I fell in love with granola during a hotel stay a lifetime ago. The chef had served his homemade granola for breakfast and I tried it…reluctantly. I have been trying to recreate the recipe ever since and therefore the Granola Un-Recipe. In other words, granola made easy! Hear me out. I can explain.
I am not a breakfast cereal person. Growing up, I could not stand the idea of dalia – broken wheat cooked in milk, flavored mildly with sugar. I didn’t know what the fuss was all about. Even Oprah raves about steal cut oats! Something about the texture and the combination of milk and sugar just put me off. But come winter, this heart-healthy pantry staple was a frequent addition to our breakfast menu. And in the summers, there would be corn flakes with cold milk. Again, I am not a big fan. I was a slow eater and by the time I would get halfway through my bowl, the cornflakes would be a soggy, sorry mess.
So, for a long time, I swore off breakfast cereals in general. Breakfast meant toast and eggs, or plain toast. Weekends meant an Indian breakfast like Poha, Parantha or Poori. Anyways, during a hotel stay in Minnesota, I was goaded by my kids into trying granola with yoghurt. If they had to try every new food once, then I must follow the same rules. We are very democratic that way.
I wasn’t supposed to like it, right?
I took the smallest portion possible, topped it with yoghurt and took my first bite. And then another. I was confused by the flavors and the textures – was I supposed to focus on the crispiness of the roasted oats, the crackle of the lightly sweetened seed clusters or the toasted cashews and coconut flakes? I finished my first anemic portion and went for a second helping. And the more I ate, the more bewildered I became. I reminded myself that I don’t like breakfast cereal in general. Oatmeal and sugar was not my favorite combination. I did like nuts individually, but not in a mélange, like this. And what in the world were these tiny seeds that crackled in my mouth?
I complimented the chef on the granola but forgot to ask for a recipe. I didn’t even take a picture! And so started my journey to recreate the granola recipe. Since then, I have experimented with various grains, nuts and seed combos. I have tried different types of oils, nut butters and sweeteners. And in the end, I have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect recipe. The joy of eating homemade granola is that it tastes fresh, wholesome and different EVERY SINGLE TIME. The ingredients can be improvised based on what’s available in the pantry. And I can regulate the sweetness. Along the way, I have discovered that I really do like oatmeal…when it’s cooked in water and is not sweet. I love it in granola. And I enjoy corn flakes minus the milk – as in chivda or Indian-style spiced trail mix.
Template for the Perfect Granola?
So here’s my template for the homemade granola un-recipe. The idea is to mix and match the ingredients and have fun. A few pointers:
- Try not to put too many ingredients at the same time. That would just drown out the flavor.
- I try to add ingredients as I go along because I have discovered that different nuts bake at different temperatures. So, I start with baking the grain mixture with the preferred oil/butter and sweetener. After 20 minutes of baking this mixture, I add the nuts and bake for another 15 minutes.
- If using a combination of whole nuts and flakes – like almond or coconut – bake the whole nuts for a few minutes longer, for a more robust flavor. And to ensure that you don’t burn the almond/coconut flakes.
- If using seeds like sesame, chia, hemp or sunflower, add them in the last 10 minutes of baking. That way they stay crunchy without burning.
- No matter what sweetener you choose, add a pinch of salt. This will bring out the flavors even more.
- If you’re adding dried fruits like raisins, craisins, goji berries, figs, dates, etc., don’t bake them! Add them after the granola mixture has come out of the oven. Otherwise, the dried fruit becomes even drier and chewy.
- Granola CAN get burnt. I have managed it a couple of times. If you are doing something else in the kitchen while baking, put your timer in 10-minute intervals. Mix the granola mixture periodically and put the tray back in.
- As with all experimental recipes, please try a small quantity first, till you find your magic combination. That way if you don’t like a particular combination, you won’t waste it.
- Lastly, after the granola is done, let it cool down completely in the baking tray before storing it. Otherwise, it may get soggy.
The Official Granola Un-Recipe
Some combinations that I have tried are listed below. But please feel free to improvise and create your own favorite. You will notice that I have listed “Oats” for the grain. But please don’t limit yourself to only this grain. There are a ton of possibilities in the cereal aisles and I usually add quinoa pops, amaranth pops, soy flakes, puffed barley, cheerios – whatever I can lay my hands on. More the merrier. It’s also a good way to add ancient grains to your meals. One piece of advice though – stick to the unsweetened variety. The advantage of homemade granola versus store-bought is that we can cut down on sugar!
This is the official granola un-Recipe, so I am not giving any quantities. But a good rule of thumb is:
- 1 cup grain mix + 1 tbsp oil/nut butter + sweetener to taste (I like it less sweet) + salt (to taste) + ½ cup of each type of nut (no more than 2 at a time) + 1 tsp of your choice of seed(s) + ½ cup dried fruit (added only after removing from the oven). Bake in the oven at 350 degree Fahrenheit for 30 to 35 minutes.
- I Love Coconut – Oats + coconut oil + cashew nuts + coconut flakes + chia seeds + goji berries
- The Oriental Touch – Oats + sesame oil + ginger + peanuts + almond flakes + sesame seeds + goji berries
- The Power of Seeds – Oats + olive oil + chia seeds + sunflower seeds + pumpkin seeds + golden raisins + za’atar (sprinkled in the end).
- Apple Pie Granola – Oats + canola oil + apple sauce + walnuts/pecans + sunflower seeds + dried apple flakes + craisins
Puneeta recently shared her family’s favourite homemade granola recipe. You can see it here.