Great Granola

Granola is like a blank canvas. A simple base of oats and nuts plus a little oil and sweetener, and you’ve paved the way to dozens of variations on this easy, homemade snack. However you like yours, all great granolas start with some common rules. Here’s how to turn out a perfect batch every time.

One of the best things about granola is how adaptable it is to substitutions. Want to use dried apricots instead of cranberries? No problem. Different seeds or nuts? Go right ahead! But if you find a recipe you’d like to adapt, keep your ratio of wet-to-dry ingredients roughly the same as the original recipe to ensure the most reliable results. Feel free to mix and match the components that make up your dry-ingredient mix. If you want to substitute a wet ingredient, like olive oil for canola or margarine for butter, keep your wet mix’s fat-to-sweetener ratio consistent. Some sweeteners (like agave) will taste sweeter than others, so you may need to reduce the amount you decide to swap in.

Low temperature is the key to dry granola that’s not burnt. Higher temperatures can cause ingredients like nuts, seeds and coconut to burn before the batch has a chance to properly dry out and crisp up.

Don’t go overboard with the spices and seasonings. If you’re using cinnamon, start with half a teaspoon for every six cups; for more intense spices like allspice or cardamom, start with a quarter of a teaspoon. You can be generous with vanilla. And whether you’re doing a sweet or savory granola, don’t forget the salt — it brings out other flavors and keeps the granola from tasting too sweet.

Nuts and seeds can go into your raw oat mixture so they can get toasty and fragrant while they bake. Dried fruit should only go into your finished mixture when it comes out of the oven.

Fruit and Nut Granola

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

2 cups sliced almonds

1 cup pecans, slightly chopped

3/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 cups small diced dried apricots

1 cup dried apples, diced

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup dried cherries or blueberries

1 cup roasted, unsalted cashews

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Toss the oats, coconut, pecans and almonds together in a large bowl. Whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl. Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated. Pour onto a sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Add the apricots, apples, cherries or blueberries, cranberries, and cashews. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

Granola Bars

6 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup maple syrup

1 cup honey

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups crisp rice cereal

1 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1/4 cup roughly chopped almonds

8 ounces baking chocolate, chopped and melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl, toss the oats with the canola oil and salt. Spread the mixture out on 2 baking sheets and toast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan twice and making sure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F.
In a medium saucepan, combine the maple syrup and honey. Heat the mixture slowly, stirring until all combined. Stir in the vanilla.
Toss together the toasted oats, rice cereal, wheat germ, pecans and almonds. Pour in the syrup mixture, stirring as you pour. Toss to combine; it will be sticky.
Line a sheet pan with foil, and grease the foil. Press into prepared pan, and bake until golden — about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. It may seem soft but will crisp up as it cools. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars.

Dip the bottom of each bar in melted chocolate, and allow to harden upside-down on parchment paper.

Store airtight 1-2 weeks.