Ben’s Homemade Granola

Granola is expensive in the store, and it’s packed with preservatives and high fructose corn syrup.  You can make your own granola for far less…it tastes better…it’s much healthier…and it’s fun!  This is an especially good project for kids.

Rather than give you a strict recipe, I’m going to give you a formula of dry-ingredients-to-wet-ingredients so that you can put whatever you like into your granola, and it will always come out right.  I rarely make the same batch of granola twice.  Head to the market that has the best bulk section and go hog wild!  While some people prefer a simple granola (ie…oats and almonds), I think variety is the spice of life.  I’ll give you some ingredient suggestions later on in the recipe.  But your formula is this:

DRY INGREDIENTS (grains, nuts, seeds)
7 cups

1/2 cup oil (I like heart-healthy grapeseed, but any oil will do)
1/2-3/4 cup sweetener (brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, molasses, etc. You can also combine different ones. Use 3/4 cup for a sweeter granola, 1/2 cup or less for a less sweet one.)
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Don’t get too paranoid about how you buy and initially measure your dry ingredients.  Just mix them all together in a big bowl or pot.  Traditionally, oats make up the majority of granola, with other ingredients playing a smaller role.  But you can create your granola however you like.  Some ingredients I like to use are:

rolled oats (not instant)
rolled/flaked barley, wheat, rye (aka “hot cereal”)
sliced almonds
hazelnuts/pecans/walnuts, etc.
buckwheat (especially sprouted, as buckwheat is so easy and quick to sprout.  Sprouting increases the nutritional quality of a seed.  Soak buckwheat groats in warm water for an hour, then drain and return to a bowl or jar. They will have sprouted in 24 hours.  Toast them in a 300 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until dry unless you are immediately adding them to the granola mix.)
pumpkin seeds/pepitas
sunflower seeds
hemp seeds
chia/millet/quinoa/flax (the “super seeds” and you can sprout these, as well, to improve nutritional content)
dried, shaved coconut
protein powders (whey/soy)
bran and/or germ (wheat/oat/etc, bran adds insoluble fiber, germ adds protein and nutrients)

spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, etc., entirely optional)

Once you’ve mixed your dry ingredients together, measure it, cup by cup, into another container, and when you’ve transferred 7 cups, mix up a batch of your wet ingredients and whisk until it’s uniform.  Then pour the wet over the dry:

Now comes the fun part, especially for kids. Get your hands in there and mix and squeeze everything until every last bit of dry ingredient has been uniformly moistened. Then transfer the wet granola to a greased baking sheet(s). You’re aiming for a layer no deeper than the first digit of your index finger, or about 1/2-3/4 of the way up the rim of a shallow baking sheet, like you see here:

Continue measuring out your granola in 7 cup batches and adding the liquid. (Or, if like me, you’re making a HUGE batch, you can measure and mix double batches at a time.) When you end up with less than 7 cups of mix, just estimate your liquid ingredients roughly based on how many cups you have left. (If you have 3 cups of dry left, make a half batch of liquid.)

Now, you’ve got 2 different options for baking the granola, depending on what you want the final texture to be like.

CHUNKY – If you’re going to eat your granola like a cereal, with milk, it’s better for the granola to be in clusters and clumps. To accomplish this, once you have transferred the wet granola to the baking sheet, pack it down firmly into a solid layer. Bake on the center rack of a 325F oven for 1 hour, rotating the pan once at 30 minutes, until the granola is uniformly golden brown in the center. If it’s still light or raw in the center, bake it another 5-10 minutes. Let it cool completely, then you can crush this giant granola bar into the size chunks you prefer for your cereal. If you’re baking multiple sheet trays in the same oven, just rotate and switch their positions every 15 minutes to ensure everything bakes evenly.

FINE – This is how I make my granola, because I rarely eat a bowl of it like cereal. Instead, I use it as a garnish on top of yogurt parfaits in the morning, or to garnish fruit cobblers and pies, cinnamon rolls, ice cream sundaes, etc. Bake the granola on the center rack of a 325F oven for 1 hour, but pull the tray every 15 minutes and stir it well, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the sheet tray where the granola cooks the fastest. After 1 hour, the granola should have a deep, even, toasty, golden brown color. It won’t feel or sound crispy when you touch or stir it…that will come after it cools. Give it a little longer in the oven if it’s not golden brown all over. Let it cool completely.

Once the granola is fully cool, regardless of how you’ve baked it, you can add dried fruit to the mix. I normally use a mixture of raisins (golden are my favorite), dried cranberries, tart cherries, and blueberries. But dates are popular, along with dried apples, pineapple, apricots, figs, banana chips, etc. You could even add some dark chocolate chips to make it extra special.

Keep the granola in an airtight container…and I’m gonna be honest. Mine is still good even after 6 months or longer. I usually make granola twice a year in giant batches, enough for half a year for my family, plus some to give to friends. It’s a VERY popular gift!

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