Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Homemade Granola

I've made granola from scratch a few times, but this batch turned out particularly well. The truest test of quality granola in my mind is whether you can still stand to eat it after several straight days -- I'm at Day 5 and loving it! It's a take on the version found in Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook, using ingredients I already had on hand.

Starting with fresh ingredients is key not only when we cook but when we bake -- thank you Regan Daley for that lesson! -- so I think a big part of this granola's success is the fact that I'd bought most of the items only a few weeks previous at my local bulk food store for Christmas baking. I had a lot of leftovers of rolled oats, dried fruit, and nuts, so pulling together a decent mix was easy. I think next time I'd go out and purchase specific add-ins to suit my taste. I'm thinking dried cherries, pecans, and even some dark chocolate chips to go with the base ingredients of oats, honey, coconut and spice. And perhaps next time I'd add cardamom instead of cinnamon.

Be sure to try your own version based on your favourites -- and believe me, this tastes so, so much better than the stuff in the box which I often find has an unappealing dustiness to it. That or it's break-your-teeth hard.

Homemade Granola
Makes approximately 9 cups

5 cups rolled oats
3 cups chopped mixed nuts and seeds (I used a combination of walnuts and pumpkin seeds but you could also use pecans, almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.)
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut (I used sweetened coconut)
1 tsp ground spice (try cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom)
1/2 to 1 cup honey, maple syrup, or raw sugar, or to taste (I used about 3/4 cup of honey)
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract, optional
1 to 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, chopped if necessary (I used raisins, cranberries, cherries, and currants, but you could use any dried fruit you like)

Heat oven to 350F. Combine oats, nuts and seeds, coconut, spice, sweetener, and extract if you're using it; sprinkle with a little pinch of salt. Toss to mix together ingredients. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or a little longer, stirring occasionally. The granola should brown evenly.

Remove pan from the oven and add dried fruit. Cool in the pan on a wire rack, stirring now and then, until granola reaches room temperature. Serve (or store in sealed container at room temperature for up to a week).

Source: The Food Matters Cookbook, Mark Bittman, Simon & Schuster, 2010.