My issue of Food & Wine last month was all about eating better, including pages and pages about the benefits whole grains. Ugh, I love white bread and pastries made with refined flour. But I welcomed the advice and decided to get started by finishing up the year-old package of Quaker Oats in my cabinet. (I hate oatmeal…) To be clear, I covered the oatmeal in honey and sugar and butter before eating, though.
Granola is great IF it’s homemade. Store-bought granola always has a weird bitter, plasticky taste to me. When you make granola at home, you get toasty, crumbly bits that you can bake just to your liking. Also, when done right, it basically feels and tastes like cookies, but you can eat it for breakfast. There are a few people in my life who make incredible granola at home, and, together, they turned this whole grain skeptic into a believer in the stuff.
My oldest sister makes granola so good that we demand it ahead of time when we plan a visit to her house for the holidays. A mason jar of her golden mixture has been known to wait under the Christmas tree for each of us; she apologizes as if it’s not a legitimate gift, meanwhile we’d been crossing our fingers that it would make another appearance. Leigh likes her granola like she likes her ice cream–packed with add-ins. She inspires this minimalist to take a few risks and when it comes to my own cereal-making.
The second master that I know, a woman I babysit for, often has trays of her granola cooling all over the kitchen when I arrive. She and her kids devour granola, which she stores in a cabinet that seems to be dedicated entirely to canisters of her concoction and the ingredients she uses to whip it up. Never at a shortage for slivered almonds, dried apricots, and the best oats, she taught me that the key to her incredible recipe is olive oil. It adds a savory depth that you don’t get with vegetable oil, which is more commonly used.
Finally, my youngest sister taught me that her delish granola benefits from low, slow baking. She insists that baking at 250 degrees for more than an hour makes all the difference. And I have to admit, she’s really onto something. Just like with great barbecue, low gentle heat over a long period of time keeps things tender and coaxes out flavors you didn’t know were there.
Under the influence of all of these experts, I culled together my ultimate recipe. Try it out–you’ll be eating more whole grains in no time and those grains will be dessert-flavored!
A couple quick notes: I usually use whatever nuts I have handy, whole (pecans, almonds, pistachios). I like them whole, but almond slices are a favorite of the women who inspire me! Also, dried cherries are incredible, but pricey. If I can’t afford them one week, I skip dried fruit all together since raisins or dried cranberries taste pretty lame once you’re used to cherries. Instead, I eat my granola with a spoonful of raspberry jam if I don’t add fruit. Your call, though!
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon salt
1⁄2 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/2 cup whole almonds
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
3⁄4 cup dried sour cherries, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Melt butter over medium heat. Be careful not to let burn!! Add sugar, salt, honey and olive oil. Stir to combine using a rubber spatula and continue to heat gently, until sugar has dissolved. Turn off heat.
2. In a bowl, combine oats, nuts, and coconut chips. Combine with butter/sugar mixture and toss until oats are coated.
3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread granola over it. Bake until dry and lightly golden, about one hour. Stir granola a few times along the way, creating clusters or preventing them as you like–I like to create LOTS of chunky clusters!
4. Remove granola from oven and stir in dried cherries while still hot. Let cool and store at room temperature for up to three weeks. I like to eat mine over Greek yogurt before work; it’s the perfect, ready-to-go breakfast for hectic weekday mornings!