I confess, there are many foods that I have embarrassingly little idea where they come from or how they’re made. Sometimes it’s a plant that isn’t quite how I expected, like when I learned Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk. Sometimes I could make an educated guess but assume it’s way too complicated to make myself, like frozen puff pastry. And other times, I have just given it absolutely no thought. And a prime example of that is granola.
You guys, I take a granola bar with me to work almost every day, but I really hadn’t ever spent a minute to think about what was in it. If you asked me how one makes granola, first I would have made a ??? face, because... make granola? It doesn’t, just, appear in the grocery store, as if by magic? And then I’d start wildly guessing. You need something sweet, so maybe sugar, and then... grains? Special granola grains? Wait, is there a grain called granola that you make granola bars with? Does this mean you can have a granola field?
I know. I KNOW. I am probably the last person in the world to realize that granola is made with OATS. Regular old boring oats that I’ve had in my pantry this whole time. I wouldn’t have ever realized that, though (remember: never thought about it) except that my sister-in-law recently sent a granola recipe out to the family, which came from America’s Test Kitchen. Once I realized that granola was not delivered to stores by magical granola fairies, nor are there farmers harvesting fields of freshly grown granola, I decided I must give it a try. Is it as straightforward as oats, nuts, and sweet stuff? Yes! Who knew!
So yes, you need oats. You also need nuts, two cups of them. I am too lazy to chop my own, so I used a bag of these that had been living in my freezer for a good year or so.
Add those to five cups of oats, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, a teaspoon of salt, and, if desired, a handful of chocolate chips. Hahaha, “if” desired. Of course they’re desired.
Then add the wet stuff: 1/3 cup maple syrup (I used the fake stuff because whatever, more fenugreek yay), 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and four teaspoons of vanilla.
Mix it all up and try your hardest not to eat it with a spoon as-is.
As you resist shoving it all in your mouth, line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. The original recipe calls for a 9x13” pan, but I used 10x15”, which presumably made a thinner granola but worked all the same.
Then smush the granola down really well into the pan. My sister-in-law recommended a potato ricer to get the mixture into the edges, but I did ok with a spoon and my knuckles.
Time to bake! It goes in a preheated 325-degree oven for 40 minutes... or so. My sister-in-law only needed 30-35, so I tried that, but ours was a bit chewy. Whatever, it’s flexible! When it’s done, it’ll look mostly the same, just maybe a bit brown around the edges...
But give it time to cool, and it’ll sort of shrink up and condense itself. Neat! Hopefully you can see what I mean in the photo below (ignore the change in lighting, it was the end of the day. the granola doesn’t get that brown!).
After it’s cooled into one big cluster, you can break it up into chunks of whatever size you prefer. You can also toss with dried fruit as the original recipe suggests, but we loved it as-is!
And I do mean LOVED IT. This is some seriously addictive granola. Mr. P and I ate it all within three days, and that’s only because we were making a conscious effort not to shove it in our mouths nonstop. We agreed that the next time I make this, it must immediately be portioned into small single-serving bags, because it’s dang near impossible not to eat this by the fistfuls. Even writing this blog post was a challenge, because I currently have no granola, and I had to stop and whine about that every five minutes while editing the photos. It is that good.
So there you go! Now you know what granola is made of and how simple it is to make. You can be a granola fairy yourself, bringing this goodness into the world! Enjoy!