Fridays were granola days in high school. After my last class I’d scurry to the store’s kitchen (back when the store was in a converted bank, we did all the cooking at the old location–now the current location, are you confused yet?!???–with its massive prep space). By that time we’d stopped making most of the deli staples, but granola was still a strong seller and it was my job to make three full-sized sheet pans of the stuff every two weeks or so. Once it cooled, I’d pack it up in a big pail (we always had honey or peanut butter pails hanging around; in fact, I still use one as a trashcan in our office). Then, back to the store for the last few hours of the working day, at which point I was free to punch out and do whatever it was that I did for fun in those days. I can’t really remember.
The recipe we used was formulated to replicate a granola that the store once stocked called Grandy Oats. Can some member of my family chime in as to why we stopped carrying Grandy Oats? This story is really lacking in details. But whatever the reason, in a moment of great punning my dad suggested that we name our granola “Grandiose,” to signal both its deliciousness and its derivative quality. I love that name–what else could you ever want your granola to be called?
For many years after high school–approximately a decade–I had no interest in making granola. The smell of wet oats drying out slowly in the oven grossed me out. The process of scraping the sweetened seeds off the baking sheet bored me. But the swaths of unscheduled time that grad school presents are pretty perfect for making granola. It’s not hard, but it needs babysitting–and what more is there for me to do than babysit granola? I’ve chosen a dissertation that writes itself.
I’m going to write two recipes below–one is the bare-bones ratio formula, and one is the specific mix that I usually make. The beauty of granola is that you can use whatever you have on hand, and if you follow the formula it will be delicious. I like to eat mine with greek yogurt and dried cranberries, or with a mix of milk and yogurt, cereal-style, or sprinkled on top of a bowl of oatmeal. Because of the nuts and seeds, the mix is surprisingly filling, and it has very little added fat. Many recipes call for melted butter and brown sugar–I prefer to use a mild oil and unrefined sweeteners, but whatever. You can do what makes you feel grandiose.
3 cups oats (or any rolled grain–I think I saw rolled spelt at my parents’ store the other day)
1 cup seeds
1 cup nuts
1/2 C sweetener
1/4 C fat
1/4 C water
a little salt
That’s all! Now here’s what I usually do.
Preheat the oven to 275. Stir together in a big bowl:
3 C rolled oats
1/4 C sesame seeds
3/8 C pepitas
3/8 C sunflower seeds
[I know those measurements look fussy, but they’re not: get a cup measure, pour in your quarter cup of sesame seeds, and fill the rest of the cup with an equal mix of sunflowers and pepitas.]
In a small bowl or liquid measure, whisk together:
1/4 C maple syrup
1/4 C honey
1/4 C grapeseed oil
1/4 C warm water
1 T vanilla
1/2 t salt
Pour ALMOST all of the wet ingredients into the large oat bowl, reserving 1 T for later. Stir together until the oats and seeds are coated. Dump the granola onto a sheetpan with sides (anything in the vicinity of 12×18 will be fine), spread it out evenly, and put it in the oven.
The granola bakes for a total of 1.5 hours. After thirty minutes, take it out and mix it up with a spatula, making sure all the granola bits get scraped off the pan. This is an important step because you’re ensuring that the granola crisps evenly and doesn’t stick. Make sure you get in all the corners, and spread it out again in an even layer. Bake another thirty minutes.
Now, remember this ingredient?
1 C nuts
Get the nuts into whatever size you like. I usually use pecans, and because I’m weird I prefer to break them up using my fingers, rather than chopping them (the nut dust you get from chopping nuts bothers me–I want pieces, not dust). Slivered almonds are nice; cashew pieces are traditional to Grandiose. Mix the 1 cup of nuts with the reserved tablespoon of sweetener.
After another thirty minutes (the granola has been baking for an hour now), drag it out and add the nuts. Mix it all together again, just as zealously as the first time. Return to the oven for the final thirty minutes. Let the granola cool completely on the sheet pan. It won’t feel crisp when it comes out, but once it cools it will become perfectly crackly. Once you’ve reveled in the crinkly sound that granola makes when you pour it, store it in an air-tight container. Eat within a month or so.
So, to conclude:
Bake 30 minutes, scrape and mix.
Bake 30 minutes, add nuts, then scrape and mix.
Bake 30 minutes, then cool.