Here’s what I want in a homemade granola. I want it to be relatively healthy, so I can tell myself I’m still having a nutritious breakfast. I want fruit and nuts to break up the oat-y monotony. But above all else, I want clusters. Crunchy, delicious clusters. Is that so much to ask?
My first attempt, though delicious, was entirely, disappointingly cluster-free. Same goes for the second attempt, which involved freezer-related machinations to try to woo those rolled oats into sticking together. Still no luck, though the innovation of adding vanilla to the mix was a flavor improvement. All the while, Caolionn, my friend and partner in granola commiseration, had been tinkering away in her own kitchen trying to achieve granola perfection. The intrepid scientist that she is, Caolionn combined several recipes off of Epicurious to come up with this one.
I’ll admit her e-mail, entitled, “We have granola success…” has been in my inbox for months now; somehow I managed to get too busy to take up the quest again by trying what she called, definitively, “KICK ASS GRANOLA”. But on a recent Saturday night as Dylan studied for his medical school boards, it seemed like the perfect time to pull out the bags of oats, nuts, and dried fruit, and give it another go.
My adherence to the ingredient list was loose at best, but I think what I was most in search of here was technique, that series of steps that would finally give me those sweet clusters I’ve been craving. And you know what? SUCCESS!!! I’ll admit that the photo of the granola attached to this post looks decidedly cluster-free, but you know why? We scarfed down the entire delicious batch so fast that by the time I realized I hadn’t yet taken a picture, we were left with nothing but the loose bits at the bottom of the tupperware. Rest assured that if you follow the directions below, not only will you find cravable clusters, but you will likely devour the entire batch of granola at a rapid clip and pine for more until you make your next batch. I managed to fit in into nearly every meal except dinner…a sprinkle over cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, mixed in with fruit and yogurt for lunch, with a little bit of milk for dessert at night. It’s an addiction.
I would use the quantities and types of nuts and berries listed below as only a very rough guide. I substituted based on what I had in the house and what I like best, changing amounts when needed. I also left out the flaxsseed as we didn’t have any in the house and increased the proportion of oats to about 4-5 cups. What you absolutely shouldn’t fiddle around with, though, are the sugar, oil, and maple syrup, which are needed to create the clusters. Lastly, although it says not to add the dried fruit until ready to serve for fear of losing the crunch, I added it as soon as the granola was completely cool and found it to be perfectly crunchy regardless.
Caolionn’s kick-ass granola
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup slivered almonds
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
½ cup sunflower seeds
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
6 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons warm water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup ground flaxseed
dried black currants
1. Preheat oven to 275. Spray a large cookie sheet with nonstick. Mix all ingredients from oats to flaxseed in a pot and place on stovetop. On medium heat, slowly mix up the ingredients and let them cook for about 5 minutes. As you stir you will see chunks develop as the granola binds together.
2. After a couple minutes, spoon out the granola onto a cookie sheet, spread out and bake at 275. Keep at 275 for 60-70 minutes. Let granola completely cool and then store in airtight container. Keep dried fruit separate from the granola until ready to serve, as their moisture will ruin the crunch.