I use about half sliced almonds, one-third sunflower seeds, and the rest sesame seeds and flax seeds)
1 cup wheat germ (you could probably substitute flaxseed meal for some of the wheat germ; I've been meaning to start experimenting with this ever since I read somewhere that the human body doesn't usually break down whole flaxseeds enough to digest the Omega-3s in them--but still, I continue to use whole flaxseeds because I love the taste of them)
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup water
½ cup honey
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I ran out of vanilla and used almond extract once, which was also good)
A little cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg if you're feeling daring
Dried fruit as desired (I usually toss in a few handfuls of raisins and dried apricots)
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2. Combine rolled oats, coconut, nuts and seeds, and wheat germ in a very large bowl.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together oil, applesauce, water, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla (and spices, if desired). Pour over dry ingredients and mix well, using your hands to make sure all the dry ingredients get wetted (I squeeze the mixture in my hands a bit to make it clumpy, because I like the cluster effect in my granola).
4. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets with canola oil. Spread granola evenly over sheets in a thin layer. Bake until lightly browned, 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and cool. Add dried fruit as desired. Store in a Ziplock bag or tightly sealed container.
I haven't exactly measured how much this makes, but it's enough for me to eat it for breakfast for a week or two, and I eat fairly large portions because I'm freakishly hungry in the mornings.