Friday, April 11, 2014
Utterly delicious maple nut granola
During my brief but illustrious career as a baker, I was tasked with building the breakfast menu. Someone else provided the toast, bagels, sweet rolls, and croissants, but everything else was up for grabs. After weeks of churning through all sorts of biscuits and muffins and scones, it suddenly hit me… woah. We haven't even thought about granola. And not your average crumbled-suet-in-a-bowl kind of granola, but a really good one.
I perused the Interwebs to figure out the basic ratios for fat/sweet/grain. Some recipes called for (gasp) corn syrup and buckets of sugary dried fruit, while others looked like a food fight erupted in the bulk foods aisle of your local co-op. Enough already.
What I came up with was a mishmash of both, a really lovely blend that honors your craving for candy and your body's need for a bit of, well, roughage.
While what you see here is my own personal definition of "perfect," it's a wonderfully flexible recipe. Not fond of peanut butter? Try almond butter or maybe even cashew butter. Want more nuts? Go for it! Sprinkle some flax seed on there while you're at it. Prefer dried cherries? Mix away.
After a brutal winter that sucked most of my mojo for just about everything, I awoke last Saturday with a clear vision of how the day needed to progress -- and it involved two trays of this granola slowly roasting in my oven. It's the perfect sweet and nutty counterpart to these brisk April mornings.
Without further ado, may I present...
Utterly Delicious Maple Nut Granola
Preheat oven to 250 degrees
7 cups whole oats (use good old-fashioned ones, not quick-cooking - they won't hold up)
1 cup shredded coconut (can be sweetened or unsweetened or grated, your call)
1 cup chopped walnuts (or any other nut you like)
1 cup sliced almonds (ditto - go wild!)
dash of cinnamon
dash of salt
Combine all dry ingredients in a nice big mixing bowl.
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth, your call)
3/4 cups real true maple syrup (oh yeah, you heard me right)
slosh of vanilla (about 2 teaspoons, your call)
Slowly combine all the wet ingredients with a whisk. It will become a tantalizing slurry that, despite all that oil you just saw go in there, you will want to drink. Resist the urge.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix thoroughly. I like to roll up my sleeves and dig in with my hands. The goal here is to coat every single oat, nut, and bit of coconut with some of the slurry.
Spread this mixture evenly onto two sheet trays and place in a 250-degree oven.
Now, there are two ways you can do this. You can be sloppy and just let it bake for two hours. Or, you can do the right thing and check in on your baby every 15 minutes. Pull out the trays and shuffle the granola around. Flip the clumps, give everything a good stir. You want a slow, even roast.
In about two hours, you'll be ready to stop checking on your granola - and it should have achieved a lovely golden hue and satisfying crunch.
But wait! One more step: FRUIT. You don't add these at the beginning because they'll heat too much and caramelize into little tooth-breaking bullets. Instead, you wait until now to add as many fistfuls of raisins and dried cranberries as you desire. Give it a good stir, then put everything back into the (now off) oven and forget about it. The residual heat will cause just enough caramelization for a satisfying chew without going any further.
Once the granola has completely cooled, pour it into a Mason jar and enjoy.
I can't tell you how long it keeps because mine is always gone within a week. It really is that good.