17 February 2009

if you're adventurous, take coarse sea salt

Living in Germany, foodwise, is pretty great. It isn't France, nor Italy, nor anywhere near the Mediterranean sea, for that matter, but food quality and variety is great for comparatively low prizes.

Yet, for all the variety and cosmopolitan influences of my childhood home, some things just skipped me by.

For example, the only two options for breakfast cereals you have here are either the entirely artificial commercial cereals or some dusty muesli.

Somehow, I instinctively knew that there had to be something missing between those two options. Something crunchy, slightly sweet, (almost) as healthy as muesli just without the dust.

I actually had no idea that something like granola even existed.

So you can imagine my immediate intrigue when I first stumbled over a granola recipe in this wondrous treasure cave of the Internet. Soon, granola became a household staple and has enjoyed international acclaim since then. (Greetings to Denmark, btw!)

This recipe has already come a long way - I adapted it from Molly of Orangette's french chocolate granola, which in turn has evolved out of David Lebovitz' honey crunch granola. Now talk about evolution...

Anyway, it is right what I have been looking for all these years - slightly sweet and crunchy and nutty, with flavors of caramel and bread and sun. An entirely good-natured treat and a great anti-depressant.

my (french) (honey crunch) granola
(makes three to four large jars of about a litre each - which is what I comfortably eat in two months)

500g rolled oats
250g coconut flakes
300g almonds in flakes
100g hazelnuts in flakes

4 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar
4 tablespoons neutral oil (ie sunflower)
12 tablespoons light honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon salt (if you're adventurous, take coarse sea salt... I love it^^)
1/2 teaspoon ground aniseed

In a small casserole, gently heat the sugar, oil, honey and spices until the sugar has mostly dissolved and the mix is very runny. Stir often.
Watch out, honey can get very hot and sticky and might give you burns to remember better for the rest of your life.

In a large(!) bowl, mix the oats and the nuts. Pour over the warm honey and stir well until all grains are coated.
Once the honey cools down, the mix will turn sticky and quite unwieldy. I used a ten liter bowl just to make sure I wasn't making a mess of my kitchen.

Heat the oven to 150°C and roast the granola on a sheet lined with parchment / non-stick paper. The surface will brown quite swiftly, so stir the mix once or twice to have as much sugar caramelize on the grains without letting it burn. Depending on the moisture content of the oats and the honey, it will take about 20 to 25 minutes until it is sufficiently browned for me, but you might want to adapt the time to suit your personal taste.

Let the granola cool down completely before putting it into airtight containers.
Stir the granola once or twice while cooling, else it'll coalesce into one large brick instead of myriads of glassy-sounding little flakes.

As long as it doesn't catch any moisture, this granola keeps very well, at least two to three months.

I prefer this with some sultanas and a banana with a lot of plain creamy yogurt as a light office lunch, but it is equally nice on plain yogurt with some honey, on ice cream, or as a crunchy topping for your porridge.

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