Tuesday, September 4, 2012

12 Cups of Breakfast: Delicious Homemade Granola

We are brought back yet again to Martha's Vineyard, where I was working at a Bed and Breakfast during my summer before studying abroad in Austria. One of my favorite things to do was to help make the awesome granola that we would mix up and bake in huge batches for the hungry guests. I loved the smell of the granola, and I never even thought of making it myself before that lovely summer. Let me tell you, it is worth every second.

The best thing about homemade granola is its pantry-emptying qualities. You can throw in any amount of nuts and dried fruits and other toastables like coconut and seeds. I used a base recipe from Saveur, from their Pistachio-Coconut Olive Oil Granola. The secret to granola is the oil and honey mixture that creates that awesome crunch and protects the oats and other ingredients from burning while they toast to perfection in the oven.

In addition, this is a great way to prepare homemade gifts. The granola keeps for up to three weeks (without preservatives, what up!) and would be adorable if stored in an interesting canister or in mason jars with a nice ribbon around it. I'm thinking housewarming, get well, Mother's or Father's Day, a host/hostess gift for Thanksgiving (as if you needed to bring more food), Christmas (with a gorgeous red bow), and the list goes on. Plus, this recipe is nothing more than combining the ingredients and tossing it around in the oven a few times. I'd rate it on a very easy level. Let's get on with it!

Homemade Cozy Granola
2-1/2 C Rolled oats
1 C Rice Krispies
1 C Nuts 
(I used pistachios, but almonds, macadamias, walnuts, pecans would work splendidly)
1-1/2 C Coconut flakes 
1/2 C Flax seed (whole)
1 C Dried apricots
1 C Craisins
1 tsp. Fleur de Sel (I used rose fleur de sel)
1/2 C Tasty olive oil
1/2 C Honey (you can also sub agave nectar)

First, you should get a big, clean mixing bowl down from the cabinet. Then you should measure out all of the dry ingredients. Mix well so that everything is evenly incorporated and set aside. Now turn on your oven to 300º on bake and go on preparing your pan. I had a relatively large glass baking dish, so I just threw some parchment paper in that and went on my merry way. However, if you have smaller pans, you should prepare two with parchment paper (it makes mixing and clean up soooooo much easier!) and set aside. 

Now you can prepare the wet ingredients: the oil and the honey. This time I actually used a mixture of honey and agave nectar just because I thought it would be a good idea. To be honest, it just depends on what you have available, so feel free to mix and match the two, you just need a good sticky and viscous substance to mix with the oil. Here's a special tip: whenever you are measuring out honey, it is a good idea to put oil in the measuring cup first, then the honey will come out completely without sticking a single molecule to the measuring cup (in this recipe you can measure out the olive oil first and then the honey in the same cup)!! Combine the honey and olive oil in a small saucepan on the stove and turn the fire on low. When it starts to heat up, take a whisk out and whiz it around the saucepan until the honey and oil become homogenous--by this point the mixture should be hot, but not boiling (low heat helps that out).
Distribute your beautiful honey-liquid over the dry ingredients and incorporate well with a wooden spoon. The mixture will be hot, so don't thrust your hands in there just yet. Take your granola mixture and distribute it evenly in the baking pan. The thinner the layer, the faster it will cook, but you also have to be a little more careful about stirring. After you put the pan in the oven, you need to take that wooden spoon out again and stir it up about every ten minutes. This will ensure that every happy morsel gets evenly toasted and nothing burns. I had to cook mine for about 50 minutes to an hour, and I think that is perfect. The trick to knowing that the granola is finished is to gauge the amount of toasting you want...the more toast, the crunchier it will be...but don't burn it! After they have cooled completely, you will see that they harden up and the toastier it is, the more you will have to break up the pieces. I like a few really crunchy and a few chewy, so I stopped at 50 minutes. Keep your eye on it!

This recipe is very evolutionary, so you can put any combination of nuts or seeds or dried fruits. I will probably try raisins, dried cherries, flax, and sunflower seeds with cinnamon and nutmeg for a more autumnal flavor combination. As we get closer to Christmas, black currants, chestnuts, and hazelnuts will probably be making an appearance. Really it is up to you...also the measurements are pretty flexible, just as long as you make the ratios more or less equal, you can up the amount of oats or krispies if you are going to add more fruits, nuts, or seeds. Please experiment! It is the spice of life!

Let me know what your granola combinations are! I'd be interested in trying some new combinations myself!

Start your day off right with a bowl of granola and yoghurt next to your tea or coffee.

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