Oven-toasted granola stays crunchy, even in milk.1
During the winter months, the avalanche of seed and plant catalogs I find in the mailbox reassures me that there will be fresh fruit again next summer. Still, to get these catalogs, I have to trudge through 2 feet of snow. And for too long, in my opinion. So how do I keep the faith? I celebrate dried fruit instead by making mounds of granola.
I have tried countless recipes for homemade granola. Trust me, this is the one my family and friends like the best. It was first inspired by Sarah Chase’s Open House Cookbook. Ina Garten then added more dried fruit to it for the The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.
I took Garten’s adaptation and switched from vegetable oil to walnut oil. It gives the granola twice as much nutty flavor. I also changed up the fruit for more color, crunch and variety. My addition of banana chips drove it right over the top.
There are as many innovations in granola making, as there are permutations. If you are like me and can’t leave good enough alone, use mine as your starting point. Or, to avoid all of the experimentation I had to endure, just go right to the good stuff.
Ingredients (this recipe makes 12 cups):
4 cups rolled oats (not the quick-cooking kind)
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
¾ cups walnut oil
½ cup good honey
1 cup small, diced dried apricots
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup quartered figs (Garten likes these finely diced but I love the shape of them halved or quartered.)
1½ cups banana chips
1 cup roasted cashews (Garten likes these unsalted, but I like them salted.)
If, after reading the ingredients, you begin to wonder how granola won its reputation as a healthy food, I’m right there with you. It may be from the association between granola and hiking. After all, hikers need lightweight snacks and extra calories!
Preheat oven to 350 F. Toss the oats, coconut and cashews in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together the oil and honey. Pour the oil and honey mixture over the oat mixture and stir thoroughly. The oil helps the oats crisp up, so you definitely want to ensure that everything is coated. Pour the mix onto a 13-by-18-inch baking sheet. It is smart to use one with sides, because you will be stirring it from time to time while it bakes, and you don’t want it to spill out.
Bake 45 minutes, but depending on the depth of the pan, the timing may be different. Just pull it out and stir it with a spatula every 10 minutes or so. As it begins to brown, you will need to stir it more frequently. Keep a close eye on it, since coconut easily burns.
When the mixture has evenly browned, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool – still stirring it occasionally. If you can, set it on a trivet so it can cool from the bottom, which helps prevent overcooking. After it has cooled completely, mix in the apricots, cranberries, figs, banana chips and cashews. You can store it in an airtight container for a week or two, if you like. Mine never stays around that long, especially if anyone is home to smell the aroma as it bakes.
More Ways to Enjoy Granola
• Top a fruit and yogurt parfait with it.
• Eat it dry by the handful.
• In a bowl with milk
• Layer it (alternately), with pudding and cake several times to make trifle.
• Roll a banana in peanut butter. Then roll it in granola and slice to serve.
• Roll a banana in melted chocolate, coat with granola and freeze.
• Bake an apple with it, drizzled with butter until it is crisp.
• Make gifts by putting granola in a mason jar or simply wrapping it in cellophane.
1. DREAMSTIME.COM/© GREGGR
2. DREAMSTIME.COM/© SHARIFF CHEL’LA
3. DREAMSTIME.COM/© BLOOPIERS
4. DREAMSTIME.COM/© SCOTT
From State-by-State Gardening January/February 2014.