Sunday, March 30, 2014

Loaded Granola

In my mind, granola is one of those foods that just goes with Christmas. It fills your house with the smell of sweet spices. My mother made huge batches every holiday season, cycling through various recipes and filling cellophane bags for friends and neighbors. This year, I followed suit, but had to make a completely different recipe, of course, 'cause you just can't compete with the goodies that come out of my the oven at my mama's house.

This granola is crisp, quite sweet, and full of nuts, seeds, spices, and dried fruit. And it's salty, so it makes a great anytime snack. (If you don't go for the salty/sweet thing so much, dial the salt back to one heaping teaspoon.) It's also flexible. So if you aren't a fan of pepitas—a.k.a. hulled pumpkin seeds—or have trouble finding them, you could swap them out for slivered almonds or another favorite nut. If you're questioning the pistachios, I highly recommend trying it at least once, unless you have an allergy, because their texture and flavor adds a lot to this recipe, since the nuts stay a little soft and taste almost creamy in this mix.

 Granola is rather forgiving, so you can play with ingredients quite a bit. I find that it stays crisper if you don't mix it with the dried fruit until serving; at home I liked to keep my dried fruit mixture chopped up and ready to use in a separate bag, so my granola doesn't loose its crunch.

Loaded Granola

This recipe makes enough to fill two cookie sheets. But it's irresistibly snackable, so you might want to bag it up and put it out of sight as soon as it cooled. The Mr. and I have demolished quite a bit just with walk-by munching. Cardamom can be tricky to find, and the granola won't suffer greatly without it. But it adds a little extra something special, a flavor that's a bit unfamiliar with just a hint of piney scent that seems fitting, especially for holiday granola. 

5 ½ cups rolled oats

¾ cup pepitas

¾ cup sunflower seeds

¾ cup pistachios
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tsp. salt
2 ½ tbs ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger 
½ tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cardamom 

½ cup maple syrup
½ cup honey
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup coconut chips

1 cup dried sour cherries, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried golden raisins

1. Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper. (Parchment won't scorch like wax paper.) In a very large bowl, combine oats, pepitas, sunflower seeds, pistachios, salt, and spices. Add brown sugar, breaking apart the packed shapes from your measuring cup and sprinkling it over the other dry ingredients to help it incorporate more easily. Stir. 

2. Pour olive oil, maple syrup, and honey over dry ingredients. If you measure them all in the same measuring cup, they will make cool layers, like shown below. As you can see, I used a bit more maple syrup in this batch, because that's what was left in the bottle in my cupboard. So if you want your granola a little extra sweet, go for it. Stir granola mixture until all dry ingredients are moistened. 
Oooh, Science.
3. Pour granola on to parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and stir granola with a large spatula, turning over the mixture so the bottom doesn't scorch. I also like to switch which pan is on which shelf at this point, since the bottom of my oven is much hotter than the top. Set timer for 15 minutes, and stir again. At this point, add the coconut flakes, sprinkling them evenly over each pan and mixing in to the granola. Bake for at least 10 more minutes, until some of the coconut stars to turn slightly golden. Baking times may vary with altitude and humidity levels. After 40 minutes, I like to scoop some granola onto a plate, let it cool until edible, and test its crunchiness. If you want your granola a little more crisp, continue to bake it, testing at 5 to 10 minute intervals. 

4. When is granola crisp and golden (usually about 45 to 55 minutes), remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or large ziploc bag. Toss with dried fruit before serving (or gifting). Granola will keep for up to two weeks. But good luck with that. 

1 comment:

Goojah Mama said...

Yum, yum, yum and good for you too!!! Nice work on making my recipe yours! Lots of nuts and goodies!