Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Snow, Pigs, and Pistachios: A Recipe for Granola

Today is one of those winter days when the safest thing is to keep quiet and stay busy. It's not so much a matter of making the pesky-little-sibling-like sky think you don't care that it's dumping another layer of snow on you, as it is of ignoring it to preserve your dignity because your boyfriend just broke up with you and if you utter a word in protest of this latest precipitation, you'll burst into tears and never stop crying. Today the cold inhospitable outdoors are breaking my heart.

So I prescribed myself a little culinary cure. I really recommend trying this. If you don't work from home like I do, try it on Saturday. If the winter's got you down, trust me, you'll feel better.

My granola recipe is the result of a brief stint as a granola baker for a local Chicago bakery. When I hopped into the job on a whim, they had recently begun receiving orders from area Whole Foods grocery stores and had simultaneously lost their granola baker. It was fine at first, actually it was therapy. I loved stirring the dry oat and nut mixture the feeling of being up to my elbows in simple grains and nuts. I reveled in this new world I'd been plopped into, sharing a kitchen with a hot-to-trot mixologist and a post-comfort food afficionado (they were busy kicking off one of Chicago's latest flocking spots, and the bakery just happened to share their kitchen space), so come 2PM my granola pan found itself sharing a work station with whole piglets being chopped open and prepped for roasting (really, you wouldn't believe it, within inches of my vegan baking, bits of pork were flying everywhere), and I found myself sampling rhubarb infused concoctions. The lessons in animal anatomy and daily aternoon buzzes didn't keep me from tiring of the weird cramps I got in my hands after a day of mixing. I was offered a position as a pastry assistant and moved on.

But in the three weeks I was baking granola, following the same recipe batch after batch after batch, I had time to dream up a lot of my own ideas. So when my initial I'm-never-ever-touching-granola-again-with-a-ten-foot-pole feelings wore away (somehow they had gotten that strong), and my husband was threatening to go out and buy a bag of the stuff I used to make for the bakery, I thunked my favorite new gigantic pottery bowl onto the counter and got to work, magazines and cook books open for my consultation on every available surface, I set out to create my new favorite granola.

It had to be chunky and crunchy. It needed to have a little well-whattta-ya-know to it, and the batch needed to fill my big glass jar. I tried a few versions, with maple, with hazelnuts. They were good, but not great. I got tired of granola, and took a break for awhile.

Having decided to stay busy, today seemed like a day for finishing touches to delinquent projects. Pistachios in granola, for instance. And cardamom . Here's what happened:

You'll need 2 baking sheets for this, lined with parchment paper. (If you're a newbie at this stuff as it would appear I was an hour ago, don't confuse wax and parchment paper. I knew they weren't the same and now I know why. Enough said.)

Turn your oven to 350.

In a large bowl, toss together:

6 heaping cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
3/4 cup raw slivered almonds (coarsely chopped)
1 1/4 cup raw pistachio nutmeats (coarsely chopped)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 /2 cup brown sugar

sprinkle with the following and toss again:
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt

pour over the top and mix well:

1/2 cup canola oil (I use expeller pressed)
a little less than 1 cup clover honey (or other mild honey)

Spread onto prepared baking sheets and bake, rotating and stirring every 20 mins or so until the granola is a golden caramelly brown. I think about an hour.

Set the baking sheets on racks until completely cool. Transfer granola to an airtight container, breaking it up a little.

Drop a handful over a little vanilla kefir and let it snow.

I made some edits to cut the sweetness, and corrected the amount of oil, sorry if you tried it and found it too something or other.

1 comment:

Xin Lei said...

Yay...I can't wait to try your new recipe! I have a great granola recipe, but have been wanting to try a new variety. I love that you eat your granola with Kefir, me too!