I am not the first blogger to admit that the luscious cookies and gooey cakes you see on this site are not what make up our everyday eating habits. Like the next quarter-lifer, we subsist on regular food: sandwiches, pasta, stews, salads, cookies, only maybe kicked up a notch. So because eating baked goods demands at least a little bit of a special occasion, baking actually doesn’t happen with the greatest frequency at my apartment. Well, it did, once upon a time. But somewhere in the middle of winter, Alex worked up the courage to ask me to slow down on the sweets, and I complied.
So it was back to regular food.
Still, as the bakers among you can attest, there’s more to cakes and cookies than eating them. The process of measuring and mixing, beating and folding, is satisfying, soothing, and productive. Into the oven goes batter; out comes a cake. Savory baking was a good remedy for my predicament–I made No-Knead Bread, Chicken Pot Pie, and Focaccia–but soon I came to another solution.
I’d been wanting to experiment with homemade granola ever since some of my attempts at these Peanut Butter Granola Bars resulted in crumbly bars, aka granola. Alex and I are cereal fiends, but where I fill my bowl humbly halfway, he eats two full bowls every morning. (In case you were wondering, my favorite breakfast in the world is composed of a mix of Heritage Bites, Shredded Wheat, granola, some raisins, walnuts or pecans, and 2% milk–this is delicious regular food territory.) At our apartment, we go through cereal fast. Seriously fast.
Granola, then, it was. I turned immediately to my bookmarks, where I found a year-old link to Melissa Clark’s Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios. The olive oil is a strange ingredient, but since I pour it on everything else, I figured no harm could come to my oats if they joined the club. I altered many of the details of the recipe, but the oil stayed–and the instructions are pretty much intact. This granola is so, so good. It’s crunchy and hearty, but not too sweet. The olive oil gives it a mysterious fruity undertone. Chopped dried apricots punctuate the crunch with sweetness, and the visual effect is that of orange jewels. It’s also easy to bake (the only trick is not burning it), and easy to customize to your tastes. Make it, and make it your own.
In the last few months, granola-making has become a weekly activity, and as a result granola-buying has waned in my house dramatically. (The jury is still out, by they way, on whether it’s all that much cheaper to make this stuff from scratch; it does seem to require a whole lot of specialty ingredients.) I have my baking fix, and Alex and I have our granola.
From my kitchen, very granola, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Olive-Oil Maple Granola
Makes 5 cups
Brown rice cereal is available at Whole Foods and other health food stores. Substitute Rice Krispies in a pinch!
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup brown rice cereal
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
½ cup olive oil
¾ cup chopped apricots
Preheat the oven to 300°F. If your oven runs even the slightest bit hot, turn it down to 290°F.
Combine the oats, brown rice cereal, pecans, almonds, brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl and mix to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the maple syrup and olive oil, and toss to moisten all. Divide the mixture between two rimmed baking sheets, spreading it into even layers. Bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes (seriously–do this religiously). The granola should be golden brown and toasted. Sprinkle on the apricots.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the sheets. When cool, transfer to an airtight container.
The beautiful, moody photos of the granola, by the way, were taken by Alex’s step-sister, Lissa Ivy. The not-moody one was taken by me.