Cereal is boring. It’s what you eat on grumpy, hurried mornings when you can’t think of or don’t have time for anything else. It’s pale brown and lumpy, and poured out of a pasteboard box. If you don’t eat it fast enough, it gets soggy in its cold milk bath. What’s to love?
Homemade granola is better. Yes, it’s brown, and yes, you eat it cold. But there’s love in it. I eat it with yogurt instead of milk, so it stays crunchy. A lot of the time, though, it still doesn’t taste that great. I had a recipe I made for years, from Cooking Light magazine, that was good – a lot better than anything I’ve had from a pasteboard box – but not, you know, inspiring.
And then, in the summer of 2008, I went to a conference at the Alta Lodge in stunningly gorgeous Alta, Utah. They fed us well for every meal, but the thing I couldn’t get enough of was the granola. I ate it for breakfast every day and didn’t get bored. It was a rich toasty brown, thick with nuts, crunchy. It looked very simple – no fruit – but its flavor was rich and round and memorable.
I did something I have only had the courage to do once before in my life: I asked for the recipe. (I mean, I’ve asked for plenty of recipes, but only twice at actual restaurants.) I don’t know why I’m so intimidated by this, because both times I was rewarded with a happy grin and a recipe in my e-mail a couple weeks later.
Alta Lodge Granola
One of the secrets of this granola is a sizeable amount of butter. You can cut it, but I wouldn’t go much lower than 6 tablespoons. The juice is also very important: it softens the oats so they can cook to true crispness, instead of hardness. The other trick is the lack of fruit. Even dried fruits have some moisture, which makes granola get stale fast. Feel free to serve it with any fruit you like, but don’t store the granola with fruit mixed in. This is a fairly sweet granola; you could cut back on the sweeteners.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease (or spray with cooking spray) a rimmed half-sheet pan (about 18″ by 13″) or two smaller pans.
Mix in a large bowl:
5 cups rolled oats (not instant or quick)
1- 1/3 cups coconut (if sweetened, reduce honey or maple syrup by a couple tablespoons)
3 cups nuts – pecans, slivered or sliced almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, or whatever strikes your fancy
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup apple juice or other clear juice
Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir together thoroughly. Spread the mixture over the prepared cookie sheet (s) in an even thickness.
Place granola in oven. Remove and stir every 15 minutes or so, doing your best to move the granola on the edges into the center, for an hour to 90 minutes. You want the finished granola to be deep brown, dry or very nearly so, and starting to crisp. (It will finish drying and crisping as it cools.) This will take less time on a dark metal pan.
Cool completely on the pan, then remove to an airtight container for storage. It should keep for at least a week. In the dry air of Albuquerque it keeps much longer.
Serve for breakfast with yogurt and fruit, or munch on it as a great snack!
Follow Unfussy Epicure on Facebook!