Thursday, May 22, 2008

Seven-year granola

Seven-Year Granola

Okay, so what exactly makes this granola different? I'm no kitchen scientist, but I can point out the things that seem to have the biggest impact. One thing is the addition of oat flour, which helps the grains and nuts stick together into those much-coveted clusters. Another is the use of sugar; as much I like liquid sweeteners like honey and maple syrup, they seem to produce a tougher, chewier granola. Finally, the right kind of oats are essential. For years I only baked with regular rolled ('old fashioned') oats because that's what recipes called for, but as soon as I switched to the smaller, thinner 'quick oats', the changes were remarkable - clusters formed, everything baked faster, and the texture became exquisitely light and crunchy. If you can't find quick oats where you live - and I have lived in a few places where oats come in one variety only - here's what I would do: pulse rolled oats in a food processor a few times to break them down to about half their original size. It won't be exactly the same but it will come close.
Yield: about 8 cups

3 cups (250) quick oats*
2 cups (200g) oat flour**
3 cups (about 300g) coarsely chopped raw nuts and/or seeds (I usually use a mixture of almonds, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds, but use whatever tickles your fancy)
1 cup, packed (200g) brown sugar
1/2 cup (115g/1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (60ml) water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground mace

*if you're not familiar with the difference between quick and regular (also called 'old fashioned') rolled oats, take a look at the pictures here
**if you can't find oat flour you can easily make it yourself by grinding oats in a food processor or coffee grinder

Preheat the oven to 300F/150C. In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, nuts and seeds. In a microwave-safe bowl (or in a saucepan over medium heat), combine the brown sugar, butter and water and heat just until the butter has melted and the mixture is bubbly. Stir everything together until smooth, then stir in the salt, vanilla and spices. Pour this mixture over the oats and nuts, stirring everything well to coat. Let stand for about ten minutes.

Spread the mixture out on a large baking sheet, separating it into irregular clumps with your fingers, and allowing space between the clumps for the hot air to circulate. Slide into the middle of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and stir, gently breaking up the mixture into small-to-medium sized clumps. Return to the oven and bake another 15 minutes or so before stirring again. Repeat the bake-and-stir until the mixture is a uniform golden brown and completely dry; this usually takes 1-1 1/2 hours. Cool completely before using.

Store in a covered container at room temperature. Serve with milk or plain yogurt and fruit as desired.

Dan's note: this is really good! Perfect sweetness, nice granola-ey clusters.

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