You start with a giant bowl of oats. I don’t mean “quick cook” oats, either. They have their place in the kitchen, but in a recipe like granola, quick oats pose no challenge to teeth; they offer no satisfaction. Regular oats. Giant bowl.
In a just-big-enough pan, you then heat together a bit of oil and honey. The oil, in my opinion, should be olive, because it’s so good for you, but you can use whatever you hand on hand. And as long as I’m being bossy, I suggest you go out and get yourself a bee hive and do the honey right. But if you can’t do that … say, you live on the third floor of an apartment complex with no balcony … then find yourself some good local honey. It’s better all the way around. It’s not been cooked to death so as to kill off all the local pollen and antigens.
You then stir those together with your favorite wooden spoon, the one that’s been darkened by a hundred batches of brownies, stew, and caramel corn. That spoon knows its way around a pot. While this mixture is heating, you go a little crazy with the spices. You toss in a generous heap of cinnamon, because you know that’s the spice that will circle the house first. Clove is good. And naturally, you’ll want a good pinch or two of nutmeg, because there’s not a spice in the world as mysterious as nutmeg. It’s the one that adds interest to the project.
When the whole spicy concoction is just warm enough, you pour it over the mass of oats and stir till every flake is coated. And then you divide the whole pile onto two baking sheets — again, the ugly ones, the stoneware slabs you’ve seasoned up with a lot of good cooking.
While the oats get a head start in the oven, you pull the nuts down from the cupboard and set to chopping. Not too fine. Maybe on this day you feel like biting into a mixture of hazelnuts, pecans and sunflower seeds. So you chop the choppables and toss in the tiny seeds and when you feel the oats have waited long enough, you open the oven door again and add it all together.
Ten minutes pass. Twelve. The cinnamon finds its way through invisible portals in the oven and rushes past you in a teasing stream. You catch a hint of nutmeg, a whiff of toasting hazelnut. People began appearing from corners of the house, sniffing and looking at you expectantly.
When you all can’t stand it anymore, you flip the oven light on and hunker down together to peek in the window. It looks good. It smells unbelievable. And at just the right moment — when the oats and the nuts and the honey and spices have reached the watched-for shade of gold — you don oven mitts and pull those sheets out. And then, because you’re making a perfect batch of granola and it wouldn’t be perfect without them, you sprinkle handful after handful of dried cranberries and cherries and raisins over those baking sheets. You stir carefully while someone else grabs bowls and yogurt and milk.
And then, while you’re tasting that first warm, spicy mouthful of earthy goodness, you turn your back to the east-facing windows, where a sliver of sunshine has fought its way through the clouds, and you look instead out the west windows. You train your eyes on the curtain of gray over the tops of the evergreens, and you convince yourself it’s not an August morning, but a cold day in October … with falling leaves, and a warm fire, and a candle on the mantle.
That’s the power of granola.
The actual recipe
(as close as I can get):
NOTE: When I first wrote this post, I was baking the oats and the honey/oil/spice mixture for a bit before adding the nuts. I’ve since started baking the oats and the nuts together, and that’s how I’m explaining the recipe below. One way might work better for you, depending on the heat of your oven. So experiment with a couple of batches. That’s the best approach to cooking anyway. Just keep fiddling with it until you get it the way you like it.
In a giant bowl, mix 6 cups rolled oats (regular) with about 3 cups any kind or mixture of nuts (we like pecans, walnuts, almonds and pine nuts best). And if you have wheat germ on hand, add in 1/4 cup or so.
In a small pan, mix about 3/4 cup of oil (I use
olive oil coconut oil) and 1 cup honey. Throw in some spices: about 1-2 TBSP cinnamon, 1/2 tsp clove, and a bunch of freshly grated nutmeg.
Cook just until bubbly. Pour over oats and nuts …
… mix well, and spread between two jelly roll (rimmed) pans.
Bake 25-30 minutes @300 or until golden brown, stirring at least once during baking. When it looks delicious to you, pull it out of the oven and toss in about a cup or so of dried fruit (I just toss in handfuls of raisins, dried cranberries, and dried cherries).
Stir well. Let cool on baking sheets, stirring several times to help it crisp up. Store in an airtight container, but not until it has cooled completely.