Alison writes: I’m starting up a healthy regimen and one of my goals is to make homemade granola. It’s one of the few things I really like for breakfast. The organic/supermarket stuff is outrageously expensive so my learning would be a good thing.
Tony’s take: This is one of those DIY questions that’s gonna get me on a new regimen, too (so, thank you!). Making homemade granola is actually really easy (I’d forgotten just how easy until working on this recipe). And it is so much better (and cheaper) than anything you can buy. Not only can you personalize granola (no small thing) but you can make it fresher… toasting the nuts and oats so they’re browned and crisp and, well, really good. And the process is easy. Toss oats (raw oatmeal) with nuts or seeds, something sweet (maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar) and a little fat (oil or melted butter). Bake until toasted and crisp, then let cool, stir in some dried fruit, and store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week (or longer in the freezer). And then you can go ahead and focus on the rest of your regimen (better you than me).
The technique: I like my granola big, large clusters which you can just as happily snack on by hand as sprinkle on yogurt. You can accomplish this textural trick by giving the oats a paste-like coating before baking so they come together. But first things first: all granola starts with rolled oats. Avoid “instant” or “quick” oats, which are par-cooked and have a less-than-wonderful texture. (Note: if you go the Quaker route, look for the stuff labeled “Old-Fashioned”). Toss the oats with some sort of nut or seed (I chose pecans because they’re my favorite and, also, because I had some kicking around the freezer). Then coat both with a sticky mix of all-purpose flour (the non-traditional addition which is the key to clusters), maple syrup, and some sort of fat. For the latter, I opted for canola oil, though you could go with melted butter for enhanced flavor. Spread the sticky oats flat on a baking sheet and bake until caramelized and browned. Then toss with the dried fruit. I like the slight tartness of dried cherries with the maple syrup, though dates, figs, raisins, or even coconut would also be good in here.
The recipe: Yields 8 cups
1. Mix: Heat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl, toss 4 cups rolled oats, 1 cup chopped pecans, and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. In a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Add the maple mixture to the oats and toss to coat; the flour and maple should create a sticky coating. Spread the oats evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
2. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until crisp and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool to room temperature then toss with 1 1/2 cups dried cherries and 1/2 cup chopped dates. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week in a dry cool spot (or in the freezer in a zip-top bag indefinitely).