Sunday, May 03, 2009

My Granola

I’ve started making my own granola. Melissa likes to joke that this is a side effect of long hair and a Berkeley address — I hope she doesn’t buy me a tie-dye leotard — but it’s really because I developed a mild addiction to granola at my last job, where it was a common snack in the cupboards, and wanted to make my own.

I started by flipping through books on my bookcase. Surprisingly, given the large number of Bay Area authors and slight tinge of hippiness painted across my kitchen bookcase, I only found a few granola recipes. I started with the Grain-ola recipe in my friend Heidi’s Super Natural Cooking. That recipe also appears, with slight modifications, in my friend David’s The Perfect Scoop. This recipe produces a very good granola, but I wanted something a little different.

I didn’t know what it needed, though, until I tried the Killer Granola recipe in The Cheese Board Collective Works. That recipe produces a granola with deep flavor notes. But there were components of Heidi’s that I really liked (and components of both that I didn’t like: what’s with all the coconut in these recipes?). My favorite granola recipe thus became a hybrid of the two, along with some touches I’ve figured out on my own.

But a word of warning before you read my technique. You may think of granola as a healthy food. You wouldn’t be alone: It was created in 1863 by James Caleb Jackson as part of the “health food and religious purity” movement that would spawn graham flour, corn flakes, and a flood of enemas. If you view granola as a health food, good for you.

My recipe focuses on taste.

I imagine it’s healthy enough, especially compared to most commercial granolas, but that’s a side effect. A stick of butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, etc. You get the idea.

Giving a recipe for granola is a bit like giving a recipe for salad, since you can vary it endlessly without much problem, but this is the template I use. Let me know your own recipes and ideas in the comments.

Granola Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 325° Place a silicone baking sheet into a jelly roll pan.
  2. Combine 3 cups of rolled oats, a handful or two of shelled sunflower seeds, and thin slices of crystallized ginger in a large bowl. Do not use quick oats: I did that once and the result was horrible. I add the seeds and ginger until they look right, so I can’t give precise amounts. Use your hands to mix the ingredients so you get an even distribution.
  3. Chop nuts coarsely to end up with a pile that fits between your two hands. I usually use almonds, but pecans work as well and one of these days I plan to use hazelnuts.
  4. In a medium-sized pot, melt a stick of butter over a medium-high flame. Add the chopped nuts and stir until lightly toasted. While most of the butter will coat the nuts, I like to see a thin layer of butter on the bottom of the pan. If I don’t, I add more butter.
  5. Add 3/4 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of honey to the butter and nuts, and stir until well integrated. Remove from the heat, add a splash of vanilla extract, and stir again to mix the ingredients.
  6. Add the hot nut mixture to the oats and seeds in the large bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture until it’s cool enough to use your hands. You want to spread the butter and sugar evenly through the oats and seeds.
  7. Spread the granola onto the silicone-lined baking sheet, and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Stir the mixture to bring oats from the bottom up to the top, and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set the jelly roll pan on a rack to cool.
  8. While the granola is cooking and cooling, thinly slice a mix of dried fruit. (For you Berkeley farmers’ market shoppers, Blossom Bluff’s dried fruit is markedly better than Frog Hollow’s.) You can use anything you like — we favor dried peaches and plums — as long as you slice them into inch-long, matchstick-sized slices. Dried fruit pieces that are too big create an unpleasant clash in textures. As with the nuts, I like to chop about two handfuls’ worth.
  9. Add the dried fruit to the warm granola, and stir to evenly distribute. (If you add the dried fruit before the granola goes into the oven, it becomes too dry.)
  10. Serve with yogurt. We’re fans of Redwood Hill’s goat yogurt at the moment.

I know I have a few programmers among my readers, so you may also like my new blog, An Obsession with Programming. It’s definitely aimed at a technical audience, but everyone is welcome.