Finally a granola that doesn't crumble to pieces after it is baked! This is a recipe I adapted from the March/April edition of Cooks Illustrated magazine. I was so happy to stumble upon this magazine at my local library (Mt. Sterling library is the best!) I have had trouble finding a granola recipe that I was happy with. Many are simply over-sweetened versions of what is more like a cookie or candy bar, and others were dry and crumbly. This one hit the spot, and the only adjustment I made is substituting honey for the maple syrup/brown sugar they used as a sweetener. An obvious choice in my opinion.
While assembling the ingredients, Maizy came along and said, "What's this momma?"
me: "Those are craisins."
Maizy: "Where do craisins live?"
me: "Well, they are like dried up cranberries."
Maizy: "Oh, well, where do cranberries come from?"
For some reason, Maizy has never gone through the "What's that" phase. She went straight to the "Where does that come from?" stage. And these discussions can go on and on and on, as you might guess. But getting back to the recipe...
You will need:
2/3 cup raw honey
4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups raw almonds, chopped course
2 cups raisins or other dried fruit
1. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and pre-heat to 325 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Chop almonds. I love using this handy little Pampered Chef chopper I got as a Christmas gift. I'm usually not one for kitchen gadgets, but I've spent enough time chopping almonds with a knife to know it is not easy. And the food processor doesn't work because it leaves some almonds too big, while others get pulverized into a fine dust. And a little disclaimer here... I did not let me children use this chopper unattended (and they weren't strong enough to exert enough force to chop them anyways!)
The almonds will look like this once they are chopped. Feel free to allow your stuffed animals to watch as you work (see background).
3. Whisk together the honey, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in oil. Fold in oats and almonds until thoroughly coated.
4. Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread across sheet into thin, even layer (about 3/8 in thick). Using a stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact. Bake until lightly browned, about 30 mins, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Do not stir! This keeps the granola in "chunk" form rather than loose and dry. Here is what is looks like when finished.
5. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break cooled granola into pieces of desired size. Stir in dried fruit. I used a mixture of craisins and raisins, but I also like to use chopped dried apricots, too. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
And here is a fun tip from Cook's Illustrated. For better granola... you must have fat. Without the oil, the oats become crisp and dry. When the water in the honey evaporates in the heat of the oven, the sugars left behind develop into a thin coating on the oats and nuts. Without adding fat, the sugar coating becomes brittle and dry. I think next time I'll go all out and try butter. I hope you give this recipe a try!