granola mason jar

Nutty fruity granola

24 June 2011

As a native Californian, I can’t believe I only just learned to make granola. After all, to much of the country California is the very definition of granola: nutty and fruity. But those that would dismiss granola as leftie health food haven’t discovered the sweet, nutty, vanilla-scented crunch of homemade granola. I think if we could get everyone to try this outrageously good granola, we might finally have world peace.

Commercial cereal is a fundamentally poor value proposition – pay a little for food, a lot for packaging and advertising, and start your day with low-quality grain, high amounts of sugar and generous doses of artificial flavoring and coloring. Granola is a radically different take on cereal – take high quality grain (whole rolled oats) add real food with real flavor (honey, maple syrup, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, spices, vanilla).

Granola takes so little time and effort to make – pour in a few ingredients, mix and stick it in the oven – and its many benefits can be enjoyed for weeks: cereal, yogurt parfait, trail mix, dessert topping. It serves as a nutritious breakfast, a light lunch, a satisfying snack. It keeps indefinitely and travels well – take it on the plane, keep it in your office drawer, carry a stash in your bag.

Best of all, with homemade granola you can ditch the processed fats and sweeteners of commercial versions and mix and match the ingredients you like best. Blueberry-pecan-nutmeg? Cherry-almond-vanilla? Apricot-ginger-walnut? Or old fashioned cinnamon-raisin? All of the above, please.

For recovering commercial cereal junkies, go ahead and add chocolate chips, or peanut butter chips, or cinnamon chips. Make it as decadent as you like, and it’ll still be better than the stuff in the box.

I’ll show you how easy it is to choose your own granola adventure. Start with oats.

Add your favorite combination of nuts and seeds. Here I have slivered almonds, sunflower seeds and walnuts. High on crunch, low on nuttiness, I find slivered almonds and sunflower seeds to be the least offensive to the kids; I add the walnuts for me. Brown sugar also goes in with the dry ingredients, and you can also add any spices you like (eg cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg).

Some liquid sweetener (maple syrup here; you may like honey, brown rice syrup or agave nectar) and melted or liquid fat. I love extra virgin coconut oil in granola, which gives a deliciously tropical aroma and flavor. You may prefer the savory depth of extra virgin olive oil or the classically rich taste of butter.

Coconut oil melts at 76 degrees F, so it’s generally solid at room temperature but only takes a little warming to become liquid. It’s hard to keep up with the low-fat-good-fat-bad-fat-no-fat recommendation rollercoaster, but I think we’ve finally realized that any traditional fat source is better than the highly processed, hydrogenated fats of the industrial age.

Combined with a healthy dose of vanilla extract and a bit of salt, liquids are drizzled over the oat/nut mixture.

And mixed until well coated.

Pour out into a jelly roll pan.

Spread evenly and put into oven.

I prefer baking at a low temperature. It takes longer but is more foolproof – virtually no chance of burning, and the granola browns well without constant monitoring and stirring. Plus I get to enjoy the warm sweet vanilla scent for longer. The granola comes out a nice toasty brown.

Add dried fruit and stir well, breaking up clumps with a spoon as desired.

And that’s it.

It’s gorgeous, the honey golden granola with the jewel-toned fruit. It’s awfully hard to stop nibbling on the freshly toasted granola.

Go ahead and grab a bowl (and yes, mine is chipped). It’s out of this world warm…

…but just as good the next day, and the next.

I’ve got a thing for storing granola in mason jars, because the glass jars look so pretty in the pantry. But you could just as well use a ziplock bag. Keeps well for a couple of weeks in the pantry or indefinitely in the refrigerator or freezer. Not that it’ll last long.

Nutty Fruity Granola
I don’t know why it ever took me so long to make granola at home. It’s ridiculously simple, and the best part is that you can add everything you like and leave out what you don’t. This recipe, loosely based on Alton Brown’s, is the way I like it. But stick with the proportions and choose your own addictively crunchy adventure.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup walnuts or pecans
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (or olive oil, vegetable oil, or melted butter)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt (or 3/4 teaspoon Morton kosher salt or 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
  • 1 cup dried fruit

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, sunflower seeds and brown sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl or large mixing cup, combine maple syrup, oil/butter, vanilla and salt. Stir to combine. (Note if you are using coconut oil, which similar to shortening is solid at room temperature, here’s a convenient way to measure: Pour the 1/4 cup maple syrup into the measuring cup first. Scoop in coconut oil, using spoon to submerge the coconut oil below the surface of the maple syrup. Add coconut oil until the combined amount measures 1/2 cup. You’ll need to heat briefly in microwave to melt coconut oil – it has a low melting point, so it doesn’t take much – before pouring over the oat/nut mixture.)
  4. Drizzle liquid over the oat/nut mixture and stir well.
  5. Pour granola mixture onto a jelly roll pan or two cookie sheets (preferably rimmed). Spread evenly.
  6. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The low cooking temperature is very forgiving, so relax – an hour and a half is still perfectly fine. Stir periodically if you think of it (Alton does every 15 minutes, but I’ve gone without stirring at all with no noticeable problem).
  7. Remove from oven and stir carefully, pressing with spoon to break up large chunks. Add dried fruit and mix until evenly distributed.
  8. Store in airtight container. Keeps well at room temperature for a couple of weeks, or longer in the refrigerator or freezer.

Notes

  • Sweetener substitutions: honey, rice syrup or agave; or all brown sugar or all maple syrup.
  • Nut/seed substitutions: hazelnuts, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), pistachios, sesame seeds, cashews – or substitute in some flaked coconut instead. Nuts and seeds will be toasted with the granola, so it’s best to start with raw ones. However, the granola will be just fine if you use toasted nuts or seeds too.
  • Dried fruit substitutions: raisins, golden raisins or currants; dried blueberries, cranberries or cherries; chopped dates or dried apricots. For recovering commercial cereal junkies, go ahead and add chocolate chips, or peanut butter chips, or cinnamon chips. Make it as decadent as you like, and it’ll still be better than the stuff in the box.
  • Fat substitutions: I love the subtle flavor and aroma of coconut oil, olive oil gives a savory depth, vegetable oils are more neutral, and butter adds its ever-delectable richness (though cut 1/4 of the salt if you use salted butter).
  • Spice if you like it: cinnamon, cardamom, ginger or nutmeg – 1-2 teaspoons total, mix in with dry ingredients.
  • Use half the sweetener (2 tablespoons each brown sugar and maple syrup) if you prefer only a hint of sweetness.
  • You can use a higher temperature and cook for less time, but check often to prevent burning and stir periodically during the cooking process for even browning. At 300 degrees F, cook time will be about 45 minutes; at 350 degrees F, about 20 minutes.
  • If you like clumpy granola, try thekitchn’s method of mixing in an egg white before baking, or preparedpantry’s method of adding 1/4 cup of oat flour to the mix, or add 3/4 cup applesauce like in this David Lebowitz recipe.
  • When making granola for kids, I find slivered almonds and sunflower seeds to be the least offensive – good crunch without a prominently nutty flavor.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nance 25 June 2011 at 3:33 pm

Thank you! I can’t wait to make it–I always have a pang of guilt when I buy granola, and only one of the kids will eat Swiss muesli. ;-)

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