Thursday, July 16, 2009

Best Granola Ever

I think I'll look back on my twenties and remember them as the decade that I fell madly in love with breakfast. I don't ever really remember caring that much for breakfast up until these last few years. To be honest, I also didn't care that much for mornings! Now, I like them quite a bit and have become somewhat of an early bird. The thing about breakfasts is that once you start having them regularly, you usually wake up hungry for them. Then... you're hooked.

Maybe there is just something about the kinds of food we eat in the morning hours. Though there is nothing wrong with cold pizza or pasta salad. I've certainly been known to go down that road. The morning time is fresh and perky, looking out at a day full of possibilities and goodness. I'm a big dreamer and idealist (sometimes to a fault) so these early hours of the day cater to my personality. Not only the day has many possibilities, but so does breakfast. There are so many items to consider and all of them perfectly fabulous. Start with your beverage. Would you like to start gently with hot water and lemon? A big glass of water is always healthy. Coffee. Black with just enough cream and brown sugar? Iced and milky with caramel? Though that's usually best in the afternoon. Juices? Perhaps a dainty glass of ice cold orange juice? Maybe you're a meal in a cup type and smoothie is on your agenda? I'm getting excited already and we've only covered drinks!

Let's move to the food portion of this topic. Depending on what's in your fridge and pantry and what's going through your food mind, there are so many great places to go. I usually find my body knows just what it wants. Usually it wants a lighter breakfast, relatively speaking I suppose. I don't do non-fat dairy or even close to it so my term 'light' could be a grey area. As featured here, I just love tart, unsweetened yogurt topped with granola and fresh fruit. It's filling, creamy, refreshing, and full of tastes and texture. My favorite yogurt for this purpose is Annie's Plain Whole Milk Yogurt with Honey. You can find it in huge tubs which provides for many and many quick breakfasts.

I'm also a huge fan of eggs. I love them scrambled with with vegetables like onions, broccoli, and peppers and then served along side a small quesadilla. Poached perfectly and laid over salmon-cream cheese-covered crostini with fresh fruit on the side. You can always scramble them into a little round and put them between a gourmet English muffin with pesto, provolone, ham, and thinly sliced red bell peppers or anything else you feel like. One of my favorite pairings is a warm, fresh scone with cream and jam served with scrambled eggs and fruit. One day, I'll make my Sunday Eggs and share that with you as well.

Are you with me yet on how fantastic breakfast is? We are near the end but I've saved the best for last. While I don't eat these delights very often, they really are the grand climax of breakfast. They bring everything together in one giant swoop. A rich, indulgent, sweet & savory morning time culinary gold mine. You can pair them with salty, rich breakfast meats when you really want to go all out. Which we do once in a while... Okay, let's get started. Pancakes. Love them. I make some out-of-this-world buttermilk flapjacks. That would be our go-to. I also have a really great whole grain recipe from Martha Stewart. To balance that, I also have a favorite, very indulgent recipe from Gourmet that calls for loads of butter and results in a very beautiful, thin and crepe-like pancake which is perfect for special occasions. My favorite topping for all of these cakes is fresh fruit compotes and vanilla bean whipped cream. I also love sweet, gooey fruit jams smeared all over the top. Let's not even get started with the thought of Creme Brulee French Toast. Or thick Belgian waffles. Or pastries. Croissants! Dutch babies with lots of butter, fresh lemon juice, and confectioner's sugar. With all these choices, I must admit I rarely make room for oatmeal of cold cereal... Can you hardly blame me?!

Now that I've taken you on the breakfast tour of delights, let's get back to this granola. I do things a little differently but I thought I should honor the recipe of origin. The biggest change I make is to cook the granola at a much lower temperature that doesn't require stirring or overly brown as easy, also, this makes the granola a giant block which means huge, crunchy chunks which is what you want. It's also just a lot easier. I would say set the oven to 200-225' and watch it. It will really harden and crisp up out of the oven also. You want a light golden color. This batch I shot went a bit over... Enjoy!

Really Good Granola
adapted from Ina Garten

Homemade Granola

4 cups (14 oz.) rolled oats
2 cups (6.5 oz.) sweetened, shredded coconut
2 cups (6.75 oz.) sliced almonds
½ cup (4 oz.) vegetable oil
2/3 cup (7.25 oz) honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 heaping cup (5.25 oz.) dried cherries or cranberries ( I like combining bright orange apricots, blueberries, and cherries or cranberries)

candied nuts (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut and almonds and gently stir or toss with your hands to mix well. In a small saucepan, combine oil, honey, vanilla and salt and heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to emulsify slightly. Pour over the oat mixture and with a spatula stir until evenly coated. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir well. Return to the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Stir well again. Repeat twice more until the granola is golden — be very careful at the end: The coconut will burn easily, leaving the granola with a bitter, burnt taste. Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack and leave undisturbed until completely cool, at least one hour. Meanwhile prepare the nuts:

Candied Nuts:
neutral oil such as canola or vegetable
1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ cups raw, unsalted cashews
1½ cups raw, unsalted almonds (skin on)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Oil a rimmed baking sheet.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar with ¼ cup water, the salt and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Add the nuts and let the mixture simmer for one minute, stirring constantly to coat them with the syrup. Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon and spread them on the prepared baking sheet — don’t be tempted to drizzle the excess syrup on the baking sheet as well (it will just burn). Bake for 15 minutes, stir and return to the oven until golden and crisp, about another five minutes. Remove pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool, about an hour.

To finish the granola:

Using a bench scraper, carefully remove the granola from the pan and transfer to a bowl, keeping the granola in chunks as best as possible. Add the nuts to the bowl, breaking up the mass into small clusters. Add the dried fruit and toss mixture lightly to combine. Transfer to an airtight container to store.


Ann said...

I love granola -- it's the only way to get me to eat yogurt. Your pictures look so delicious I have to try this recipie!

RachelleLouise said...

Oh, great! Let me know how it turns out for you! My first batch was the very best I've made. I think I've been less attentive the other times I've done it! I would just say that the biggest thing is to not over bake it. The coconut is so sensitive and can get too brown pretty easily! Other than that, I really think it's a great recipe. Lots of good candied nuts, coconut, and dried fruit. It would be my favorite overall recipe. I've also got a chocolate granola recipe that's pretty good too, the next time I make it I'll share it on here. Again, let me know how it goes! : )

Mardi said...

Hi Rachelle,
I am so excited to finally get your candied nut recipe, that just makes your granola over the top.. Your greatest fan

RachelleLouise said...

Hey Mom! Thanks for commenting! I'm loving your recent savviness on the internet! You're really getting yourself around! ; )

You know we just had the gourmet groups dinner last night and one of the gals used this candied nut recipe to top on roasted peaches and they were great! So I think you WOULD be safe using this recipe for all of your candied nut needs! Love you!