November 30, 2010
Granola is my safety blanket snack. I keep a big jar of it on the counter at all times, and if I run out and don't have the time or the ingredients to bake a new batch within the next few days, I don't feel quite myself.
There are very many granola recipes out there, and over the years I've tried a number of them -- you can check the raw buckwheat granola I wrote about last summer -- but when it comes to oven-baked granola, I find that what one needs isn't really a recipe, but rather a formula.
The basic components of granola -- rolled grains, nuts and seeds, oil, spices, sweetener -- are in fact large families of ingredients that offer a myriad of options, and creating your own blend is just a matter of combining the members of those families you like and have on hand.
In fact, now that I have stabilized my granola formula, I rarely make the same one twice, but it is always just the way I like it: nut-rich, easy on the spices, and very moderately sweet.
One notable thing I do differently from what most recipes instruct is that I start the granola in a cold oven: no sense in wasting the energy of the oven while it preheats, and granola doesn't care whether or not it is seized by heat. Your only responsibility then is to watch it closely, and stir it every ten minutes so it is roasted to your preferred shade of brown.
Granola makes a fine edible gift, and I mention this in case you're already plotting your gift-making campaign for the holidays: the ingredients don't cost a lot, you can make big batches at a time, and it keeps quite well. And if you can find attractive jars and pretty ribbons and tack on personalized labels -- you know the drill -- it'll make a lovely impression.
Basic Granola Formula
- 280 grams (10 ounces, about 3 cups) rolled grains
(oat, spelt, wheat, rye, quinoa, rice, barley... or a mix thereof)
- 170 grams (6 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups) nuts and seeds, roughly chopped
(a mix of almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, macadamias, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds...)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
(sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil, coconut oil...)
- 6 tablespoons liquid sweetener
(honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, rice syrup... or a mix thereof; you can also use a fruit jam or unsweetened fruit purée, but use a little more then because they're not 100% sugar)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons ground spices
(a mix of warm spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, pumpkin pie spice, a spice mix for pain d'épices, roasted citrus zest...)
- 5 tablespoons ground flaxseeds, soaked in 5 tablespoons water for 15 minutes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt flakes
- 1 tablespoon homemade vanilla extract
- 30 grams (1 ounce, about 1/2 cup) unsweetened dried coconut (I like chips better than flakes or shreds)
- 30 grams (1 ounce, about 1/4 cup) oat or wheat bran
- 60 grams (2 ounces) chocolate, roughly chopped
- 120 grams (4 ounces, about 3/4 cup) dried fruit, roughly chopped if in large pieces
(raisins, cranberries, prunes, dates, figs, blueberries, cherries, bananas, mangoes, apples... or a mix thereof)
The recipe may be doubled, using two baking sheets.
Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet, about 30 by 38 cm (12 by 15 inches).
Place all the ingredients (except the optional dried fruits or chocolate) in a medium mixing bowl, and stir vigorously with a fork until evenly combined.
Spread on the prepared baking sheet and place in the middle of the oven.
Set the oven on 150°C (300°F) and bake the granola, checking and stirring religiously every 10 minutes, until the mixture is browned to your liking -- it won't get crisp at this stage. In my oven, it takes about 30 minutes total, starting from a cold oven.
(If you've doubled the recipe, switch the two baking sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.)
Let the granola cool on the baking sheet -- it will crisp up as it cools -- and stir in the optional dried fruits or chocolate once cooled.
Transfer to an airtight container and keep at cool room temperature for up to a month or so.
Raw Buckwheat Granola
On Hotel Breakfasts, and How Not to Have Them