I should start this post by saying that I never liked granola. I am not big on cold cereals in general - the only ones I liked in camp (during the summer between 6th and 7th grades) were Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Golden Grahams, and I don't eat either as a grown-up because I know that it's not really healthy to eat that much sugar for breakfast on a daily basis.
That's why I didn't even consider trying the granola at the lovely Mountain Range Boutique Lodge in Wanaka in January. Only when one of the other guests, a nice British woman, remarked that they had very good "muesli", did I try some of it from Mihai's plate. And then I was very glad that we were staying at the lodge for one more night, because I could have my own plate of their granola for breakfast the next morning. Since this is the first time I was having granola I actually liked, and since we were once again discussing how good the "muesli" was, I asked the manager of the lodge how they made it. He told us it was straightforward, and that the secret was probably the butter that they toasted the oats in (of course!). Armed with the knowledge of the secret ingredient, I made sure to inspect the granola on my plate carefully to figure out what else was in it other than oats. (Note: based on what the nice British lady was saying, I'd assumed that "muesli" is simply the British word for American "granola". As it turns out, muesli is made of non-toasted oats, so what we were eating at the lodge was most definitely granola.)
When we got back home from our travels, I tried replicating the granola that very same weekend, just guessing at the right ratios of ingredients. To my surprise (and great excitement), I got the proportions right to my taste the very first time, so I could finally have some more of the granola I've been dreaming of for the previous two weeks since we'd left Wanaka. We've now been through at least 4 more batches - it's that good, if I do say so myself.
(Helpful) note: I learned from Amanda Hesser on food52 that the easiest way to crush/chop nuts is to place them in a ziploc bag and pound with a meat pounder. Since I don't have a meat pounder, I've been using the back of my smallest skillet on the macadamias:
Inspired by the one at Mountain Range Boutique Lodge
9 tablespoons butter
3 teaspoons honey
3 teaspoons raw sugar
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced and blanched almonds
¾ cup macadamia nuts, chopped or crushed (not too finely)
¾ cup raw pumpkin seeds
¾ cup dried cranberries, chopped (in half)
½ cup raisins, chopped (in half)
½ cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. Cut up the butter into a few pieces and place in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Place in the microwave and heat until somewhat softened. Add in the honey and raw sugar, and continue microwaving until butter is completely melted and the sugar and honey are well mixed in.
3. Mix the oats with the butter-sugar-honey mixture until they are all well-coated with the butter.
4. Spread the buttered oats on a large rimmed cookie sheet. Toast the oats in the oven for 45 minutes, mixing them up every 15 minutes.
5. Once the oats are toasted, transfer them to a large bowl. Then spread the almonds on the cookie sheet and toast for 25 minutes; transfer the toasted almonds into the bowl with the oats. Then spread the macadamias and pepitas on the cookie sheet and toast for 15 minutes; transfer the toasted nuts and pepitas into the bowl with the oats and almonds.
6. Once all the oats and nuts are toasted and the dried fruit is chopped, mix them all together.
7. Store the granola in an airtight container and enjoy by itself or with greek yogurt.
Friday, March 12, 2010