Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This Isn't A Food Blog...

...But it might as well be, from what's been on my mind lately.  :)  And on my blog reading list, which is mostly home design and food blogs! So fun!

Most of my experiments lately have been with very basic food staples, which I'm rather used to buying at the store, but I can actually very easily make myself. Bread, salad dressing, pitas, yogurt...and today, granola. I know I may not always have the time or energy to do this, but it feels good.

Yesterday, as many of you know, I made granola for the first time.  I looked at a lot of recipes before I set out on my own, so I'm going to tell you what I did, what I didn't do, what I did wrong and what was awesome.  Then you can take what you want from those things and hopefully apply them correctly in your own crunchy endeavors.  (I forgot to take pictures during the process, but I took a few after the fact...)

I didn't use any specific recipe, because everyone can make granola as they please. Which is totally the fun of it, and I don't like making things that need specific ingredients.  (It's also one reason I've been preferring to make my own stuff instead of buying it: I'm kind of picky! :) However, although I don't love following recipes, I do need to find out what's necessary/common to get good results.   All the recipes I read about involved creating some sort of sticky sauce to coat the dry mix.  They all needed oil, and they all needed to bake.  So here are the basic ingredients I used...mix and match and add and subtract at your own taste!  All measurements are approximate, because I didn't measure anything.

  • 3c quick OR old-fashioned oats 
  • 1c cashews, rinsed to take off that stupid salt powder
  • 1c ground flaxseed (find it in the health section at Hy-Vee - it has GREAT flavor and very healthy...I think it helped keep stuff together after the sauce was poured in)
  • 1/2c walnut pieces
  • 1/2c unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2c slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Mix this all together in a nice big bowl. Other ideas: peanuts, a bit of wheat germ, pecans, spelt flour, pistachios, pretzel bits, coconut flakes/shreds, or hazelnuts.

You can also mix in craisins, raisins, dried apples or bananas or mangoes or any other dried fruit you can think of, M&Ms, cereal (cheerios, chex etc) chocolate chips, peanut butter chips...but just wait with these ones til after you've baked everything else. :)  Note: If you leave dry fruit in the granola, it can get really hard over time and the granola will get soggy.  Also, I saw several warnings not to use whole almonds, as they can get too hard to eat after baking.  (Here is a rather ominous picture of cashews.)

  • 1/4 to 1/2c canola/coconut/hazelnut/other vegetable oil
  • 1c maple syrup
  • 1c honey
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • a few grinds of salt
Heat the syrup and honey with the oil (or whichever of the two you're using on its own) in a little pan on low heat.  When it's runny, add the cinnamon and vanilla.

Add any other spices you think you'd enjoy: nutmeg, dry/fresh ginger, molasses, allspice, orange/lemon zest, applesauce, agave nectar, even a bit of cayenne pepper.  You might also want to add some brown sugar (maybe 1/2 cup), as the honey doesn't really add a ton of sweetness.   I've also read that nut butters (peanut, almond, hazelnut) add a lot of richness and flavor.
(Those of you in Lincoln: have you ever been to Gateway mall around Christmastime, and there's that candy/nut stand in the middle, selling baklava and candied nuts? Well, the simmering sugary stuff smelled exactly like that stand.  It was kind of startling.)

My biggest mistake was to TOTALLY FORGET the oil.  The resulting granola was still very tasty, but definitely a bit dry, in part due to overcooking (grr) but I think the oil would have helped save it.  So you can use just honey or just syrup or whatever, but neglect not ye oil.

After everything's nice and liquidy in the pot, pour it over your mixed-up dry stuff, and combine it till everything's sticky.  If it's not enough, add more if you want, and if it's too sticky add some more oats or whatever.  You want the final mixture to be sticky but not soupy! It should stick together, but still crumble apart.  But the amount is really up to you.

Spread it on your flat pan/s (oh, did I mention to preheat the oven to 300 or so?) and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Most recipes say to turn it midway, but I didn't.  What I did do was get distracted and leave the pans in a little too long.  Not like carcinogen-long, but long enough that I had to throw away some of the edges, which got really dark really fast.

So my suggestion is: don't spread it too thin.  Take it out when it's a little golden, and it'll get darker and crispier as it cools off.  (I left mine on the pan all day because I had to leave for work.)  Once it's cool enough to handle, you can transfer it to a bowl or whatever.


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