Double batch this week - we hate running low.

Double batch this week – we hate running low.

Isn’t it funny how three days in a row of the same supper would push our limits but we can eat the same breakfast every single day? Allan and I have creamy yogurt (homemade, by him) and crunchy granola (homemade, by me) every morning with only a few variations: sometimes with berries, sometimes with soy milk, sometimes mixed with All Bran.

I suppose making my own crunchy granola puts me firmly in “crunchy-granola” territory but before visions of tree-hugging, drum circles and peace signs start swirling in your head, let me tell you the reason why I make my own: store-bought granola sucks. It comes in two varieties: cheap, lacking in substance (being mostly oats with few nuts) and overly sweet, or expensive, artisan-type granola packed with delicious goodness…but still way too sweet.

I have tested no less than a half-dozen granola recipes, usually each more than once, with all producing varying levels of good-but-not-awesome results. One recipe had a sandy texture, the instructions not so much for granola than for individually toasted oats and nuts that didn’t bother to mingle with each other. One batch was a sticky mess, so moist that it took on the shape of the container we stored it in (J & S – I think you got a batch of this…sorry).  None of them clumped in a pleasing manner.

And then I found this recipe. It is so good that I’ve been making it every 1.5 weeks (except for one momentary lapse in judgment when I made the sticky recipe and vowed to never stray again), which is how long it takes us to go through a batch. The secret, I firmly believe, is an ingredient I haven’t seen in any other granola recipe – applesauce. It not only imparts a very faint, naturally sweet, fruity flavour to the granola, it also promotes just the right amount of clumping, something I haven’t achieved with other recipes even those using lots of syrupy sweeteners. Best of all, the applesauce stands in for the cups of oil that other recipes call for, reducing the fat in this recipe to two scant tablespoons. I can’t find jarred applesauce here (are British babies not fans?) so I made my own – okay, I made Allan do it – by peeling, coring and chopping apples, then dumping them in a saucepan with a splash of water (to prevent burning), popping on a lid and simmering it on low-medium heat for 20 minutes until tender. A potato masher then makes quick work out of the apples.

Even before I moved to the UK I was a proponent of weighing ingredients for baking not only for its improved accuracy but also for the fewer dishes to wash (you literally just dump ingredients into a bowl, zeroing the scale as you go along) and the lack of having to chase ingredients (like bouncing sesame seeds) across the kitchen floor as you make a mess scooping things from bag to bowl. If you’re still unconvinced about kitchen scales you can find a recipe for this granola using normal cup and spoon measurements here.

In my never-ending quest to cut fat and sugar out of baked goods that purport to be healthy I’ve left the honey from the original recipe out completely and dialed down the brown sugar by half. I’ve also swapped brown rice syrup for maple syrup and I use a mix of chopped nuts totaling 250g (my favourites are almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans and hazelnuts). I adore the taste and crunch of sesame seeds but found that with the original amount you wound up feeling like you were eating a bowl of sesame seeds so I’ve halved this amount too – but, as you wish.

I’ve found baking granola to be more of an art then a science. You want to dry the granola out and toast it slightly without it getting too brown. I’ve come up with a method here that works for my oven in London but suspect it’ll need to be adapted to each kitchen. In general, just keep checking, stirring, rotating the pans and turning down the temperature if things get too toasty. And as you do, your house will start to fill up with the scent of warm cinnamon, brown sugar, nuts, oats and maple syrup. Allan doesn’t like dried fruit in his cereals so I don’t add any but I think dried cranberries would be great (though store the granola and dried fruit separately so the granola stays crisp, mixing only in your cereal bowl just before eating).

The BEST Granola

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Ingredients:

  • 450 gram(s) rolled oats
  • 120 gram(s) sunflower seeds
  • 60 gram(s) white sesame seeds
  • 175 gram(s) apple sauce
  • 2 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon(s) ground ginger
  • 120 gram(s) maple syrup
  • 50 gram(s)  brown sugar
  • 250 gram(s) roughly chopped nuts
  • 1 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 2 tablespoon(s) oil

Directions: Mix everything in a big bowl. Spread onto two baking sheets and bake at 325F for 30 minutes. Stir granola, switch the positions of the sheets and bake for 20 minutes more. At this point take granola out of oven and check if it is done; it should be golden brown and the clumps almost completely dry to the touch. If so, take it out of the oven and let it cool  while continuing to dry out completely. If not, turn the oven down to 300F. Stir granola and return the baking sheets to the oven (switching positions again) and continue to  bake, checking granola frequently (every 5-10 minutes) for up to 40 more minutes.

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