Saturday, November 30, 2013

Homemade Granola

I began the month of November with a post about making my own yogurt. Some of the yogurt  I make goes into baked goods—cakes, muffins, quick breads, etc.  And occasionally I use it to accompany a grain pilaf or other savory preparation.   But most of the yogurt that I make is consumed for breakfast with fresh fruit.  I think I am a bit unusual in that I typically don't add granola to my bowl of fruit and yogurt.  But because many people I know like to sprinkle granola over their yogurt at breakfast, I thought I would end the month by sharing my granola recipe.

Since I don't often eat granola for breakfast, one might wonder why I make it at all.  It isn't that I don't like granola.  I actually like granola a lot.  It just so happens that I prefer to eat cake for breakfast.  Granola on the other hand is a really great snack. Unfortunately, I like it so much that I can sit in front of the TV with an open container of granola and eat it like popcorn.  Since granola isn't as low in fat and calories as popcorn, popcorn is the safer choice for mindless eating...needless to say, I try to stick to popcorn (air-popped...with lots of butter and/or olive oil...and salt).  I usually only make granola when I have a specific need of it.  If I know, for example, that my work schedule will require several days in a row of hurried breakfasts, I make a batch.  It's pretty easy to eat a big bowl of granola and fruit and yogurt in the car.  (Maybe I shouldn't admit that I occasionally eat in the car...  At least I'm not getting it from a drive-thru.)   

Another great reason to make granola is in preparation for houseguests....which is the situation that many people find themselves in this time of year.  It is of course nice to get up before your guests so that you can make and serve a fresh hot breakfast.  But people have such varied morning habits, it's also nice to have a variety of things on hand that will allow people to fend for themselves (particularly if you have a guest who likes to rise earlier than you do).  Things that are good to have available would include yogurt, a selection of fruit, whole grain toasting bread, butter, jams/preserves/honey, maybe a nut butter of some kind, cheese...and of course a container of homemade granola.  If you show your guests where everything is located, how to work the toaster, and how to use your coffee maker, they'll be set.

Granola recipes abound.  My recipe is a hybrid of the recipes of two good friends (Bonnie and Nancy).   I don't know that there is anything particularly special about my recipe...except that it pleases me. Granola is nothing more than a combination of flaked grains, nuts and seeds, moistened  with a liquid comprised mostly of fat and sugars and baked until everything is toasty and dry.  It can be clumpy or flakey, quite sweet or not very sweet at all.  I like mine clumpy (it is much more snack-able this way).  I also like mine on the moderately sweet side.   

The combination of grains, nuts and seeds is up to you.  Like my friends, I choose to use all old-fashioned oats for the grain portion...but there are loads of flaked grains on the market to choose from and it would probably be fun to experiment if you are so inclined.  As far as nuts go, I like sliced almonds (chopped almonds seem a bit hard) and chopped pecans.  Bonnie uses all chopped pecans and Nancy uses sliced almonds and shredded coconut.  I can't imagine any nut that wouldn't be delicious...but I'm sure you could make granola that didn't include any.  Seeds too are optional.  Bonnie doesn't include any.  I use pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds).  Nancy uses sesame seeds.  Sunflower seeds would be a good choice too.

Old-fashioned oats, sliced almonds, pepitas and chopped pecans

As with the dry ingredients, granola is flexible when it comes to the liquids.  The liquid is made up in a large part of sugars.  Using a large quantity of sugary liquid relative to the quantity of dry ingredients will result in harder and larger clumps of granola that can sometimes even be a bit sticky.  Less will produce a looser, dryer granola.  The "sugar" itself can be refined granulated or brown sugar as well as honey, maple syrup, molasses and/or agave.  All of these vary quite a bit in flavor and sweetness and choosing one over another can dramatically alter the taste and sweetness of your granola.  If you want to experiment with the sweetener you use, remember that by volume, honey is the sweetest, followed next in sweetness by agave, then granulated and brown sugar, then maple syrup and finally molasses is the least sweet of all. The other major piece of the liquid is fat. Most recipes call for a neutral oil (like canola oil) although more and more you will find granola recipes that use coconut oil (which is what I use).  You could also use olive oil if you like.

Clockwise from the top--Coconut oil, cinnamon & salt, honey & brown sugar,
egg white & vanilla

The most significant difference between my recipe and most that I have seen is that it includes an egg white as part of the liquid.  I took this idea from Nancy's recipe (which was in turn adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe).  I think the egg white makes a granola that has a lighter, more tender crunch.  If you don't want to use an egg white, many recipes (including Bonnie's) use water instead.  Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle etVanille uses apple juice in hers.

One last observation.  I don't put any dried fruit in my granola.  When I do eat granola for breakfast, I eat it with fresh fruit and don't really want the dried.  But if you like dried fruit in your granola,  Nancy recommends that you add it when you serve it.  If you add it to the baking granola (even if you add it towards the end) it can become too hard.  If you add it to the granola for storage, it introduces moisture which tends to soften the granola.

As I hope you have gathered, the granola you make should be all about your preferences.  Find a recipe or two that are close to what you think you might like in terms of texture and sweetness and then begin to alter it in a way that pleases you.  I'm certain you will quickly arrive at a recipe that is basically your own "house" granola.  Perfect for breakfast (for yourself or your guests)...or a snack...or a homemade holiday gift.   


1/4 c. (60 g.) coconut oil (warmed until liquid)
1/2 c. (170 g.) honey
1/3 c. (65 g.) brown sugar
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 T. vanilla
1 egg white (30 g.)

5 c. (500g.) old fashioned oats
1 c. (105 g.) sliced almonds
1 c. (105 g.) pecans, roughly chopped
1/3 c. (50 g.) pepitas

Combine the first seven ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  With the paddle attachment, mix on low to blend.  Add the oats, nuts and seeds and paddle on low until everything is well combined.  The mixture should look clumpy, but not wet.

Spread the granola on two parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheets.  

Place in a 300° oven and bake until golden brown—about 40 minutes.  

Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back half way through the baking time.  I prefer big clumps of granola, so I don't stir mine.  If you like yours more "separate", stir a couple of times as it bakes—if you stir, your granola will be more uniform in color throughout. 

Let cool completely—the granola crisps as it cools.  Break up into whatever size clumps you prefer and store air-tight, at room temperature.

Note:  If you don't have a stand mixer, combine the oats, nuts and pepitas in a large bowl.  Combine the first seven ingredients in another bowl.  Pour the liquid over the dry and mix with a rubber spatula until everything is thoroughly combined.

No comments: