I like to think of this space as my personal treasure chest of sorts. It’s a place to keep all my favorite odds and ends, my old dishes and etched spoons, my smudged and splattered recipe cards, the ones with rips and tears and dog ears. It’s my Official Repository of Good Stuff. Every week, I come here, into this warm white space, and deposit something I want to remember: a recipe, a story, maybe a photograph or two. Then, whenever I want, I can pull up a chair and look inside, pulling out ideas one by one, nibbling at crumbs, scheming and dreaming, making grocery lists and dinner plans. It’s very convenient. Much better than sealing things away in a bank vault, I’d say, or in a musty shoebox under the bed.
Of course, all this is contingent upon my remembering, from week to week, which things I wanted to deposit here. There’s the rub. Sometimes I make a new recipe, and it’s delicious and wonderful and totally worthy, and I mean to tell you about it, really I do, and so I make it again, just to make sure it’s really good, and it is, and so I make it again, and again, and then a breeze whips through the room and I turn around and before I know it, said recipe has been solidly lodged in my repertoire for a year or two, with nary a peep around here. Such is the case with my daily granola. It’s been in heavy rotation for, uh, two years now.
Consider it now deposited.
I’ve been warned that making my own breakfast cereal – and, what’s more, admitting to doing so – places me firmly within the category of Crazy Hippie, but I’m not afraid. I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. For my money, no store-bought granola can compare to the homemade kind. Plus, have you ever sat at the kitchen table while a batch of granola bakes, reading a magazine and taking slow, deep breaths of the toasty, sweetly spiced air rising from the oven? It’s an experience not to be skipped. Especially now, in February, a month I’d like to skip entirely.
I’ve written about a granola recipe before, about three years ago, in fact. For a long time, it was my go-to formula. But then, sometime in late 2005, I picked up a copy of Nigella Lawson’s charming book Feast, and lo and behold, her granola caught my eye. I made it, and then I made it again, and well, you know how it goes. With the exception of a few weeks last fall when I was too busy with my manuscript to bake much of anything, I’ve never let my stash run empty. It’s really that good. To be fair, I’ve tried plenty of others too, including a few recipes floating around the Internet, my uncle’s recipe, and one given to me by a friend’s husband’s mother. Though all were very good, none of them hit the spot quite like Nigella’s. (All apologies, of course, to said uncle, friend’s husband’s mother, etc. Nothing personal.) It’s rich but not fatty, sweet but not cloying, deeply flavored but not fussy. It’s just right.
As granola recipes go, some are simpler and some are more complex, and this one lies squarely in the middle. I love the idea of a bare-bones, just-the-essentials granola – oats, nuts, oil, and a sweetener of some sort – but to my palate, a great granola needs a little more. It needs a variety of nuts and seeds, and maybe a couple of different sweeteners for flavor complexity, and some warm spicing too, like cinnamon and ginger. It may require buying a couple of extra pantry ingredients, but once you’ve got them, you’re set for a while – and for a lot of granola.
Which comes in handy, let me tell you, because as soon as word gets out that you make a fine granola, people will start phoning from across the country, requesting shipments. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Brandon first tasted this granola shortly after we started dating, on one of his visits to Seattle, and it wasn’t long before I was packing the stuff in a cardboard box and shipping it to him in New York. I’ve also sent some to my mother in Oklahoma. Brandon’s mother first tasted it this past summer, when she stayed with us for a few days before the wedding, and she too has since called to request a special delivery. I haven’t yet filled her order – and may have thus totally missed my shot at Daughter-in-Law of the Year – but between you and me, I’ve got my eye on Mother’s Day.
Consider it done.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast
The recipe that follows is the way I’ve come to use Nigella’s recipe. Of course, tweak as you will. For example, feel free to use whatever type of nut you like best – just one, or a variety. You could add some flax seeds, if you like, or some shredded coconut. If you like your granola with dried fruit, go ahead and add some – but after baking, not before. And about the applesauce: I like to buy it in those single-serving cups, the kind made to go in kids’ lunchboxes. I used to buy it in bigger glass jars, but I found that it started to go moldy before I could use it all. The smaller containers are very handy that way; there’s less waste.
Finally, I highly recommend eating this granola with plain soy milk. I like it with plain yogurt or regular milk too, but soy milk is especially good. This granola also mixes nicely with other cereals, like this one, and this one.
5 cups rolled oats
2 to 3 cups raw almonds or pecan halves, or a mixture
1 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds
¾ cup sesame seeds
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
¾ cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, such as canola or safflower
Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Stir to mix well. In a small bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients. Stir to mix well. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones, and stir well.
Spread the mixture evenly on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Set a timer to go off every ten minutes while the granola bakes, so you can rotate the pans and give the granola a good stir; this helps it to cook evenly. When it’s ready, remove the pans from the oven, stir well – this will keep it from cooling into a hard, solid sheet – and set aside to cool. The finished granola may still feel slightly soft when it comes out of the oven, but it will crisp as it cools.
Scoop cooled granola into to a large zipper-lock plastic bag or other airtight container. Store in the refrigerator indefinitely.
Yield: about 10 cups