Friday, March 5, 2010

The Ultimate Granola

I finally made my favorite granola!  This was one of the many things that I meant to make over the weekend.  Tuesday night, I was contemplating going to bed pretty early.  But the thought of having this granola to eat the next day was too tempting, so I stayed up the extra hour to make it.  And oh was it worth it!  Now I may have mentioned this before, but my oven is awful.  It is tiny (can't fit anything bigger than a 9x13), it only has one rack in it, and it heats unevenly.  Sometimes I feel like it's a game I play with my oven, and unfortunately the oven usually wins.  My biggest problem lately had been that the bottom of everything I baked was burning pretty quickly while the rest was raw.  I read somewhere that if you double up on your baking pans, then you won't have this problem.  So this is what I tried when I made the granola.  This definitely fixed the burning problem, but then it wasn't cooking at all for a really long time.  I normally always cook at a temperature 25 degrees below the temperature given in the recipe, because of the uneven heating.  Maybe doubling up on pans means I don't have to reduce the temperature?  So I usually bake the granola for ~20-30 minutes, even though it calls for 40 minutes.  And I'll add in raisins on top in the last 10 minutes of cooking.  But since this time took a lot longer than it usually takes, my raisins burned :(  I really should have taken a picture of it - before the raisins burned they swelled to the point that when I looked in the oven I actually went "what is that???"  So my advice would be to wait until the granola is a light golden brown (basically darker than it was when you first put it in), and THEN sprinkle raisins on top.  Also, when heating the liquids, I usually just heat until warm and everything has dissolved, then use.  This time I was multi-tasking, so the liquid started to boil by the time I was ready to use it, and I think it gave it a great caramelized taste.
There are a few things I do differently from the original recipe.  First, I only stir it halfway through cooking, and then I don't touch it until after it cools.  I love big clumps of granola, so I like letting it cool as an entire sheet, which I can then break up into smaller pieces.  If you continue stirring, it will taste the same - you will just have individual grains of granola instead of clumps.  Also, I use about 50%-75% more liquid than it calls for.  I think this helps form those nice clumps.  And lastly, besides adding in raisins for the last 10 minutes of cooking, I don't add dried fruit to it.  I figure I can do that when I'm eating each serving.  I do like mixing it with dried banana slices.
So after that long intro, that you probably really didn't need, I will leave you with the recipe!

The Ultimate Granola (adapted from Tyler's Ultimate Granola)
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 1/2 cups raw almonds, in the skin (make sure they aren't roasted and that they don't have salt)
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey
2 T molasses (the combination of liquids you use is up to you - I like the flavor molasses gives to it.  Basically add enough liquid so that everything is moistened)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Several handfuls of raisins

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a 9x13 pan or cookie sheet with edges with parchment paper or foil.  Mix together the oats, almonds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sugar and salt.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the oil, honey and molasses, until they are all smooth and warm.  (If you want, let them cook until it starts to boil slightly - it deepens the flavor.)  Stir the vanilla into the warm liquid.  Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients, and stir until it is all moistened.  Pour everything into the pan and press down firmly with a spatula.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes, stir everything really well, and press down again.  When things are starting to look lightly golden, around 25-30 minutes into the cooking, sprinkle raisins on top.  Let cook for another 10 minutes, and then it's ready to come out.  DON'T STIR when you take it out.  Let it sit until it cools, and then break up into whatever size clumps you like.
This is great as a snack, or my personal favorite - with some greek yogurt and sliced bananas.  Enjoy!

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