Last month I posted about my first attempt to make a great granola. I am a hard-core breakfast cereal eater and sometimes I want a sprinkle of something a little different and special atop my Kashi Go-Lean or Honey Bunches of Oats. But the fat and calories in store-bought granolas are enough to turn a person’s head if you should read the nutritional content. I liked the idea of making my own, so that at least I’d know just how much oil or butter or sugar went into it. My first attempt, Mark Bittman’s recipe from the NYT (and How to Cook Everything, I believe) was good but not totally fantastic, mainly because the oats failed to form those delicious, crunchy clusters that are half the fun of granola. My immediate suspicion was that to get the clusters, you need massive amounts of butter or syrup to make all of the little oats stick together.
Part of the reason that I was drawn to this recipe for vanilla-scented granola (posted on Epicurious, but originally printed in Bon Appetit in March 2002) was a reader comment posted below saying that to make the crunchy clusters, after you take the granola out of the oven, wrap it tightly in tinfoil, and stick it in the freezer where it will anneal into a giant bar from which you can break off pieces. Sounded ideal…the recipe was still reasonably healthy and yet I would get my clusters!
I’m afraid, however, that once again, I was met with disappointment. Yes, this granola is very nice and there is a subtle vanilla essence (or am I imagining it?), but the only clusters that emerged were where crispy golden oats stuck to the sticky cut edges of dried plums and apricots. Hardly a cluster, in my book. Has anyone used that freezer trick with success? Or do you know of another way to get clusters? Despite the letdown, I am still enjoying this granola- I nearly doubled the recipe so I’ll be enjoying it for quite a long time, in fact. I’m partial to having it on cereal or yogurt, but in a pinch, it works well atop oatmeal for a little crunch, as shown above (just add honey or Trader’s Joe apricot sauce for sweetness). Don’t get too caught up in proportions of fruit and nuts- the more you add the tastier it will be, but you should also just feel free to put in whatever dried fruit and nuts you like best and change the amounts according to your liking.
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup nuts (almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, walnuts all work well and you can mix them)
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, craisins, chopped apricots, dried plums, anything you’d like)
1. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 300°F. Lightly spray large baking sheet with nonstick spray. Mix next 5 ingredients in large bowl.
2. Combine oil, honey, and sugar in small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour hot liquid over oat mixture; stir well.
3. Using hands, toss mixture until thoroughly mixed. Spread granola on prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Transfer sheet to rack and add dried fruit. If you’d like to try to create clusters, once the granola is cool enough to handle (but before it cools down entirely), wrap it into a tight brick using tinfoil and stick it in the freezer. I left it there for several hours, but I was flying blind as far how long to leave it in so you might try longer.
Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 8-9 cups.