The Great Granola Hunt, recipe division
This did not start out as a project – it was just one of those idle irritations. Bill, who eats granola for breakfast, came home with some that was truly dreadful, up to and including the very strange pink bits of freeze dried raspberry. We will not discuss why he bought it; suffice it to say that even he didn’t want to eat it and of course then we got talking about the old days when you made your own and then the very next Wednesday there was Mark Bittmann in the Times with a recipe for crunchy granola.
Rather than simply following it, I decided to look at some of the competition, always a danger now that we are in the age of Google. When I asked it to find “granola recipe”, it came back with “Results 1 – 10 of about 1,420,000. ”
Uh huh. But when would it stop being granola recipes or literary references to granola recipes and start being the usual outer reaches: strings of words that start with g; science fiction pornography; entries in what looks like Chinese but isn’t.
Plunged in, leaping the longest intervals offered. On page 30, there was a lowcarb granola, a thought too scary to explore further. On page 46, an excerpt suggesting that nuts “should be rinsed in cold tap water to which vitamin C powder has been added”. Page 65 was still recipes, including one for a “vegan fusion ” version called Marley’s Hemp Granola, which I should have looked at, I guess, since what I remember about cooking with hemp is that the results were generally – how shall I put this? – more functional than delicious.
The plan was to stop at page 100 but google’s ” that’s it, nothing after this but repetition” kicked in after only 810 hits, on page 81.
Give or take a few, I think 81 is about the number of granola items sold by my local Stop and Shop. They have granola stocked in 3 places: the health/ organic (pay more here) area; next to the whole nutmeats and rice cracker snacks at the end of the produce aisle; and of course in cereal, which had the smallest number of granolas but the largest number of granola bars: 60 running feet of shelf space. Not wishing to piss away the time required I didn’t count varieties, but did notice that many were chocolate covered and one contained m&m’s. The one with the m&m’s was not, by the way, on a low shelf where small children would be enticed by it.
I could go on, and probably will, since there is a food-historical black hole between J.H. Kellogg’s Granola, which sold by the ton in the 1880s , and the tidal rise of the 1960’s product that made “crunchy” an adjective applicable to human beings.
For today, I will only say it’s surprising, once you start tasting alertly, how many variables there are, that plenty of salt certainly helps, and that so far the Corsican special is my favorite but Bill prefers good old Honey Nut.
GOOD OLD HONEY NUT GRANOLA
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup pecans, whole or in large pieces
6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup toasted wheat germ
½ cup mild honey
3 tablespoons walnut oil (or peanut oil, if there’s no walnut already in the fridge)
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread almonds and pecans in separate pie tins and toast until a broken nut is very pale gold; about 12 minutes for pecans, 15 or longer for almonds. When nuts are done, reduce heat to 300.
2. Spread oats and sunflower seeds on a large jellyroll pan and parch in the 300 degree oven, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Oats should crisp while scarcely coloring.
3. Turn oat mixture into a large bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Combine honey, oil, salt and vanilla, heat just long enough to liquefy/thin honey, give it stir and pour it in. Stir until all dry matter is coated, then add nuts and stir again ditto.
4. Turn the whole works out onto the oat pan, spread to the edges and return to oven. At 5 to 8 minute intervals, use a flat pancake turner to lift the brown edges into the middle and spread the paler material. Keep it up until the granola is a rich dark gold and a cooled nugget is properly crunchy, anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on pan, oven and sugar content of honey.
5. Store airtight. If you want raisins or other dried fruit , the time to add it is right before eating. There’s no reason to pre-mix something you want to keep moist with something you want to keep crisp unless you’re going camping.
Variation: The Corsican Special, aka Double Chestnut
(which was originally known as Italian recipe fanatic – there’s no way you’d have these ingredients handy unless you were really into it)
5 cups rolled oats
¼ cup sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons chestnut flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
scant half-cup chestnut honey
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
scant ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped pecans
1. Heat oven to 300 degrees and toast oats and seeds as in 2., above.
2. In a large bowl, mix oats and seeds with flour and wheat germ, then add remaining ingredients as in 3, above.
3. Very slowly toast the living bejeeziz out of it, lowering the heat if it starts browning before the first half hour is past. It’ll be done in 40 minutes to an hour.