Thursday, August 5, 2010

Very Flexible Homemade Granola

(about 7 cups)

Recently a friend was talking about how granola could either taste great or be close to revolting. I suggested she try making her own.

It's pretty easy to make, and there's a lot of flexibility in terms of what you can add or leave out. Don't limit yourself to what I have suggested; I just wrote down what came to mind and I know there's even more options out there.

Homemade granola is not only tasty, it's less expensive. I was looking at the ready made stuff for ideas (before heading off to the bulk food section to get the ingredients), and noticed 10-13 oz. bags were selling for $5-$8. Most of these appeared to have about 75-90% rolled oats, with a few nuts, seeds or dried fruit tossed in. Some even used brown sugar instead of honey or maple syrup.

dry portion
3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups any combination of raw nuts, (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, shredded coconut, hazelnuts, pistachios)
1 cup any combination of seeds, (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, flaxseed, hemp seed)
1/4 cup wheatgerm, (optional)
2 tsp ground cinnamon, (optional)
1/2 tsp salt, (optional)

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl.

liquid portion
1/2 -2/3 cup sweetener, to taste (maple syrup, honey, agave nectar)
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract, (I used a tbsp of concentrated raspberry sugar I wanted to try out from the bulk spice section at Whole Foods instead. )

Combine all of the liquid ingredients in a 2 cup measuring cup, adding the correct amounts as you go along, then stir until everything is well combined right in the cup.

dried fruit, to be added for the last 10 -15 minutes of baking
1 cup any combination of dried fruit, (currants, raisins, blueberries, cherries, chopped apricots, cranberries, chopped dried apples)

Drizzle half the liquid portion over the dry ingredients and toss, then drizzle the remaining portion and toss until everything is well combined.

Spread the mixture evenly over a nonstick jelly roll pan or lightly greased one.

Bake in the centre of the oven for about *40-75 minutes. Every 15 minutes or so, remove from oven and stir the mixture a bit; to help it brown evenly. When there's about 15 minutes baking time left, sprinkle the dried fruit evenly over the top and return to the oven.

The granola will be done when it's an even golden brown. Cool and store in a sealed container.

*I use my regular oven for storage and bake everything in a counter-top Breville convection oven; it's more fuel efficient and keeps my kitchen cooler in Texas. I use a smallish roasting pan when I make this and the granola layer is about 1 1/2 - 2 inches thick, thus the longer baking time.

If you are using a regular oven and a larger jelly roll pan, you will probably need to shorten the times and start checking the granola every 10 minutes or so, as the granola will brown more quickly.

**I would also like to note here, once the granola has completely cooled, I place half of it into a zip-lock bag and toss it into the freezer; it keeps very well there, until I'm ready to finish it.

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