Sunday, February 3, 2013

Really Awesome Granola

The best granola I've ever eaten was at a small, boutique hotel in Napa, California. My husband and I had planned a fall trip to California, a sort of mini moon or anniversary trip, to visit San Francisco and the wine country. We planned the trip six months in advance and then that August, just two months away from our trip date, my husband received an offer on a job in Stockholm, Sweden. During the time that we wrestled with the decision to make the move or not, part of my stipulation if we did accept the move was that no matter what, no matter how stressful it started to become around the time of our move during those next few months, we would still take our trip to California. I am so glad that I made that stipulation. It was one of the best decisions we made and even now, just over three years later (and living in Stockholm!), I still fondly remember our long weekend in California. And the memory of that delicately, crunchy granola still lingers in my mind.

What was so special about that little, boutique hotel’s granola? Every single component of it was fresh and crisp, it wasn’t too hard or sweet, and it left me craving more. I asked our waiter if he thought the chef might possibly part with the recipe, or at least give me some hints as to how I might be able to achieve the same results at home. He came back with both good and bad news. The bad news was that, as you probably suspected, the chef was not willing to part with the recipe. The good news was that he did give a couple of helpful hints that were key to his recipe. The first hint was to roast all of the nuts separately from the oats. I have found that roasting the nuts separately keeps the nuts crispy without becoming too hard. Their natural flavors are also released and this adds a nice touch to the mild sweetness of the oats. The second hint was to use butter. Of course, everything is better with butter, right? 

Since then I came across a recipe that I have adapted to incorporate these two hints, as well as a bit of experimenting of my own, and the results, I feel, are quite similar to that Napa hotel granola. Normally I would give props to the hotel here but it has since closed and reopened as a different hotel and, since I am not familiar with this new hotel, I don’t feel that I can give my recommendation. The granola recipe I found was first adapted by Ina Garten, or The Barefoot Contessa, from Sarah Chase’s, Open House Cookbook. I have changed the additions Ina uses, reduced the amount of oil, added a touch of maple syrup, and added a bit of butter to give it that extra crispiness. The result is really awesome granola that tastes especially delicious topped with yogurt and fresh berries. 


Ingredients (Makes approximately 10 cups of granola):

8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup sunflower or canola oil
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup, or more, pecan halves
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup roasted, shaved coconut


Roast the pecan halves and then the pumpkin seeds, separately. I roast them individually because they do not roast evenly together. Once the pecans are cooled you can break them into chunky pieces, or you can leave them in halves. I really like pecans in my granola so I have recently started adding about 1/2 cup more and then leaving some of them whole. Set the roasted pecans and pumpkin seeds aside to cool completely.

Measure your oats and place them in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, blend together the oil, honey, maple syrup and brown sugar. While stirring, bring the mixture just to a boil over medium-high heat setting. Once combined thoroughly and beginning to boil, remove from the heat.
Slowly blend the wet ingredients into the oats, a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula. Once the wet ingredients and oats have been well combined, slowly stir in the melted butter, also a little at at time. It doesn’t have to be evenly incorporated. 

Spread out the wet oats evenly on a large, baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes, stirring the granola well every 10 minutes, taking care to move the oats from the outside of the pan to the center and vice versa. If you like your granola extra crunchy increase your baking time in 5 minute increments until you are happy with the desired color and crunchiness. Once the oats have cooled completely (approximately 1-2 hours), mix in the nuts and coconut and eat immediately! 

Or you can store it in an airtight container and enjoy over several weeks. :-)

Feel free to experiment with your own favorite additions. I think it would be equally great with a touch of vanilla added to the wet ingredients, toasted, sliced almonds and dried cranberries! The possibilities are endless... Enjoy!

Xoxo, Grace Ann

This French rhubarb yogurt is one of my favorites... and I love that it comes in a glass jar. 

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