If you’ve ever paid $8 to $10 or more for a small bag of gourmet granola then you might have wondered in the back of your mind just exactly why was it so expensive. After you try this recipe you’ll still be asking that question because this is neither hard to make nor are the ingredients expensive. It’s not like trying to make a homemade croissant or your own phyllo dough where once you’ve tried once you know why it’s just better to buy them already made. It’s not that the ingredients for granola are like buying a $15-$20 / lb fish where the meal at home might cost just as much as the restaurant. So if you think you might actually eat more gourmet granola if only it didn’t cost so much, then you’ll really want to try this recipe.
The good news with granola is that you can really use your imagination when changing it up. This recipe is the third of four articles I’m doing from the June 2010 issue of Bon Appétit and the author of this recipe is definitely pitching this as a send off point for you to try the things you like to see in a great granola. I followed the recipe pretty closely to see just what the basic recipe would produce. Even though she talks about this as basic, the addition of ginger powder sets this recipe off immediately.
* 3 cups old-fashioned oats
* 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
* 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
* 3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
* 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
* 1/3 cup honey
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 cup assorted dried fruit
There is very little prep in this recipe. You could make it practically zero if you bought the pecans already chopped. I had uncooked pecan halves on hand and so I did my own chopping. I would suggest you do the chopping yourself since you can then control the size of the piece. Really coarse chop will give you a heartier texture. If you’re looking for a smoother texture then just chop the nuts down a little more. The same would go for any dried fruit you put in. I chose raisins, but if you opted for dried apricots or something like that then you would likely want to give those dried fruits a quick chop as well.
I used walnut oil for my vegetable oil to capture just a bit more nutty flavor.
Go ahead and preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.
I was taught this little trick a long time ago when it comes to chopping nuts. You can see below that I’m using two knives at once. This not only helps you get through the job a bit faster, but you’ll find that it makes less of a mess because at least part of the chopping is contained between the blades. It works best if you can find similar length knives. Don’t worry about it if you don’t have a set of knives that will work like this. Just use a single knife.
As you can see below, most of the prep of this recipe is simply measuring out ingredients.
In a medium size mixing bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together with the exception of the dried fruit. When I do this again I think I will mix the salt, cinnamon, and ginger powder together first because even after I thought I mixed it well I was detecting some pockets of specific taste, particularly salt, in the final product. I think premixing these fine grained ingredients first would help to get a more uniform dispersal in the dry mix.
The mixed up dry ingredients will look something like this.
Combine the honey and oil in a very small sauce pan, like a butter warmer. As the mixture heats up it will begin to combine with the help of whisk. No need to boil this.
Pour the honey/oil mixture over the dry ingredients. The mixture will still be loose and it should not be so wet as to stick together.
Use a normal size baking sheet and line it with parchment paper or a Silpat. As you can see below I’m using a Silpat sheet. I like this better than parchment for this application because it really fits the whole sheet quite nicely. If you were to bake this directly on the sheet you would probably find the granola sticking to the pan. Parchment paper serves the same purpose as the Silpat in that it provides for a non-stick surface while still transferring the browning capability of the baking sheet. If you’ve never baked cookies on parchment paper it’s worth picking up a roll in your supermarket (usually next to the aluminum foil) and giving it a try. Your baking sheets will love you for it.
Now spread out the granola mixture evenly over the sheet and transfer to the 300 degree oven.
Take the sheet out of the oven every 10 minutes for 40 minutes each time mixing up and turning over the mixture and spread it out again and place it back in the oven. Over the course of 40 minutes the mixture will get progressively more golden brown.
After 40 minutes take the pan out of the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Go ahead and mix it again so that the mixture on the bottom doesn’t overcook while the mixture is cooling off.
You’ll notice that you can’t see the coconut anymore as it has turned a nice golden brown. It’s there and crunchy and the way I prefer my coconut. If you really like it in its white form then you could simply hold back adding it to the mixture that cooks and instead add it in at the end.
When the mixture is mostly cool you can add the dried fruit of your choice and mix it together.
It’s really starting to look good.
At this point it’s suitable as a snack or as a breakfast cereal. You can pour milk over it or if you want to try something new then place several heaping spoonfuls of plain yogurt in the bottom of a bowl and then pour granola over the top. You can mix it together for a creamy and hearty bowl of cereal.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container like Snapware or Tupperware.
I’m sure there will be a next time and I will turn the imagination loose a little bit. Almost any type of dried fruit would be great with this including dried apples, apricots, strawberries, blueberries, you name it. An easy add would be to just pick up one of the flavored packages of Craisins you can find at the grocery to get some other interesting flavors in there like orange or cranberry.
The other thing I would do is to find the thickest cut of oat you can. I used regular Old Fashioned Quaker Oats, but I prefer a heartier texture and so have recently picked up some thick cut oats that I hope will beef up the texture even more. I will probably also branch out on the nuts as well by including some almonds, slivered or chopped, or walnuts as well.
You can also experiment with the type of oil and honey as well. I used a wildflower honey and many stores carry several types of honey produced from bees from different regions or from different types of flowers. Given that most of the sweetness comes from the honey then I would assume that you could make some interesting changes with the type of honey you use. The same goes for the type of oil you use to get more or less of the oil flavor into the granola.
The last thing I will try is to add just a little more oil/honey mix to adjust how sticky or clumpy the granola is which is also a way to adjust the texture of the cereal.
In summary, with just a little bit of effort you can have your own gourmet granola at a fraction of the cost of an artisan brand and a much healthier version compared to the mass market brands. The recipe is easy to scale up so you can have more on hand for a big family and perhaps the best feature is that you can adjust the flavors with each batch so no one gets tired of the same old thing.