Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Crunchy Granola Suite

crunchy granola suite fig. a: fresh batch

Push it / Push it good / Push it / P-Push it real good
--"Push It," Salt-n-Pepa

For years, my breakfast of champions involved a toasted Montreal bagel and a schmear of cream cheese. Mostly poppy seed, often sesame, and from time to time, when I'd been good, I might treat myself to an "everything." Usually, I'd eat these bagels with just the cream cheese, but on special occasions they might get gussied up with some capers, a slice of fresh tomato (in season), a razor thin slice of red onion, and/or some smoked fish.

That's still my breakfast of champions.  I'll choose it over other options nine times out of ten.  But in the last year or two, as my latent hippieness has become more and more apparent, my morning routine has expanded slightly: it now concludes with a small cup of yogurt topped with some homemade granola and drizzled with a splash of maple syrup.

crunchy granola suite fig. b: crunchy granola suite*

Truth be told, I've had a taste for that kind of thing for years, but it only became ritual recently, when I started to make my granola myself.

Granola became a more regular part of our homelife right around the time we started " endless banquet." Michelle had made granola before, but she experienced a granola epiphany not long after she began working for Patrice Demers.

You wouldn't necessarily expect Patrice to be a granola guru--he doesn't exactly fit the description of a hippie ("a person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair and wearing beads, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs," is how my dictionary characterizes the type), and his desserts are so refined, so sophisticated, so artful--not exactly "crunchy." They're hallucinant, but not necessarily hallucinogenic.

Yet those who've been paying attention will know that he's not averse to the idea of using a little bit of granola as a textural and flavorsome counterpoint in some of his desserts. So Michelle was regularly making granola à la Patrice, and what she learned is that she'd never cooked her granola long enough. Patrice's granola transcended, and his secret was that he baked his granola slow & low. What she learned was that if you wanted to take granola to a higher realm, you had to push it.

When Michelle made her deeply flavorful granola, things were good; but even though she was the one who'd had the epiphany, I was the one who was the serious convert.  I went through batches in the space of a couple of weeks, and there were times when Michelle couldn't keep up.  I was happy to make it myself, and I kept asking for the recipe, but Michelle can be cagey about her methods from time to time, even with me (professional discretion, and all that jazz).  Anyway, it took six or seven years, but, finally, after years of pleading, she let me in on the secret formula.

First off, like I said, it's more about the method than it is about the ingredients.  It's about taking your time, baking the oats and nuts at a relatively low temperature, attending to them carefully, and achieving a deep golden brown colour, at which point, not only will the granola be fully cooked through and through, but it will have a greatly expanded flavour profile.  Secondly, you can be creative with your fruit/nut/seed combinations, but we like to stick to a palette that's fairly regional: oats, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, cherries.  (If you want to get all exotic with your granola, that's up to you.)  Thirdly, feel free to adjust the sweetness, but keep in mind that when I serve the granola, the ratio of granola to yogurt is fairly small, and I only ever serve it with a premium full-fat, unsweetened yogurt.  And, lastly, people have asked me if my granola is fat free--the short answer is "no."

AEB Crunchy Granola

3 cups rolled oats, preferably organic
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 cup sliced, blanched almonds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 scant pinch kosher salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried cherries (optional, adjusting the amount of raisins accordingly)

Preheat your oven to 300º F.

Pour the oats into a large mixing bowl.  Add oil and mix well.  Add the honey, the maple syrup, the almonds, the pumpkin seeds, and the salt, and mix thoroughly.

Place the mixture in a 11" x 17" baking dish (there's no need to grease it--you've already added oil to the mix).  Bake, uncovered, for 1 1/2 - 2 hours (possibly a bit more), making sure to remove the baking dish every 30 minutes in order to stir the mixture thoroughly.  Bake until the mixture has the desired deep golden brown hue.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and use a spatula to transfer the granola back into your large mixing bowl (cleaned, of course).  Add the dried fruit, stir thoroughly, and let the granola cool.

Transfer granola to clean 1-liter jars.

Makes two 1-liter jars of granola.  

Get it? Got it? Good!

Now you're all ready to have some hippie yogurt for breakfast, or go on a hippie hike. Whatever, man. If it feels good, do it!


* The reference, of course, is to Neil Diamond's song of the same name.  The definitive version, in my humble opinion, is on Hot August Night.

hot august night fig. c: Hippie Neil


tvdisko said...

Will make. Looks great.

tams said...

best thing to return home to after a long trip. Thanks Anthony for the recipe. S will be the happiest to have this back in the house. Last time I had to have a major arm wrestle with him over it.

Robert Richards said...

Now this recipe excites me a lot! I'm gonna have to make it this coming weekend for sure.

Tiny Banquet Committee said...

I just made my first batch of home-made granola a few weeks ago and definitely will make a ritual of it, it's so nice to customize. Mine had oats, barley flakes, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, red quinoa, a mix of agave and maple syrups, and some coconut flakes added during the last 5-10 minutes. Fruit(s) added at yogurt-time depending on mood. I think the quinoa is better as a hippie-idea than in reality; it was too crunchy for me. I used coconut oil and that was nice but my next batch is gonna use olive oil.

aj kinik said...

Hi, TVDisko,
Good Stuff. Eat well.

Hi, Tams,
No problem. It was my pleasure. I'm happy to be turning kids on to crunchy granola.

Hi, RR,
I'm glad. Have fun.

Hi, TBC,
Nice to hear from you. That sounds like a pretty brilliant combo. I'm big on fruits added at yogurt-time, too--either that or homemade preserves. I've never tried olive oil myself, but I could see how the right olive oil and the right combination of ingredients could result in something pretty transcendent.