OK, so probably the term “best” should be reserved for something that has passed through the gauntlet of public opinion, but in this case I think that I’ve hit a winner here with the best granola I have ever tasted. That’s probably because I made it to suit my taste. This was another of my randomly cobbled together recipes for which I am famous, a notoriety that mostly extends to my wife and kids. Of course the Internet has a lot to do with getting the basics down. Thank you, Internet.
This article is more of a general guide to making granola rather than a strict recipe. While I do list specific ingredients, they are easily substituted. These instruction are written more for people that have a clue. For those of you who don’t know how to cook and need the specifics there are about a bazillion other granola recipes on-line.
Instead of tormenting you with five more paragraphs of blogerific blather, here’s the recipe:
6-8 cups of rolled oats (key ingredient)
1/8 – ¼ cup of your wife’s home-made manzanita berry syrup. (any flavored syrup will suffice, how about maple or strawberry?)
2-3 heaping table spoons of brown sugar (key ingredient, any sweetener will do)
1/4 – 1 teaspoon of salt (careful here)
2 heaping table spoons of peanut butter (key ingredient)
2 heaping spoonfuls of your wife’s home-made peach ginger jam (substitute your favorite jam or jelly)
¼ – ½ cup of olive oil (key ingredient)
feel free to add chunks of nuts or dried fruits
Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a large pot while heating on the stove at the lowest temperature possible. The low heat seems to help everything combine a little better and preheats the mix for the oven. Keep turning and turning until homogeneity is reached. Take a taste. If it seems too sweet or salty you may add some oats. Remember when you bake the mixture, the sugar will caramelize slightly and the sweetness will mellow. As long as your temp is not too high, you can the leave the mix warming on the stove. I don’t know if keeping the mixture warm was crucial, but for some reason it just felt right.
Place the ingredients on a cookie sheet in an even ¼ – l/2 inch layer. If there is enough, you will most likely have to bake the mixture in several batches. You may be tempted to bake the whole thing at once, but doing so may cause your batch to cook unevenly, with some parts reaching the crucial browning stage too early and other parts to have no browning whatsoever. This is a no win situation. It is crucial that the concoction cooks evenly. Crucial, I tell you!
Place the cookie sheet in the middle rack of a 300 degree oven.
Set a timer for 20-25 minutes. (This will help you get a general idea about the timing for your subsequent batches)
Hang out for your first batch. After about 7-10 minutes, pull out the cookie sheet, stir and re-flatten with a spatula. It should look like a warmed over version of what went in. It’s OK to use about 1-2 minutes on your timer. Place back into your oven.
At about minute 15-17 take the cookie sheet out again. The mix may or may not be browning yet. If it’s just starting to brown stir once more and place back in oven. If you think it looks brown enough (the proverbial “golden brown”) , taste it and smell it. Does it smell a bit like cookies? Does it taste like granola? Maybe it’s done. It wont be crunchy until it cools.
The last 2-5 minutes of baking can be pretty touchy. So pay attention.
If the granola isn’t brown enough then place it back in the oven and watch it like a hawk. Seriously, don’t get distracted. One to two minutes can mean the difference between perfectly-browned and burnt. For the first batch I pulled it out about three times in the last 5 minutes until it looked, tasted and smelled perfect.
Pour the granola from your cookie sheet into a large mixing bowl. If you feel impatient you can sift it through your fingers to help it cool. After about ten minutes it should begin to encrunchinate.
If you have more than one batch start the whole process again, using the first batch as your guide.
Once all your batches are done, let them cool thoroughly. You may store your granola in an airtight container for as long it takes to become stale.