Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Homemade Granola

For months I've been flipping through cookbooks and blogs, marking those recipes I find especially appealing. In October, that meant butternut squash and warm salads, while in November it was nutmeg; December was full of cookies and cake, while in January I tagged anything I could roast in the oven (carrots and cabbage, fish, fruit).

This month, as I've told you, has been one of heartwarming, simple foods. And while that often translates into super easy dinners of beans and rice, roasted cod with parsley and lima beans, and this amazing shrimp and broccoli, it has also meant a well-timed foray into granola land.

So simple, and so sweet; what a perfect recipe for these cold winter days! What I love best about making granola is that step you never see as you grab a bag off the shelf--the delightful step of transferring the pan into your oven, then sitting down to read a book while the room slowly fills with perfumes of cinnamon, oats and brown sugar, and then that faint but unmistakable scent of warm honey. Beautiful. Try it today.

Homemade Granola
adapted from "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, and first found here on the Amateur Gourmet

I adapted this recipe a tad, substituting diced dried apricots for the raisins and cranberries for the cherries, which yielded a delightful combination. I also like a more even texture of granola, so I roughly chopped the hazelnuts and almonds. Most important, however, was the change in salt: using 1/2 tsp made the granola way too salty for my taste, so I would recommend using 1/4 tsp or perhaps even less. (But to each her own!)

2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. (or less) salt
3 tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup dried apricots, diced
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined.

Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats are coated with the honey mixture.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few clumps here and there for texture.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the raisins and cherries over the granola and use your hands to transfer it to an airtight container.

The granola will keep for 1 week.

you can really put type of nut or dried fruit in this granola; I imagine it would be quite tasty with walnuts or with a tad ginger or nutmeg, maybe even with chopped up chocolate added at the very end. But whatever you do, do try the hazelnuts; they made the whole thing out of this world.

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