Almond Granola with Cranberries and Coconut
One of the many good things about having a mom who loves to cook is that when she comes to town, she brings goodies with her. And this past year, she came bearing big bags of homemade granola. The granola disappeared pretty quickly - although I didn't seem to get any (as a non-yogurt eater, I was in the minority). So when she brought the recipe with her the second time around, I figured I ought to try it out myself and see what all the hubbub was about. Let me tell you....the hubbub is delicious.The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated and it turned out to be super easy and incredibly delicious. Though I still won't put it on yogurt (we are not good friends), I've discovered that it's delicious sprinkled on top of a bowl of fruit and I imagine it would be delicious on ice cream or frozen yogurt as well. It's something you can make quickly on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and it should last you all week for breakfasts, snacks, desserts, or quick bites while you're walking through the kitchen (I can't even tell you how much of it I ate while trying to take these photos.)I'm always a fan of Cook's Illustrated because they do a ton of research on their recipes so they usually come with a bunch of good tidbits. Here's what we learn on this one:
- The key to keeping granola chunky is to firmly pack it onto a rimmed baking sheet (make sure it's a good solid one) and let it bake in peace. You don't want to stir it or mess with it (other than turning the pan once) while it's baking.
- You need some sort of fat in the recipe. Because the water will evaporate in the oven, the sugar that is left on the oats is brittle and dry. When you add in a fat, like oil, the sugar is able to keep the oats crunchy and moist without becoming brittle. This means chunks. Big delicious chunks.
- To keep the fruit chewy, add it in after you cook the oats. They don't need any oven time. A bench knife is great for this. Here's the one I have (and love).
- The base granola recipe can be augmented to make about a million different final granolas. I added dried cranberries and toasted coconuts. There are more alternatives below.
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (don't use the instant stuff)
- 2 cups raw almonds, chopped course (you can also sub in slivered almonds if you don't feel like chopping)
- 2 cups dried cranberries or other dried fruit such as raisins, blueberries, apples, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup lightly toasted shaved coconut
- Preheat your oven to 325F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk the maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt until combined. Whisk in the oil. Fold in the oats and almonds until everything is thoroughly coated.
- Pour the mixture out onto your prepared baking sheet and spread it out so it covers the whole sheet. Grab a metal spatula (or something stiff like a pie serving tool - what are those things called anyways?) and press the oats down firmly. You want everything to be in a very compact layer.
- Bake, until lightly browned, 35-45 minutes, rotating the pan once. This can burn really easily, so I recommend checking every five minutes or so once you hit the 35 minute mark.
- Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool on a rack. Once it's cool, use your fingers or your spatula/pie tool to break up the pieces into your desired chunk size. Try not to eat it all in the process.
- Mix in the cranberries and coconut. Enjoy!
The granola will last for two weeks in an airtight container, but I can guarantee it won't last that long! If you're not feeling the cranberry and coconut combo, here are some alternative granola options:
- Pecan-Orange Granola with Dried Cranberries: Add 2 Tbsp finely grated orange zest and 2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon to the maple syrup mixture. Use pecans instead of almonds, and add 2 cups dried cranberries after the oats have baked and cooled.
- Spiced Walnut Granola with Dried Apple: Add 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger. 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the maple syrup mixture. Use walnuts instead of almonds, and use 2 cups dried and chopped apples as the fruit.
- Tropical Granola with Dried Mango: Reduce vanilla to 2 tsp and add 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg to the maple syrup mixture. Use macadamia nuts instead of almonds, and sub 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut for 1 cup of the oats. Use 2 cups dried mango or pineapple for the fruit.
- Hazelnut Granola with Dried Pear: Use hazelnuts instead of almonds, and use 2 cups chopped dried pears for the fruit.