Sunday, October 11, 2009
Warming up - Granola
The weather here the last few days has been miserably wet and cold. In fall, when daylight is already beginning to make itself scarce, storms turn a day to perpetual twilight. Don't picture nice twinkly evening light when I say "twilight", picture daylight like dirty, wet concrete - dank and grey. There's been just enough wind to drive the cold into your skin. Blech.
I'm fighting back. With granola. A hugenormous batch of granola. The oven makes my kitchen toasty, and it smells almost as good as pie when it's baking. I stumbled upon an online recipe with good proportions and altered it beyond all recognition to become one of my favorite breakfasts. Here it is:
Suit Yourself Granola
This granola is lovely with milk or greek yoghurt. During cold weather, I add a bit of water or applesauce and reheat it - homemade hot granola is worlds better than hot cereal packets!
5 cups rolled oats (I use a combo of rolled oats, barley/wheat/rye flakes, ground flax seed - whatever strikes my fancy from the bulk section)
4 Tbs. vegetable oil (I've used canola oil too, since it's supposed to be better for you)
3/4 cup honey (or a mix of your sweetners of choice - honey, agave and maple syrup all work wonderfully)
3-4 cups of dried fruits and nuts (pecans, almond slivers, sunflower seeds, cranberries, apricots, cherries) Chopped or unchopped is up to you - size does affect how the nuts roast.
Measure your oats and grains into a large bowl - stirring can be messy, so allow yourself some extra room in your bowl choice. I add the ground flaxseed later in the process, as it tends to sift to the bottom of the bowl when mixed with the other dry ingredients.
Heat the oil and sweetener in a saucepan over medium heat. Different sweeteners respond differently to heat - watch carefully so as not to burn the sugars. You want the sweetener to dissolve and mix with the oil. Add spices to this liquid mixture if you'd like. Pour warm liquid mixture over the dry grains, and stir in thoroughly. Once everything seems evenly coated, add the ground flax seed - it will stick to the other grains now.At this point, I like to let my granola sit and stew in its own juices a bit - from a few hours to overnight (well covered). But you can spring right into baking if you'd like. There's a slight difference in texture and flavor - each method tastes great, but I notice a difference.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Stir nuts into the unbaked granola. Spread granola onto cookie sheets (I use one or two cookie sheets at a time, depending on how efficient I feel like being), and bake in the oven for 10 minute intervals. I stir the granola at least every ten minutes, and find that it takes 20-30 minutes for each batch. Baking time can be very dependent on the grains and nuts I've used. I use quite a bit of flax seed, and that tends to toast up easily, so I watch the color of the baking granola carefully, and set my timer for smaller increments if need be. Watch the edges - they tend to brown more quickly.
Mix any dried fruits into your granola after it comes out of the oven - preferably while it's still warm. I once made the mistake of baking a batch with dried fruit in it - the dried apricots were too chewy, and I almost cracked a tooth on the cranberries!
This recipe has proved to be quite forgiving. It doubles and triples nicely, and I am able to play with a combination of sweeteners. This last batch was a mix of the last of my agave and some local honey. I've used agave alone (it has a low glycemic index), as well as with maple syrup. The finished granola stores well in an airtight container, for a few weeks. I eat a lot of it, so it's not around for long.