What is Granola?
Now, this might sound like a stupid question, but do you know what granola is?
Google says ‘denoting people with liberal or Green political views, typified as eating health foods.’, so who knew? I’m part-granola! But keeping this on topic, it also said ‘n. a kind of breakfast cereal resembling muesli.’
Which is more like the granola I’m thinking of. But I have a problem with that definition. It’s not particularly accurate and sounds like it was created by two buddies on a Friday afternoon in an office…
‘So, what’s next on the list today… hmmmm, granola…. ‘Hey, Dave! Isn’t granola that health freak rabbit food stuff?”
‘Yeah, it’s just a posh name for muesli’
‘OK, sweet. So, let’s see…
‘Granola noun A kind of breakfast cereal resembling muesli.’
Maybe I’m being unfair on these people, they’ve got a hugely responsible job as custodians of our language and they’re not always going to understand the finer nuances of the words they’re working with. Whereas you and I do, which is why this is a guide to Granola, not muesli.
So, I’ll venture a suggestion for them.
Granola noun A breakfast cereal comprising varying amounts of grains, seeds, nuts and dried fruit, bound together and baked with sweeteners. Eaten with milk or yoghurt, or straight from the jar when it’s THIS GOOD.
That’s better. Although the last bit might be out of place anywhere other than this blog. There have definitely been some sheepish looks around this house as the level in the jar has mysteriously dropped during the day.
The sugar rush
There are a few fundamential differences between muesli and granola. Their core ingredients are similar, but granola goes one step further and adds some sparkle and crunch.
That added sparkle is normally crated with heart poundingly high levels of sugar, often in the form of lashings of honey or maple syrup. It might be a surprise to you that most shop bought granolas contain more sugar per 100g than full fat coke, which isn’t a good look for a ‘health’ food.
If you look around the internet, you’ll find granola upon granola recipe, many of which don’t seek to redress this high sugar content, but use honey or maple syrup to give a purportedly wholesome, healthy front, even though in some recipes those syrups make up 25% of the granola weight.
My ultimate no added sugar granola guide works backwards with sweeteners. I started with zero added sugars and syrups, trying to find a simple, natural way to sweeten and clump the ingredients together. So I’ve worked out a chewy, crunchy granola recipe that skips the refined sugars and syrups, favouring simple, unsweetened, homemade apple sauce to bind the ingredients and give that clumpy, crunchy granola feeling.
DIY granola building
Now, my dear readers, granola is a completely non-specific recipe so you can have some fun here. It doesn’t matter what goes into it and the quantities don’t matter either. The recipe here is just a guide for you to take away and play around with. Use up your old packs of nuts in the cupboard, add and remove items to your heart’s content.
It is worth bearing in mind the contrasts in flavours of nuts you use. Dried coconut is quite sweet. Blanched almonds and cashews have a smooth, almost sweet flavour. Walnuts are bitter and hazelnuts are quite strong. So you might not want to mix hazelnuts and walnuts, but cashew and hazelnut might work well. If you’re not sure, just eat a few together and see how the flavours mix.
I guess that because you’re here, you’re not a granola virgin. So I’ll cut to the chase now and leave you with my granola recipe.
Recipe updated Monday 2nd November 2015, to ensure that you now have even more crunchy, crispy, flavour packed granola!
Ultimate no added sugar granola
By Gavin Wren
Uses 1 pot and 1 or 2 baking trays
500g cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons of oil (Ground nut, sesame, walnut, vegetable, coconut… etc etc, take your pick)
About 300g jumbo rolled oats
About 300g mixed nuts and seeds
My favourite way to serve this is topped with exotic fruits and yoghurt, take your pick!
The mix in the photoFor the granola in the pictures I used 100g blanched almonds, 100g hazelnuts, 50g pumpkin seeds, 35g sesame seeds and 35g coconut flakes.
Place the apple in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water, the lemon juice, vanilla and lemon. Cover and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Once completed, set aside to cool.
Take your nut selection and roughly chop.
Place the nuts, seeds, oats and apple sauce into a bowl together and mix thoroughly to coat everything. It might take a while to get the sauce around all the ingredients.
Spread the mixture out on a baking paper lined baking sheet (or two), so that it forms a layer about 5mm thick.
Place in the oven and cook for 1 hour, checking that it’s not burning regularly and opening the oven door occasionally to let out some of the steam that will have been created.
After one hour, turn off the oven with the granola still in it and leave the door wide open for 15 minutes. Then remove the granola, close the door, re-heat the oven, put the granola back in and cook for a further 1 hour, again checking regularly.
Finally, turn off the oven, leaving the trays in it. Open the oven door slightly to help cool the oven and once it’s back down to around room temperature, close the door and leave the trays there overnight.
The following morning, take the trays out of the oven and break the granola up, then store in airtight jars or storage containers.
Some more suggestions for youNuts: Almonds, Brazil, Coconut, Hazelnuts, Macadamia, Peanuts, Pecans, Pistachio, Walnuts.
Seeds: Chia, Hemp, Sesame, Sunflower, Pumpkin.