Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cherry Almond Granola

Having a stash of homemade granola in the pantry is a beautiful thing. First of all, it makes for a great snack, is perfect for mixing in with yogurt/fruit for breakfast, and is good enough to sprinkle on top of vanilla ice cream. (So far this is sounding a lot like my post about Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce.)

Secondly, it's so easy to make — can you stir and do you have 30 minutes? And finally, it keeps for weeks in an airtight container/ziploc bag, so there's no feeling harried to finish it off.

The beauty of granola is that, once you have the basic technique down, you can really experiment as much as you want with the ingredient list. Like cashews? Great! Throw them in or sub out one of the other ingredients. Want dried cranberries instead? Cool — make it happen! Just beware that if you add more ingredients (as opposed to substituting something out), you'll need to up your quantities of honey and oil to make sure everything has a nice coating while baking.

In the end, your granola is a very personal thing that should be customized to your taste preferences (or whatever's leftover in your pantry, which sometimes is just more realistic!).

Cherry Almond Granola (makes 11-12 cups)

4 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
2 cups sliced/slivered almonds
2 cups dried cherries, chopped*
1/2 cup wheat germ or oat bran (optional)
1/4 cup flax seeds (optional)
2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup canola/vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey**

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a large sheet pan (preferably one that is at least 1" deep) with foil to save yourself a lot of pan-scrubbing grief.

In a large bowl, toss together the first seven ingredients (oats through cinnamon) until well combined. Pour the oil and honey over the oats mixture and stir until the mixture is evenly coated with the oil and honey. Pour the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and spread in an even, shallow layer.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally with a spatula so the granola gets evenly golden brown (often the areas on the edges of the pan will cook a little faster than the middle). Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Then package the granola in an airtight container and stash until you're ready to eat. (Or you can put it in a pretty glass jar and ship it off to your mother-in-law for Mother's Day!)

Notes: Really the only mistake you can make with this recipe is baking it too long (and thereby over-toasting/burning the coconut/nuts). Keep a careful eye on the granola towards the end of the baking process and pull it when you see that the coconut and nuts are lightly toasted. Let your nose be your guide too — when you can smell what you're baking, it's probably about done! Also, I tried adding in about a cup of chopped dried California apricots to my mixture. The first time I did it, I threw them into the mixture with everything else, and I found that they got very chewy (annoyingly chewy) during the baking process. The next time, I tried adding them in once I took the granola out of the oven — this produced a much nicer texture.

*Chopping dried fruit can be a sticky situation! I found that spraying my cutting board and knife blade with cooking spray helped me to keep my sanity and kept the dried cherries from forming into a giant glob.

**If you don't love the taste of honey or your supply is short, you can also try subbing maple syrup or corn syrup. Personally, I dig the honey flavor with the particular ingredients that I use, but feel free to experiment with this also!   

Click here for a printable recipe!

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