Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Knock-Your-Socks-Off Banana Date Walnut Granola

I didn't give my granola recipe this name--Dear Husband did. If I had to name it, I would call it Redemption Granola for it is the recipe which has redeemed me in the eyes of my family and vanquished my status of I'm-Not-a-Morning-Person-and so-I-(almost)-Never-Make-Breakfast-for-My-Family; that is unless you count toast from homemade bread.

For some reason, I assumed I couldn't make granola as whole oats are unavailable in Jordan, and the available "quick oats" are never called for in granola recipes. I can't believe that I had so little culinary imagination after all these years of making due. A good friend gave me her recipe, in which she substituted quick oats, and off I went.

This recipe has evolved over two years of tinkering with it, and it is one of the few recipes I can truly call my own. The last phase of modification had to do with processing, so as to make it, hopefully, healthier. It takes a little time and preparation, so I make a big batch.

Beginning the night before: I "soak" the oats. Soaking grains optimizes their nutritional value making them easier to digest and by allowing the grain's nutrients to be absorbed by our bodies. You can read more about that here. My cyber-friend, Tina, shared her oats-for-granola soaking technique with me. It's not difficult, but requires a little planning ahead.

The night before: Soak 12 cups of oats (I use quick) in 1 1/2 cups yogurt.

I begin with mixing the yogurt in with a large spoon, and then switch to using my hands, making sure all the oats are covered. It will have a moist crumb consistency when the yogurt is completely mixed in and should look something like this:

I cover this mixture with a clean cloth and let it sit on the counter overnight (at least).

Now for the rest of the recipe:

Banana Date Walnut Granola
12 cups quick oats, soaked overnight in 1 1/2 cups yogurt
1/2 cup ground flax seed
3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, (pre-soaked and crisped using this technique)
3 bananas (ripe is better)
1- 1.5 cup pitted dates
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Mix the oats, flax seed, cinnamon, salt, and walnuts, in a very large bowl.

2. Combine the bananas, dates, and hot water in a blender and blend to make a sauce about the consistency of applesauce. You should have 3 cups of puree. If not, adjust fruit quantity, i.e. add another banana. I am spoiled in that I can buy pure date paste in 2 lb blocks for a very good price. I just cut off a piece that looks like it will be about a cup, and put it in the blender.

2. Pour the fruit puree over the dry ingredients and mix well, breaking up clumps as much as possible.

3. Spread the mixture evenly onto two pans. I use my indispensable jelly-roll pans and two are just the right size for this recipe.

4. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Remove, stir granola, return to oven and bake another 30 minutes.

5. Remove the granola from the oven, let cool and transfer it back to the mixing bowl. Combine the honey, olive oil, and vanilla and then pour it over the cooled granola. Mix thoroughly and return the granola to the baking pans. Bake a final 20 minutes.

If the granola is still very moist, you may need to cook it another 10 minutes, but watch carefully so that it doesn't burn. After the final bake, my granola looks like this:

6. Cool thoroughly and store in a covered container. Other things may be added to this granola, such as raisins, dried fruits, and other nuts, but this is the way we like it.

Plain yogurt, fruit or fruit sauce, and granola is now the preferred breakfast by everyone in our family. One day last week, there wasn't enough granola for everyone so I actually made a pancake breakfast for the kids--on a weekday! I don't think I've ever done that before. Guess what Artist Son had for lunch: the yogurt and granola that he missed for breakfast.

Our favorite winter combination, served with pomegranate seeds (and a little added sweetener)

In the spring we often eat it with strawberries, but the rest of the year, we eat it with fruit puree, plum or apricot. I think we've gone through a few gallons since last fall!

This recipe can be made with un-soaked oats and walnuts--that's the way I'd been making it until a couple months ago--however the baking time should be adjusted: 20 minutes for the first two bakes and 15-20 for the last one.


Laura A said...

I've had a bag of oats on my counter for two weeks, and just thought, "Now where did I see that yummy-looking granola recipe?" So I'm going to make it, even if I don't have every ingredient.

But, it's really okay to leave oats soaked in granola unrefrigerated overnight? You clearly wrote that, so I believe you. But I just wanted to double check.


Quotidian Life said...

Yes, I've even left it on the counter over night + half a day. Let me know how it turns out--I don't know if anyone has actually made this recipe besides me.

Laura A said...

My first try at this failed rather spectacularly, because I got distracted over a couple of days and forgot that I'd cut the recipe in thirds by the time I added enough banana for the full recipe. So I made a sort of big cookie that was more like goo-nola. Starting another batch this evening!

Quotidian Life said...

Oh, I'm sorry, Laura--but laughing at your term, "goo-nola". I noticed the last batch I made was wetter before baking (maybe a different brand of oats?). I baked it a little longer than usual and it was fine--just in case that information is useful for the next batch. Also, if in doubt, go for color as it sometimes gets crispier/harder as it cools. If it doesn't, you can bake longer. It took me a few batches to figure out how to get it "just right". And, if it seems to clumpy, you can break up clumps with a spoon or your hands.

Carolyn said...

How big are your jelly roll pans!? Mine are 13x11, and it would take 3 to do one batch, unless you're heaping the granola higher than the sides of the pan.

Today is pumpkin day! Pumpkin puree (4-5 quarts), pumpkin granola, pumpkin bars ... the kitchen smells of pumpkin.

Quotidian Life said...

My pans are 11x16 inches and those are the inside measurements. That's a lot of pumpkin goodness going on in your kitchen : )