Granola goodness

I hope I convinced you last time that it’s a cinch to make your own vanilla extract. That got me thinking about other storebought items that are almost as easily, and more deliciously, made at home. One of the first things that came to my mind was granola. Yes, really.

I’m not saying it’s as easy as vanilla, people. I’m not completely delusional. But as Gordon Ramsay would say: Toss. Pour. Mix. Bake. Done. That’s granola for you.

Always onto a hot new recipe before I am, my sister Ele introduced me to Mark Bittman’s granola last fall. I am a big fan of Mark. He inspires Nigel-like feelings in my entire family (though I know not everyone shares these sentiments).

Still, I was skeptical. Why? Because the recipe contains no oil. I’ve always believed that granola is so delicious (and so erroneously thought by many to be a health food) because it contains lots of delicious fat. Well, Mark showed me. You do not miss the oil in this recipe. And if you keep the sweetener to a minimum, you have that rare beast: a genuinely healthy granola.

I don’t put too much stock in the exact quantities called for. If you like nuts, use more nuts. If you’re a fruity sort like me, up the fruit quantity. The beauty of this recipe is that it is endlessly adaptable. In fact, my sister made two batches for my dad as a special Christmas gift: Apricot-Sunflower Seed-Brown Sugar and Almond-Cranberry-Vanilla-Maple. The latter version people go nuts for. By the time I departed my parents’ house in the new year, my dad’s gift had been one third depleted by yours truly.

Before you bake, a couple of tips:

  1. The first time I made this I used a metal roasting tin and I ended up with a blackened, charred mess. Then Ele told me to try my cast iron casserole, which fixed the problem. If you’ve got an unreliable oven make sure you bake this in something heavy duty or keep a keen eye on the temperature.
  2. If you use brown sugar or another dry sweetener, be sure to add some liquid too, otherwise it won’t coat the granola properly. I am thinking apple juice or, for the most neutral flavour, a small amount of vegetable oil.

This time around I used maple syrup, almonds, cranberries, coconut, sesame seeds and a splash of vanilla extract plus a scrape of vanilla seeds. Ta da! Your very own gourmet granola. You could seriously go into business with this stuff.

Crunchy Granola
Recipe from Mark Bittman in the New York Times

Recipe is easily doubled or halved. You can use any nuts, seeds, dried fruit and flavourings you like.

6 cups rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
2 cups mixed nuts and seeds
1 cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut, optional
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 cup honey or maple syrup or brown sugar, or to taste
1 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit

Preheat oven to 350F / 176C. In a bowl combine everything except the dried fruit.

Place mixture on a cookie sheet or in a heavy duty roasting tray and bake for 30 minutes or a little longer, stirring occasionally. The mixture should be evenly brown; the browner it gets without burning, the crunchier the granola will be.

Remove tray from oven and add dried fruit. Cool on a rack, stirring once in a while until granola reaches room temperature. Transfer to a sealed container and store in fridge, where it will keep indefinitely.