Expensive, sugar-heavy commercial packages have given granola a bad name, but it’s easy and affordable to make at home and sweeten as you like. It’s also an excellent food gift, adjustable to match a diet and featuring homegrown or local seeds and fruit.
For those with nut allergies, I replace almonds with seeds from homegrown winter squash. For a gluten-free batch, I replace the grain mix with Montana Gluten Free raw oatmeal, available through local natural-food stores and their website. For spices, I often choose a homemade blend, like those on the Home-Spiced Nuts and the Spiced and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds I’ve shared in this column. Dried fruit might vary from home-dried Flathead cherries to homegrown apples, pears and Italian plums.
The blend in this recipe is my go-to combination. I buy various grains by the pound and then blend them myself for hot cereal, so I just scoop some out to make granola. The depth of molasses balances the sweetness of local honey, and these sticky sweeteners help the granola clump together.
I usually dehydrate granola because I can start it and walk away, but you can bake it instead. You’ll need to keep an eye on it in the oven, stirring often to prevent burning, but this can be worth the toasty taste. From this large batch, you can pack some in jars for gifting and enjoy a few bowls yourself.
Gourmet Granola with Nuts and Fruit
Makes about 10 cups
5 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups mixed grains, such as rolled barley and oats, oat bran and rye and wheat flakes
2-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup mixed dried fruit, such as sweet cherries, golden raisins and diced apricots
In a large glass measuring cup, stir the honey, molasses, water and oil until the sweeteners break up. In a large bowl, mix the grains, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour the liquid over the grains, fold them together until evenly coated and let sit for 30 minutes. Mix in the almonds and sunflower seeds.
To dehydrate, spread the granola thinly on dehydrator trays covered with plastic sheets, using 1-1/2 to 2 cups per tray. Dry at 135°F for about eight hours or overnight. In the morning, turn off the dehydrator and let the granola sit for 30 minutes.
To bake, spread the granola into two 9-by-13 inch baking pans. Bake at 325°F for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the nuts begin to brown and the mixture is fragrant. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan to room temperature.
Check the granola; if sticky, continue dehydrating or baking until it is thoroughly crunchy and dry at room temperature. When done, mix in the dried fruit and store the granola in a well-sealed container at room temperature.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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