Monday, February 23, 2009

Aw nuts, not granola!

Homemade granola is simple and delicious. And now you have no excuses! It's easy to scale this recipe up or down for what you need-- a half batch makes enough for two people for a few weeks. Humidity disclaimer: like the biscotti, granola won't get crunchy if it's too humid. (No pictures today, sorry!)

The Basics:
5 cups rolled oats (NOT quick-cooking)
1/2 c. canola oil
1/3 c. honey (or maple syrup)

Fancy-Pants Additions:
3/4 c. nuts of your choice, chopped (pecans are excellent, as are walnuts, almonds, can't really go wrong here)
dash or two of cinnamon
small dash cardamom
1 t. vanilla or almond extract
2 T. flax seeds (you can't taste 'em but they're good for you!)
3/4 c. dried fruit (ideas: raisins, cranberries, apricots, apple, prunes)

Preheat oven to 350F. Stir together everything EXCEPT the dried fruit. Don't be tempted to use your hands; it's super sticky. Add more nuts, because if you're like me you'll eat them out of the granola as it cools. Maybe a bit more cinnamon too, what the heck. (I've also been known to lightly coat a handful of extra pecans in oil and honey and cinnamon and bake them alongside the granola; voilà, candied pecans!)

Spread on two greased cookie sheets in an even layer--no more than 1/2 inch deep. Place in oven on center rack and set the timer for 5 minutes. When it goes off, take the trays out and stir gently but thoroughly-- make sure all the oats get moved around so they don't stick. Back into the oven for another 5 minutes. Stir. Repeat 2-3 times. Don't be tempted to set the timer for longer than 5 minutes because the granola doesn't cook linearly-- it cooks slowly for a while (15-30 minutes, depending on your cookie sheet and the humidity) and then browns (and burns!) very suddenly towards the end. A good indicator is it starts to smell heavenly when it's almost done.

Remove from the oven when it's golden brown and stir again. [Turn the oven off.] As the granola cools on the cookie sheets, stir it every 10-15 minutes to avoid serious sticking. When it's completely cool, add the dried fruit and store in an airtight jar. Our favorite breakfast around here is plain yogurt with blackberries and granola, yum!!

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