My daily breakfast of yogurt and granola is (almost) as important to me as my morning coffee. Those crunchy baked clusters and bursts of fruity sweetness wake up my taste buds and give me enough fuel to make it through the morning. I might even go as far as saying that eating granola makes me happy. OK, maybe the coffee gets partial credit for that, but I do love granola.
Baking up a batch every couple of weeks is another nice ritual. It's really easy, and unlike the store-bought alternative, you can create exactly the balance of fruit, nuts, grains, sweetness, and richness you want.
This slideshow will show you the basics of granola-making, whether you want it rich and sweet, or lighter, more liked a baked muesl.
Thinking of all the granola possibilities got me experimenting a little. Here are three variations: a classic, a more-candy-than-breakfast, and a savory. Each starts with the same simple formula: bake a mixture of oats, nuts, and dressing at 300°F for 30 minutes (stirring occasionally), cool, stir in dried fruit.
Classic Coconut Granola
The granola I usually eat for my breakfast is pretty light on sugar and fat. I sweetened it up for this version, which is more like a classic granola with lots of clusters. I love honey in granola but using the neutral brown rice syrup here allows the coconut flavor to come through. If you like a lighter granola, you can cut the coconut butter and brown rice syrup in half.
Grains: 3 cups rolled oats, 1/4 cup millet, 1/4 cup flax
Nuts/Seeds: 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, 1 cup (or so) chopped almonds
Dressing: 1/3 cup coconut butter and 1/2 cup of brown rice syrup
Embellishment: Sprinkle coarse sea salt (up to 1/2 teaspoon) over the mixture before baking
Fruit: 1/2 cup each of chopped pineapple, cranberries, blueberries, and golden raisins (I like Hunza)
Is it necessary to add chocolate, condensed milk and butter to your granola? Not at all, but I wanted to see what a "dessert granola" would be like. Warning: This is not a health food granola.
Grains: 3 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup wheat bran, 1/2 cup millet
Nuts/Seeds: 1 cup chopped hazelnuts. (Try toasting the hazelnuts separately while the granola is baking, then wrap them in a towel while they cool. Once cooled, rub off the skins, chop the nuts, and stir them into the granola.)
Dressing: 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/3 cup condensed milk or honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla
Embellishment: 1 cup chocolate chips. Accidentally, I found that if I tossed them into the granola before it was completely cooled, I'd get yummy chocolate-granola clusters (not pictured).
Fruit: 1/2 cup chopped apricots, 1/2 cup cherries
I'd thought about making a savory granola for some time—this was my chance. The verdict (according to my husband): weird but good. It makes a good snack alongside mild cheeses and wine, or try it sprinkled atop a salad. This savory granola has some citrusy sweetness, too.
Grains: 2 cups rolled oats
Nuts/Seeds: 1/2 cup pine nuts, 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
Dressing: 2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, zest of a lemon, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 cloves chopped garlic, 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, a few twists of freshly ground black pepper
Embellishments: 1 ounce of grated parmesan (about 1/4 cup) and 3 tablespoons of chopped oil cured black olives, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, all stirred in before baking.
About the author: Kumiko writes the blog Recipe Interrupted. She believes that having a few cooking techniques under your belt can help make home cooking creative and easy, and is excited to share these basics here on her regular column Technique of the Week. A graduate of Brown University, the Institute of Culinary Education, and a mother of two hungry girls, Kumiko is always trying to keep her Brooklyn kitchen smelling of something good.