When I was growing up – seemed like all the kids I knew were best friends with Tony the Tiger and pretty much lived on breakfast cereal. Not me so much – I was the weird kid – allergic to milk. If I ate cereal at all, it was dry – and well, not all that exciting, you know?
When I was a second grader one of my deepest, heartfelt wishes came true… to go to Camp Sambica for a week of camp! Sigh… I can still remember it. RJ was my counselor – and I remember wistfully saying to her, “When I grow up, I want to be a Camp Sambica counselor!”
Little did anyone realize that I’d not only grow up to be a Camp Sambica counselor, but I’d also grow up to be a Camp Sambica registrar, lifeguard, housekeeper, bookstore clerk, and baker! It was when I was the baker at Sambica that I formed a friendship that will last a lifetime, no doubt.
Of what do I speak?
Yeah – I know. Kinda nutty, huh? (ha! I crack me up!)
Honestly – I love the stuff.
And what’s not to love?
It’s good for you.
It tastes amazingly wonderful.
It’s easy to make.
It keeps for almost forever.
It seems a little selfish to keep the wonderfulness all to myself, so I’m gonna share. This is my world famous granola recipe – and you can take it – make it your own, and share the wealth as well!
First – preheat your oven to 350 F.
Now – gather your dry ingredients… Oats (not the instant stuff – go for the grown-up version, please!), nuts, coconut (and please, avoid the sweetened crud, go for the all natural), dry milk, brown sugar, and salt.
Do you love the bulk foods section at your local grocery store like I do? 🙂
A little disclaimer here… I consider recipes as guidelines (anyone? Pirates of the Caribbean?!) and you make them your own with a little tweaking here and there. Keep that in mind as we go forward from here.
Every woman ought to own a ridiculously large mixing bowl that really only gets pulled out for ridiculously large quantities of food. Like for now. I mean, come on – why make granola if you’re not going to make a huge batch and be set for a while. Right?!
Here is my ridiculously large mixing bowl with the 16 cups of oats (steel cut and red both), one cup each of wheat bran (although you could use oat if you liked – sometimes I use both oat and wheat), coconut, and golden flax seeds. Yeah, alright, you got me – it’s really more like a cup and a half of the coconut. Can you blame me?
And about the flax seed. It’s something I’ve been wanting to give a whirl in the granola – so there it is!
Now the nuts… Yes, the recipe calls for peanuts and sunflower seeds. They are in there. But I like to mix it up now and then and this time I added some roughly chopped almonds, too. You keep nuts on hand in the freezer, right? Cause you never know when you might need some – and well – I needed some almonds in my granola this time out, and I’m glad they were there!
And just for reference sake – I buy nuts in the bulk section of the grocery store, get them home, and if I think they’re gonna be destined for granola in the future, I pull out the food processor and give ’em a whirl or two before transferring them to the freezer bag and throwing them in the freezer. Then, when it’s time for granola making – you’re all set!
Now I add the brown sugar, dry milk, and salt.
About the dry milk. I usually have dry buttermilk on hand and use it. I honestly don’t really know why there’s dry milk in here at all – someone older and wiser and much more accomplished as a baker than I told me I oughtta throw it in there, and so I do. To be honest, I’ve made it with and without it – and the difference is not profound.
Okay – now it’s time to get your hands in there and mix it all together. It’ll look something like this:
Now time to mix together the wet ingredients: hot water, oil, honey, and vanilla.
I pull out my 8 cup measuring cup and start with the hot water, then the oil, then the honey, then the vanilla. Why? Well, I’ve found over the years that the honey distributes so much more nicely if it’s done in this order. That it’s warmed up and thinned out a bit doesn’t hurt, either.
Next, I make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in…
Now it’s time to mix!
The best method, in my experience, is to take a wooden spoon, start at the outside edge, dig down to the middle, lift up, and fold the ingredients together. It’s gonna take maybe 5 minutes of doing this to get everything incorporated together nicely. Be sure to pay attention to balls of granola – that’s a glob of honey hiding out – be sure to mix it in.
Now you’re going to need a BIG pan.
I use my cake pan. It’s 18″ x 12″ x 2″ and just accommodates this batch of granola…
“WAIT!” you’re thinking. I know you are. You read the recipe ahead like any good cook or baker does, and you saw raisins and/or dried fruit on there. You’re thinking – “You forgot! Add it in!”
NO! I didn’t forget.
NO! Don’t add it in!
Not yet… patience padiwan! If you add it in now it will turn into charcoal-looking, exceptionally bitter tasting, hard as a rock little lumps of fruit. Don’t go there, please!
Now – you put the granola in the oven!
My son always asks, “Why do you put it in the oven?” Well, I’ll tell you why. You want it to dry out. That’s why. And you want it to get golden. That’s why. And you want it to melt all of that honey through evenly, so that each bite tastes like a bit of sunshine. That’s why.
Now here’s the tricky part. I wish I could say to you: bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Sorry – not that easy. There are several factors that go into this. Like – how humid is it out today? Here in Oregon – none. It’s a gorgeous day with virtually no humidity. But if it were winter time, when we have tons of humidity – it would take a good extra 25 minutes just for that! And remember how I said you can throw extra stuff in? Well – if you add a whole boatload of something that absorbs fluid easily – well, then it’ll take a bit longer for everything to dry out sufficiently and brown. Make sense? And, if you throw enough extra stuff in, you might need to add a little extra honey and oil, and well – more moisture, means more time in the oven to get everything dried out, right?
This batch of granola? A good 2 hours. And you don’t just throw it in the oven and go do something else for a couple of hours. Nope. You gotta babysit it. The first half an hour – just let it be. But after that, you’re going to need to check on it and stir it, and rotate the pan.
Big insider tips:
The more time that goes by, the more frequently you’ll need to check it. It can go from golden brown to black in no time. Charcoal-tasting granola is NOT okay.
Set the pan on the top rack of the oven. It browns on the bottom of the pan and on the top. I know – makes sense, right? But I’m always surprised at just how much it browns on the bottom. So that means you need to be careful to use an appropriate tool that helps you scrape the bottom of the pan every time you stir. I use a flat edged wooden spoon.
Rotating the pan makes it go so much better. Seems simple and basic – but it really is an important thing. You’d think not doing so wouldn’t have a big impact. Well, it does – it’ll take WAY longer for it to be done.
Okay – so, two hours, about 10 stirs and turns later – here you go – beautiful granola:
NOW we add the golden raisins and/or dried fruit. And you know what? You can add a wild and amazing array of potential ingredients here. I seriously eyed the dried pineapple in the bulk foods section today… Hmm… that would be yummy! Go wild. Heck – back in my days as the Sambica baker, I used to put in dried dates – cause we got ’em free. Not a single kid knew they were eating dates – and they loved the granola!
I think it’s important to point out that it’s just so much easier to add the raisins while the granola is hot. I’ve tried it both ways – hot and cold – and hot wins in my book every time!
After you’ve added in the dried fruit, allow the granola to cool completely.
Once it’s cooled, store it in a canister or the like. At camp we used old 5 gallon buckets with lids. I happen to have a nice big glass canister that I keep it in. If you want it to keep forever and ever amen, then put it in an air tight container or the freezer.
There you go. Homemade, amazing, better than you’ve ever had anywhere else in the world, granola!
Aren’t you proud of yourself? You just helped make an awesome batch of granola!
|1/4 cup||Dry milk|
|1/2 cup||Brown sugar|
|1 cup||Peanuts, roughly chopped|
|1 cup||Sunflower seeds|
|2 cups||Hot water|
|3/4 cup||Safflower, Sunflower, or Olive Oil|
|1 cup||Almonds, cashews, or other nuts to your preference|
|2 cups||Golden raisins, or any other dried fruit you may prefer|
Preheat oven to 350°.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a very large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly.
- Mix together the wet ingredients.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients – mixing just until they are incorporated. Do not over mix! This should NOT be a doughy mixture.
- Place in a baking dish with at least an inch side on it. (I use a 1/2 sheet cake pan – it works great!)
- Bake at 350°, stirring and turning as it browns. Bake until the entire mixture is golden brown. This process can take up to a couple of hours. Be careful to keep a close eye on it – as it dries out, it browns very quickly.
- Remove granola from the oven – being certain to do so before it begins to overcook and burn.
- Add in raisins, being careful to stir them through thoroughly.
- Allow to cool completely.
Notes: Store in an airtight container, or in the freezer for a longer shelf life.