Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Crunch Time

We made some impossibly large batches of granola, working assembly-line style, to give away as Christmas gifts this year. Yet somehow we were only left over with a one day's supply for ourselves. Is that an indicator of how much we had left, or how fast we consumed it? Let's not dwell on that one..

I love having fresh, homemade granola at home. Certainly, it excites me to scoff at the 9$ bags grocery stores somehow get away with selling. But more so, I love being able to customize the crunchy goodness to my exact tastes, and to know for sure it contains no ingredients I can't pronounce, and none of the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup. Plus, it's so easy and cheap, and in my opinion makes the loveliest gift. Admittedly, I'm beating around the bush. There is that one other reason I love making granola.. You see, the following picture captures one of my favorite smells in the world. I have an inkling that melting the butter is not exactly essential to the process - surely using butter soft enough to simply allow the ingredients to be combined would do the trick - but why pass up on an opportunity to paint my house in the full, almost nutty caress that is the smell of melting butter? Ah... I just put a fresh batch in the oven, and now wait for a warm treat I can douse in cold creamy milk and decorate with a graceful plopping of thick yogurt, knowing that now my mornings are once again crunchy and delicious.

To me, making granola is all about getting creative, experimenting, and of course using up those banana chips that would otherwise go stale. I'm keen to try using peanut butter,
pecans,dried kiwis and other fruits, sunflower seeds and maybe pumpkin seeds. Probably not all together tough...
I'd also love to try making a savory version, using olive oil, cayenne and sun-dried tomatoes maybe? I imagine it would be a tasty thing to have around, to throw on a salad or coat a chicken in before roasting.

The method:

Preheat oven to 375 F.

For every three cups rolled oats, mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, and somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 a cup honey or maple syrup, or some combination of both.

Add more butter if you'd like more crispy clusters of goodness, and less if you're a less butter is better kind of person. (Really?)

Then add about 1/2 cup each of the dried fruits or nuts you're using. A whole cup if it's something you particularly like. (My classic go-to combo: almonds, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, banana chips, shredded coconut and flax seeds.)

Spread it on a baking sheet and bake until your kitchen and surrounding area smell magical, and the granola is nice and brown. Should take around 40 minutes.

It keeps in an airtight container for up to a few months, but is unlikely to stick around that long. It tastes best when warm out of the oven, though.

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