Crunchy Almond Granola
About a month ago I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that delivers right to the door! LOVED IT! Until I realized that I just can’t cook that many random vegetables in a weeks time. (BEETS, really?) I have made them in one of my classes, but I am going to be honest and say I’d rather spend $4 bucks on 6 tiny ones that are already cooked for me than 40 cents on 6 that were pulled out of the sandy ground two days before. Call me crazy! (If you have never made beets at home … SKIP IT!)
Beets/ granola? Let’s regroup. One of the CSA options I choose was to buy 4 cups of homemade granola. ($10) We love granola at our house and I have made it before, so I know how much better it can be than what you get at the store. Unfortunately, this CSA purchase was average and not worth $10.
I was inspired to make granola again! Hmm, maybe if the Amish are selling it for $10, I could sell it! LOL! As my youngest is heading off to Kindergarten in the fall, I have started to hear those quiet voices in my head that whisper …. “SLACKER, GET BACK TO WORK!” (I guess the voices aren’t that quiet!)
Granola is really easy to make, and I would bet that most of YOU actually have all the ingredients in your pantry now. If you are missing one of the ingredients, you can easily swap it out with something else. (i.e. almonds for pecans or honey for maple syrup) Cooks Illustrated had a granola recipe in their March/ April edition, so I decided to try it. Their specific goal was to create a granola that included large chunks of granola along with the oats.
Let’s get started! I preheat my convection oven to 325 for about 30 mins. If you haven’t checked your oven temperature lately to see if it’s correct, it’s really easy to do. You can buy an oven thermometer for about $3 at the grocery. Simply preheat your oven for at least 20 minutes, place your new oven thermometer inside your oven and then check to see if the reading on the thermometer is the same as the oven reading. If it is not, check your oven manual, and you can easily adjust your oven temperature up or down. Most oven’s aren’t calibrated correctly …
My first step is to set up my cutting board (you can’t see it but I have a damp towel underneath the cutting board so it doesn’t move) and chop up 2 cups of whole almonds with my large Wustof knife. (You can easily buy already sliced almonds at the store. Already sliced ones are more expensive, and I normally buy whole almonds in bulk at Costco.)
Then I chopped up the dried cherries and set aside. I love dried cherries and there is only ONE place in the country to get the best ones. Cherry Republic in Michigan! (www.cherryrepublic.com) I literally order cherries in bulk from them two times a year. (Okay … I also order their caramel popcorn in BULK but let’s keep that on the down low.) Richmonders, you can find their cherries at the Bizarre Bizarre. My Aunt Fiffy sent packages of these cherries to my mother year’s ago, and we have been spoiled ever since!
Now, in a large mixing bowl, I whisk the maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla and salt. (If you are trying to cut out sugars, you could use agave nectar in place of the maple syrup)
Next, I stir in the oil, and then fold in the oats and almonds until fully combined.
The next step is to bake the oats on a lined baking sheet. I line mine with parchment paper because I hate doing dishes.
If you remember, the goal of the Cooks Illustrated recipe was to form LARGE chunks of granola. So, after spreading the granola over the baking sheet, I press down one side of the baking sheet to compress the ingredients together. I place the baking sheet in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. I then rotate the baking sheet – front to back – and bake another 20 minutes until lightly brown. (I do this rotation with all cookies that I make. Even if you calibrate your oven, it’s still really hard to get a consistent heat. Another helper according to some of the chefs I have taken classes with is a Pizza Stone. They are at every pizza shop and what the pizza is baked on. They can withstand high heat and retain the heat. My next kitchen purchase will be a pizza stone …
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the granola cool. Gently crumble the granola into a large bowl, add in chopped cherries or other dried fruit and then grab a bowl and dig in!
I thought this recipe was okay … it didn’t have as much flavor or interesting ingredients as another one I had previously made. I even made another batch and added in an additional 3 T of honey, another teaspoon of vanilla, some flax seeds to see if that would help. It didn’t. Needless to say I had over 10 cups of granola, so I froze several bags, which we are still eating on. I promise to make the other batch of GREAT granola and share that recipe with you soon.
The great part about making granola is that you can substitute or add whatever ingredients YOU like. I love any recipe where you can have that flexibility!
Alright readers … I am still waiting for one of YOU to challenge me with a recipe! If you live in RVA, I will not only make it, but bring it to you to try. Come on, whose up?
1/3 c maple syrup
1/3 c packed brown sugar
4 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt
1/2 c vegetable oil
5 c rolled oats (do not use quick oats … I DID!)
2 c raw almonds, chopped coarse
2 cups dried cherries, chopped
Follow my info above!