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Good Ole Granola

Lets start this week off on a lighter note, with deep breaths and clear nostrils, in spite of last week. And in my opinion, there's no better start to a morning than a big bowl of granola with a little bit of plain yogurt and honey thrown in....

Granola is super easy to make - it's just a combination of dry ingredients with a smaller percentage of sweet, wet ingredients. In the pastry kitchen I worked at, I learned the basic granola equation.

Ok, lets back-track a little - even though I've been actively baking for 3+ years now, it wasn't until last year that I really started messing around with the math aspect of baking and understanding the science behind everything. Just as is true of any equation, you need to understand the basic elements before you can start switching things around... I've only recently begun switching up ratios in recipes instead of just switching out ingredients. It's been a lot of fun and although my 'experiments' don't always turn out as planned, they're at least still edible and I'm learning new things in the process! Anyways, back to the granola equation. About a year ago the pastry chef I was working for broke down granola for me into four parts and percentages... bear with me here.

First, you have your dry ingredients. These should comprise of:

50% rolled oats and 50% combination of other dry ingredients

...including but certainly not limited to: cereals (puffed rice is common), nuts, seeds, shredded coconut, and of course some sort of brown or natural sugar if you're so inclined.

Now, the dry ingredients only make up one portion of the granola equation. You also have to add some wet ingredients in there - those are what make everything brown and crisp up so nicely. Your wet ingredients should comprise of:

50% oil and 50% liquid sugar

For oil it's generally preferable to use a neutral-flavored oil such as: canola, safflower, or vegetable oil. And liquid sugar would be anything sweet but not dry, try: maple syrup, molasses, honey, agave nectar, apple sauce... something of those sorts. (I think peanut butter technically counts as a 'liquid sugar' too.)

Still with me? There's one more part to this equation - how much of the dry ingredients do you use and how much of the wet ingredients do you use? A good standard to go by is:

5 cups of dry ingredients to 1 cup of wet ingredients

So if you really want to break it down, your granola should be:

40% rolled oats
40% other dry ingredients/mix-ins
10% oil
10% liquid sugar
100% granola

Also, keep in mind that mix-ins like nuts and coconut can be baked, but things like dried fruit and chocolate should only be mixed into the granola once it's been baked and cooled completely... otherwise, you'll just have a huge mess on your sheet pan, and no one hates a mess more than me! (I'm not kidding - ask my family and coworkers... I'm super obsessive compulsive when it comes to my kitchen space.)

I store my homemade granola in an re-used store bought granola container! It just makes sense.

So there you have it! Was that too much to take in for some simple granola? It makes sense to me, so I hope I explained it in a way that makes sense to you too. Granola is so versatile! But if you don't want to think about it as much as I do, here's the recipe for the granola I made myself last week - keep in mind that it's not overly sweet because I like to sweeten my granola as-needed, so add a little extra brown sugar if you have a sweet tooth.

Basic Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons peanut butter
5 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 cup raisins

- Heat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix your dry ingredients together in a large bowl and mix your wet ingredients in a separate small bowl.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until everything is well coated and combined.
- Spread the mixture out onto a sheet pan and bake for about 35 - 40 minutes, or until everything is nicely golden and mostly dry. (Sidenote: I also stir my granola around with a spatula every ten minutes or so to ensure even baking.)
- Let your granola cool completely before mixing in any dried fruit or chocolate. Store your granola in an airtight container and it should keep for a while! Mine doesn't last very long though because I like to snack :)