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.
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.
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 ¼ 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
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.
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