When I started making my own granola, about 30 years ago, some people seemed to think I was being excessively DIY, like someone who would insist on weaving and dying the fabric for all her clothing. But I liked the flavour, price and health benefits of the homemade product, and I obviously wasn’t alone: making your own granola has become pretty commonplace.
I’ve developed a formula for granola, which results in a cereal that tastes great with yogurt and takes Bob, Adrian and me through to lunchtime. In a fit of scientific enthusiasm, I once worked out the protein, fat, carbohydrate and sodium per serving for my granola, but that information appears to have disappeared with the death of my previous computer. (Yes, I should do backups more regularly than I do, and yes, there was a lively discussion at our house that day about what constitutes “a serving.” Just so you know, my serving is a quarter-cup of granola with about two-thirds of a cup of yogurt.) I’ll crunch those nutritional numbers again and post them in the comments section. For now, let’s just say this granola is fairly low in both sugar and fat. My version does not have added salt.
One of the best parts about making homemade granola is the fun of combining flavours. Right now we are eating an almond-cherry-vanilla granola that is delicious. In the fall I use dried apples and cranberries, lots of pumpkin seeds and maple sugar. Another tasty combination uses dried peaches, pears and apricots, with powdered and diced candied ginger and slivered almonds. A granola that has dried cherries with pieces of dried peach and sliced hazelnuts is ridiculously good.
- 9 cups grain
- 3 cups seeds or nuts
- 2 cups dried fruit (or 2-1/2 cups, if I’m being honest)
- 1 cup freshly-ground flax seed
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (brown, maple or white)
- 1/4 cup nut, seed or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon spices (optional)
- Pinch of salt (optional)
Method and ingredient considerations
Grain: I’m boring. I like to use large-flake non-quick-cook oats for my grain. I used to put wheat germ or wheat hearts in my granola. I stopped using it for Summer’s sake, and then we all decided we liked the cereal better without the wheat anyway. I’ve flirted with other grains, but I always come back to oats.Lots of people do cool things with quinoa and the like, and I’ve given it a whirl, but I am now at peace with my oat preference.
Seeds or nuts: Use raw or roasted, and not salted or with added oil. My favourites are almonds, which go with lots of flavours and are widely available sliced and slivered, and pumpkin seeds, which are yummy. We have various nut and seed allergies and aversions at our house, so this turns out to be the trickiest bit for us. But all nuts and seeds work. Don’t use whole nuts, since you’ll lose that nice experience of having some nutty flavour and texture in every bite of your cereal.
Dried fruit: It’s fun to use a combination. If the fruit is bigger than a raisin, cut it into raisin-size bites, on the same principle as using sliced or slivered nuts. The prettiest granola I make has a combination of cranberries and apricot and apple pieces (all dried). The batch pictured here has two kinds of cherries, because when there are cherries in a dish, I get mad if I have to eat any fruit that is not a cherry. You may not suffer from this issue, and can mix cherries and other fruits with abandon.
Flax seed: White, brown or red are all fine (and have been found to be nutritionally equal). Keep the whole seeds in a sealed container in the freezer and grind only as much as you need for a dish. I grind mine in a coffee grinder that never, but never grinds coffee.
Oil and sugar: I mix the ground flax seed with the oil and sugar. I usually use pumpkin, sunflower or almond oil. If I want to use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar, or if I am adding vanilla extract or paste, I still mix it with the flax and oil. Mix it together with a fork or your hands — I use my hands because I do like to play with my food — until you have grainy-textured nuggets around the size of a pea. Blend this mixture well with the grain and nut/seed ingredients and spices and a bit of salt (if using). You will still have little lumps of flax/oil/sugar, but try to make sure they are very small lumps. They will be tasty little treats in your finished granola.
Bake: Don’t add your dried fruit yet. Put the rest of the granola on a large baking sheet. For the above quantity, I use a commercial half-sheet, covered in parchment. I bake my granola in a 275-degree F oven for about 40 minutes, stirring it 2 or 3 times. Don’t let your granola get brown. You are lightly toasting everything, that’s all.
Add fruit: Add the fruit when you take the granola out of the oven. Let the granola cool completely before bagging it. I keep granola in the freezer in 2-cup amounts, and keep out just enough at a time to fill the granola jar, pictured here.
Overly-dry dried fruit: If you think the fruit is too dry or has a crystallized texture, pour about 1/4 cup boiling water or apple cider on the fruit, stir it around, let it sit for a few minutes, then drain. Spread fruit out on a plate or board covered in a towel or paper towel to remove extra moisture. If you want a crunchier granola texture, you can add the water you used to soften the dried fruit to the flax/oil/sugar mixture. You may need to bake the granola a few minutes longer if you do this.
We eat our granola with yogurt, either plain or plain that has been jazzed up with some boiled apple cider, vanilla paste, honey or maple syrup (or a combination). There is a bit of tension in our granola world between Adrian, who wants it sweeter, and me, who doesn’t. Bob cheerfully eats whatever granola is in the jar. We have now negotiated a peace treaty whereby our granola is much less sweet than any commercial variety I have tasted, but still offers a little sweetness if you eat it with plain yogurt. If you want it to be sweeter, you can support your local maple syrup or honey producer and pour a dollop of syrup or honey into your yogurt.
|Sharon is back in Kingston, Ontario, where she is pining for the Atlantic Ocean, but grateful for her KitchenAid range.|
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