Real Food: Crunchy Granola

by Anne Bennett on September 20, 2009

Isabel and Lulu prefer the Dry Creek Kitchen granola made with butter!

Isabel and Lulu prefer the Dry Creek Kitchen's buttery granola!

If I were to guess where granola was invented, I’d have to say California. Doesn’t it just sound like the appropriate birthplace for this most venerable of hippy foods? Last week I had the most delightful version at the Hotel Healdsburg. Its adjoining restaurant, the Dry Creek Kitchen, graciously emailed me their recipe. No wonder it was so tasty–there was a stick of butter in it.

Store-bought granola is notorious for being high in fat, and there’s a reason for this. Fat coats the oats and gives them a crunchy yet tender bite after being baked in the oven. The less butter or oil you use, the less tender the bite. I tried versions with no oil, (tasty but with a bit of a buckshot texture) a moderate amount of oil, and finally, with the stick of butter. Who could resist?

The surprise was that the buttery granola, while delicious, was not hugely tastier than the one made with a small amount of oil. Hooray for that. Here, then, are two versions that are equally delicious with yogurt, milk, or on its own as a snack. Remember that granola is a nutritious but calorie-dense food. A little goes a long way.

Almost all granola recipes call for adding raisins or other dried fruit after the cereal is baked, but I didn’t add them until I served it, as the dried fruit tends to de-crisp the granola when they are stored together in a container.

Low-Fat Granola

5 cups rolled oats (old fashioned, not quick cooking)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl. Combine brown sugar, syrup, water and oil in a small saucepan and heat until brown sugar melts; pour over oat mixture; stir well and spread onto two baking sheets sprayed with nonstick spray (I line my pans with large sheets of parchment paper for easy clean-up).

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and stir; continue baking until granola is golden brown, about 30 minutes more, but watch it as oven temperatures vary and yours may either cook more quickly or take longer. Cool completely, add dried fruit if you wish and store in an airtight container.

Makes 10 cups

A Richer but Fabulous Granola From the Dry Creek Kitchen

6 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
2 cups almonds, whole or sliced (I use whole almonds from Costco)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 t. salt
1 T. cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. In a pot, melt together brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and butter. Stir well and pour over dry ingredients and toss to coat everything evenly.

Spread in even layers onto two large 10″ by 15″ sheet pans sprayed with nonstick spray.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so, until golden brown. Cool to room temperature and transfer to sealed containers. This granola keeps well and makes a wonderful gift, packaged in a clear bag with a decorative bow. It ships well too.

If you want to be more heart-healthy, you can make this granola with vegetable oil instead of butter, and even halve the recipe, although once you get everything out you may as well go for broke and make the whole batch.

Remember also that you can use whatever nuts or fruits you have on hand. You can also use either all honey or all maple syrup instead of the combination. ┬áMe, I’m a combo kind of gal. I like honey and maple syrup. Yum, yum, yum.

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