Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cherry Almond Coconut Granola

Granola's such a rewarding thing to make, don't you think?

If your answer to the above is "I don't know," then you need to try this recipe.

I can think of few things that require little more effort than pouring, sprinkling, mixing, and baking, yet make your home smell so divine and yield such deliciously impressive results.

Picture this: You roll out of bed on a lazy Sunday morning, all by yourself, sunlight streaming through the blinds. You brew coffee and produce from your refrigerator a neat little jar of this crunchy, toasty, nutty, wholesome goodness. Sprinkle over Greek yogurt, add fresh fruit, open the windows, and relax before walking into town for the farmers' market.

Or this: You're entertaining guests for the weekend. Maybe your parents, your in-laws, your best friend. You don't want to slave away in the kitchen, yet you want to impress. You want to show them, See? I can do more than just show you a good time. I can nourish you.

Enter this granola. Simple, carefree, wholesome, and delicious.

Admittedly, I wasn't born a granola goddess. My last few attempts at granola have ranged from okay to blech, and I wanted to make something delicious. (If you're curious, the blech was peanut butter and banana granola. Sounds delicous, right? Wrong! Though I suspect the problem had more to do with my method than with the idea itself.)

I needed a bit of guidance, so I did a little reading. I checked my cookbooks. I surfed my favorite blogs. And I started to feel a little overwhelmed.

See, there are complicated granola recipes that call for multiple kinds of flakes and seeds that I don't keep in my pantry. There are high-maintenance granolas that demand multiple steps of toasting, mixing, simmering, and soaking. And then there are decadent granolas that involve as much butter as a Paula Deen cookbook. While butter has its own special place in my life, that place (usually) isn't my breakfast bowl.

I decided that I didn't need a recipe. What I needed was a formula.

In the end, I liked Kath's Crunchy Buckwheat Granola for the simple, straightforward method. I also liked Ellie Krieger's Nutty Granola recipe.

I decided on a ratio of 4 1/2 cups dry ingredients to 1/2 cup wet ingredients. Then, I broke down the dry ingredients into 2 1/2 cups grains, 1 cup nuts/seeds, and 1 cup of fun mix-ins (coconut and dried fruit). For the wet ingredients, I settled on equal parts sweetener and oil. Finally, I decided to slow-bake my granola at a low temperature.

I wanted to stick with clean, simple, well-paired flavors. I love a combination of cherry and almond. I also added some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) rather than using all almonds, because I thought their savory nuttiness would balance the sweetness of the almonds and coconut. 

Cherry Almond Coconut Granola
(makes 12 servings; serving size: about 1/3 cup)

2 1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c slivered almonds
1/2 c pepitas
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c honey
1 t vanilla
1/4 t Kosher salt
1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c unsweetened dried cherries

  1. Combine oats, almonds, pepitas, canola oil, honey, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine. 
  2. Pour mixture into a metal baking pan with tall sides. 
  3. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 30 minutes. 
  4. When granola is golden brown (and your kitchen smells like freshly baked cookies), remove from the oven. Stir in coconut and cherries.
  5. While the granola cools, give it a stir every 30 minutes or so. Allow to cool completely before storing. 
I keep mine in the fridge to help it last longer. Probably doesn't matter much, though--this granola's so good it'll be gone before you know it!