1. Don't pile too much on a cookie sheet. You want it to brown slightly.
2. Make sure your nuts and seeds are fresh. I have made this mistake and it ruins the whole batch. Just buy them at a place that has a quick turnover, like Trader Joes, and use them soon. Or store them in the freezer.
3. Use a "Silpat" or parchment paper on the bottom of your cookie sheet to make clean up quick and easy.
4. I have read that storing the granola in the freezer keeps it crisp, but I never have room between all the frozen soup and slices of toast.
5. Don't add dried fruit until you are about to eat the granola. It softens the granola.
6. Don't stress if you don't have all the ingredients. I never have coconut and figure I can save a few calories by skipping it. I typically use oatmeal, one type of nut and some spices. If you do use coconut, make sure to use the unsweetened kind. I can only find it at certain Whole Foods and Indian food markets.
7. Salt is key. Don't skip it.
My Favorite Recipes:
Molly Wizenberg's Chocolate Granola at Orangette (I could eat this for breakfast and dessert)
Molly Wizenberg's Everyday Granola at Epicurious/Bon Appetit. This smells so wonderful. I am too cheap to use pecans, but it is another simple recipe.
Mark Bittman's simply and flexible version. The lack of oil may be why it never crisps up enough for me, but it is as healthy as it comes.
Alton Brown's Granola. I am not typically an Alton Brown fan, but I love this granola. Crisp, sweet. I just add a bit more salt.
Maple Granola from the Pioneer Woman. I tweaked it dramatically, substituting canola oil for coconut oil, and leaving out the flaxseeds and coconut. I even substituted honey for part of the maple syrup because honey is, well, cheaper! I also made three times the recipe. Maybe that is why I found myself cooking it for about an hour longer! But once I took it out of the oven and it hardened, it was fantastic. It is sweet and salty, and best of all it has that crunch of the best artisan versions. (It is the one featured at the top of the post.)
Slow Cooker Granola from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker: although this cooked much faster than the recipe indicated (and started to burn), I am convinced that this is a great way to cook granola. If I can transfer any of the above recipes to the slow cooker, I will share it here.
Nigella Lawson's snack/granola bars. These were what I ate all the time when I was pregnant and starving. They are healthy, inexpensive and easy to carry as snacks for kids.
Versions I can't wait to try:
Renee is our daycare provider/friend/general advice giver, etc. She is also a great cook. She created this recipe. I tried it recently and it is a new favorite. It is light, easy and very adaptable.
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup water
4 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (not the sweetened stuff)
½ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
½ cup wheat germ, optional
Preheat oven to 275. Line two insulated cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Combine sugar and water in a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl and microwave 5 minutes to dissolve sugar. It will boil over in a smaller container. Remove from microwave and add oil, salt, and vanilla. Place oats, nuts, etc in a large bowl and pour sugar syrup over. Stir to mix. Spread on cookie sheets and bake about an hour until lightly browned. When cooled completely, store in an airtight container.