Never underestimate the power of scent. I’d been shrugging off the banana aroma that was hovering over the platter of produce for a couple of days. Finally, with dread, I peeled it, expecting to find a banana beyond hope that I’d have to toss. Instead, it was perfectly over-ripe and I was forced into action.
I make granola more by method than recipe. And much of it relies on smell. The toasting nuts, the roasting oats, the fruits and oils, all give off aromatic signs while in the oven. This batch has an ambrosial scent that wafts out of the jar when I unscrew the top. The banana also adds a lot of sweetness, minimizing (or possibly alleviating altogether) the need for additional sweeteners.
I prefer a blend of granola that is very much on this side of sweetness, just a tad to round out the flavours and take the edge off the graininess. I also like it to be a deep golden colour with quite a lot of crunch. But alter to suit your taste – more sweetener, none, less cooking time, no nuts, as you like. Fool around with it until you find one you love (making notes so you remember what you did!), or change it up every time.
Couple of notes: This process couldn’t be simpler, just toss and bake. But, do keep a close eye on it while it’s in the oven as it can go from undercooked to burnt in the bat of an eye. Also, in these pictures I’ve used a pyrex casserole dish only because I don’t have a rimmed cookie sheet (something I must get). A larger baking surface would allow the granola to be spread out in a thinner layer and brown more evenly. Finally, be sure to remove from the oven and toss the granola with a big spoon every 10 minutes to ensure even browning (set a timer, 10 minutes go by in a flash!).
In a nutshell, I make it like this:
2 cups rolled oats
4 tablespoons oil (such as olive oil or vegetable oil)
3 tablespoons agave (or honey, or maple syrup, or any type of sugar)
1 very ripe banana, mashed (or apple sauce, another mashed fruit, or a splash of fruit juice)
2 handfuls of almonds, chopped (or walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, etc.)
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon, or to taste (or ground ginger, or a pinch of ground cloves, etc.)
scant 1/4 cup flax seeds (or sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds, etc.)
1-2 handfuls dried fruit (such as cherries, raisins, currants, cranberries, dates, figs, or apricots, etc.)*
Preheat oven to 350 F. Put all ingredients, except the fruit, in a large bowl. Mix, stir and toss well until thoroughly combined. Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Put in oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, stir granola, return to oven and repeat twice more, for a total of 30 minutes in the oven. If it has achieved the colour you desire, remove from oven. If it is too pale, return to oven and watch closely until it has reached the desired colour. Remove from oven. Cool completely (the granola will become crunchy as it cools). Add fruit, if using, and toss. Eat. Store in airtight jar.
(left: before baking; right: after baking)
* There is no dried fruit in this batch only because I ran out, I usually include it.