Basic Go-To Granola
Tis the season for gift-giving, especially in the form of baked goods. (Okay, maybe in the form of Kindles, but I’ll save that wish list for another day … yes, I have no shame.) But considering that the 25 days of Christmas and the 12 days of Christmas and the month of December have all become excuses to trot out the best and most delicious cookie recipes, there’s no doubt that this time can be a cruel month for those trying to limit their excess to only the 25th.
Enter this granola recipe. First of all, who doesn’t like granola? Swirled into some thick Greek yogurt with fresh berries, it’s the only breakfast I consider worth the 15 minutes of sacrificed sleep. But it’s great as a mid-morning snack, mid-afternoon snack, midnight snack, and when you make it yourself, you can control exactly what goes in it. Plus, packed in an airtight jar, it makes a wonderfully thoughtful gift for friends and family members who wish to end their year in a slightly more wholesome way. (I, on the other hand, accept all holiday cookies, and won’t turn down a chocolate bar or two either.)
The best part about granola is that it is not a hard-and-fast recipe by any means. I used a formula from Chocolate & Zucchini, but basically tossed in whatever I had in my pantry. Got a couple of cashews, a handful of almonds and a quarter-cup of chopped walnuts left over from Thanksgiving? Throw them in there! Don’t know what to do with that half bag of Craisins that you bought for stuffing? Granola. You could make this 100 times and never use the same ingredients twice, because there’s that much leeway to add what you want. But I’ve been mainlining this since I made it, so I have to say that the below “recipe” yields some pretty good stuff.
– 10 ounces oats (I used a “multigrain” mix of oats, barley, wheat and rye)
– 6 tablespoons maple syrup (you can also use honey or agave syrup)
– 1-1/2 cups mixed nuts (I used a blend of chopped walnuts and sliced almonds)
– 1-1/2 tablespoons cinnamon*
– 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg*
– 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
– 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut chips**
– 1 cup dried fruit (I used cranberries)
*These amounts added a very distinct cinnamon taste to the granola. If you’re cinnamon-averse (which I usually am, though I enjoy it here), start with 1 tablespoon. You can also add other warm spices like ground ginger, cardamom, allspice, ground cloves, etc.
**Truth time: I hate coconut, in all its various forms. But the chips didn’t add a coconut flavor, rather more of a nutty, toasted, slightly sweet flavor. I won’t be eating anything coconut any time soon, but the chips work here, for inexplicable reasons.
1) Mix all of the ingredients, except dried fruit and optional chocolate chips or chunks, in a large bowl until combined thoroughly.
2) Spread on a lightly greased rimmed baking sheet and bake at 300˚F for 10 minutes. (Clotilde recommends starting in a cold oven and allowing the granola to bake while the oven is preheating, since the granola doesn’t need to be immediately heated. I thought this was an excellent idea and promptly forgot to do it. Either way works.)
3) After 10 minutes, stir the granola, making sure to get the edges especially, and put it back in the oven for another 10. Continue to do this until the granola is browned to your liking. (I took mine out after 30.)
4) Allow the granola to cool completely on the baking sheet before adding in the dried fruit and chocolate, if using. Store in an airtight container.
Note: This recipe doesn’t yield “clumps” per se, which I prefer. But if you’re looking for bigger pieces, you might start with one tablespoon of oil and go from there.