Fixing Your Own Granola

Breakfast cereal is an American invention. Rewind the tape all the way back to the mid-1800s (way before Tony and his frosted flakes), when one Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister, created "graham bread," the first version of graham crackers.


Homemade granola, just out of the oven. (Kim O'Donnel)

His curiosity and desire to diversify his vegetarian diet paved the way for granola. By the 1860s, Graham had developed "granula," baked graham crackers broken into smaller pieces and soaked overnight in milk to make it soft enough to eat for breakfast.

Over the next 20 years, a Seventh Day Adventist by the name of John Harvey Kellogg (yes, that one), also tinkered in the kitchen to make his own version of a ready-to-eat cereal, which he also called granula. The Graham posse challenged Mr. Kellogg in court, which forced him to change the name to "granola." The rest, as you may surmise, is breakfast history.

Of course, corn flakes became all the rage at the turn of the 20th century, followed by post WWII-sugar coatings and gimmicky prizes found at the bottom of a cereal box.

The topic of store-bought cereal is one that deserves its own blog post (coming soon), but today, I go back in time and present you with granola. Of course, this granola is a far cry from that of Rev. Graham, but it might take you back to the 1960s, when granola developed a reputation as "hippie food."

For me, granola has been a dietary staple since childhood, even during my Apple Jacks years, and I hope I'll always have my teeth to enjoy it. A few years back, I learned how to make my own granola, which is a lot easier than it may seem. Life got in the way, and I started buying it again, despite my discovery that homemade really is better.

The tricky part of being a granola eater is that you just can't eat one nuggety cluster. It's an expensive habit. I could plow through two boxes a week without a problem, which can tally up to 7 bucks a week, but when I make my own, the cost inevitably goes down.

A batch of homemade granola typically yields about 5 cups, which is about double the amount you'd get in the average box of store-bought granola. Better still, you are the granola master, adding and subtracting components until you get the flavors and textures to your liking.

The recipe below is the result of experimentation, cribbing from many recipes over the years and just winging it. Use it as a guideline, and see what works for you. For example, I love, love, love raisins in my granola; in fact, next to oats, I consider it the most important ingredient.

In case you're wondering, you need about 90 minutes, tops, to make your own granola. I suppose it is easier to buy a box. Talk to me after you've made a batch and see if you don't taste the difference.

And please, veteran granola bakers, share your favorite ways to get crunch in the comments area below.

P.S.: Set your timers for What's Cooking, my weekly live Web chat, today at noon.

Kim's Granola

Ingredients
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (although quick-cooking oats will do in a pinch; instant oatmeal will NOT)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons toasted roasted buckwheat groats (aka kasha)
1/8 teaspoon cardamom (or ΒΌ teaspoon ground cinnamon)
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup of your favorite flavor of honey, preferably local
1/2 cup good quality maple syrup
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil, such as Canola, safflower or sunflower
Other options: dried blueberries, cranberries, papaya, unsweetened shredded coconut, pecans

Method
Place almonds and walnuts into a large, heavy-bottomed pot and toast over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes. Add oats, continuing to stir, an additional 2 minutes. Add sunflower and sesame seeds, stirring an additional 60 seconds. Remove from heat, add kasha, raisins or other dried fruit, cardamom, and stir to combine, and cover.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Pour honey, maple syrup and oil into a small saucepan, and warm over low heat, until mixture thins, about 2 minutes. Stir to keep from burning.

Place dry ingredients into a large bowl and pour warm liquid on top, stirring with a rubber spatula until well coated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread granola onto sheet, until evenly distributed.

Place sheet in oven and bake until mixture dries and turns golden, about 40 minutes. It's helpful to stir mixture a few times during baking to avoid burning.

Remove from oven, and allow to completely cool on baking sheet. Granola will harden and form into those familiar nuggety chunks. Store in an airtight container.

Makes at least 5 cups, or more than 2 pounds of granola.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 1, 2007; 10:59 AM ET Breakfast
Previous: A Spring Risotto | Next: The Ways of a Traveling Eater

Comments

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When does the kasha go in?

Posted by: Mel | May 1, 2007 11:44 AM

I love to make my own granola! I make it nearly everyother week. W/pinenuts and pecans it is wonderful! You can add nutmeg and coconut too. Eat plain, with ice cream, milk, or yogurt. Yummy!

Posted by: Granola Monster | May 1, 2007 12:13 PM

after the sesame seeds - see the second to last line of the first paragraph

Posted by: for mel | May 1, 2007 12:34 PM

Kim - I am your opposite on this one - what can I sub for raisins - I don't love blueberries or cranberries in my granola either - trying to think of something soft and chewy...

Posted by: raisin hater | May 1, 2007 12:36 PM

I love dried cranberries in my granola, but if you don't want raisins/blueberries/cranberries, try any other dried fruit. Chopped apple rings would be good, or diced dried apricots.
You could also go a little drier in texture, if you like to soak it in milk for a while, with banana chips or some of those freeze-dried strawberries (Trader Joe's carries them). If you want to eat it straight, I'd stick with chewier stuff. Of course, I also can't resist trying 3 or 4 different bags of stuff from the dried fruit aisle at Trader Joe's - they have mangoes and lychees and all kinds of unusual fruits. Coconut is good too, though it doesn't provide the same texture.

Posted by: craisin lover | May 1, 2007 1:40 PM

Raisin hater, I second craisin lover's suggestions -- and would include dried pineapple and papaya to the list. Make your own template for granola -- there are no rules!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | May 1, 2007 1:46 PM

I've experimented in making my own granola recently. I wanted to make a snack that was higher in fiber, so I substituted a high fiber breakfast cereal for the oats, and it worked great!

Posted by: Jen | May 1, 2007 1:53 PM

I have made my own granola in the past, melding my grandmother's recipe with others I have seen. It's been way too long since I made it; after seeing your blog entry, I think I will bump it to the top of my "wanna-make-soon" list. Thanks!

Posted by: Meg in PA | May 1, 2007 1:56 PM

Last time I tried to make granola, I got a nasty burned flavor. I'll try your recipe next. I must admit, it is hard to beat the conveinence of store-bought. It's a tasty, nutritious, and portable snack.

It's also my favorite hiking food - nutritious, tasty, and lightweight. Put a bunch of granola in a ziplock bag, mix in a few tablespoons of dry milk and a handful of dried fruit (if it isn't in the granola), and pack it away. Simply add water, zip bag shut, shake to mix, and eat with spoon.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | May 1, 2007 3:07 PM

craisin lover, I didn't know trader joe's carried freeze dried strawberries! I need to go buy some right now!

Posted by: thank you! | May 1, 2007 6:17 PM

Wheat germ is good... maybe a little powdered ginger, or even chopped crystallized ginger if that's not too sweet for you. I usually add the fruit only after it's done baking, to keep it from getting too hard.

Posted by: Reine de Saba | May 1, 2007 10:56 PM

If you don't like raisins or cranberries, try dried cherries. I love making granola ala Martha Stewart's recipe with some of my own additions such as brazil nuts, coconut and molasses. I add raisins, cranberries and the dried cherries b/c I need all of the fruit I can get.

Posted by: LisaLuvs2Cook | May 2, 2007 1:04 PM

I made this recipe on Sunday and instead of the groats, I used wheat germ, in addition to the raisins, I added 1/2 cup chopped dates and instead of the sunflower seeds I used toasted pecans. It turned out great, except that the baking time was a bit off and it ended up overdone. Perhaps it was due to using a convection oven?

Posted by: Heidi | May 7, 2007 12:13 PM

Cut up dried mangoes are also tasty.

Posted by: Go tropical | May 8, 2007 1:57 PM

What's your opinion of adding flaxseed or some of the other grains like quinoa, teff, millet, or amaranth?

Posted by: popslashgirl | May 9, 2007 3:25 PM

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