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I had intended to try my hand at making granola this holiday season.  I love giving homemade gifts, and wanted to try something different from candy and cookies, something that would keep well and that I could make in big batches.  Granola seemed to fit the bill, so I consulted recipes, came up with a plan for three flavors, and purchased ingredients (largely from the bulk section at Whole Foods.)  Unfortunately, procrastination, the busy holiday season, and a truly nasty cold got in my way.  So, here I am a month later, and I was finally able to make my granola.

I based my granola loosely on Alton Brown’s recipe, but I definitely customized it.  I made three different kinds of granola: pecan pumpkin spice, fig and walnut, and cranberry orange.  I tackled the pecan pumpkin spice first.

oats, pumpkin seeds, pecans, and puffed kamut

In addition to customizing the flavors, I tried to add a little more texture than the standard oats and nuts combination.  All three granola variations started with 3 cups of oats and 1 1/2 cups of puffed kamut.  Kamut is an ancient type of wheat, and I found a puffed kamut cereal that, in the granola, added a light, airy crunch.  In the pecan pumpkin spice variation, I also added pumpkin seeds and chopped pecans to round out the dry ingredients.

Then I stirred together oil (my canola oil smelled a little off, so I had to use olive oil, but it worked just fine), maple syrup, and a few tablespoons of pumpkin butter.   I got my pumpkin butter at Trader Joe’s, but you can also find the Stonewall Kitchen’s variety at some grocery stores, and Williams-Sonoma makes a version, as well.  If you like pumpkin, but you’ve never had it, you really should give it a try.  It’s warmly spiced, sweet, and delicious.  You can put it on toast or biscuits, stir it into yogurt, or dip pretzel sticks in it.  Yum!  Anyway, here I used it to add a little bit of actual pumpkin flavor to the granola, along with its sweetness and spices.  The pumpkin butter didn’t add enough spice on its own, so I added cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.  I whisked it all together and poured it over the dry ingredients.

sweet, spicy, and subtly pumpkin flavored

After mixing thoroughly, I spread it all on a sheet pan lined with parchment and put it in the 300 degree oven.  I baked it for about an hour, stirring it every 15 minutes or so, until it was golden brown and crispy.

Voila! Pecan pumpkin spice granola!

Granola experiment #2 was fig and walnut.  This time, in addition to the oats and puffed kamut, the dry ingredients included sweetened coconut and chopped walnuts.

oats, kamut, coconut, and walnuts

Then I stirred together the wet mixture: oil and maple syrup, like before, plus some brown sugar, cardamom, allspice, and a little salt.

combining wet and dry ingredients for fig and walnut granola

That mixture got combined with the dry ingredients, spread on another sheet pan, and baked just like the pecan pumpkin spice granola.  After it came out of the oven and cooled a bit, I mixed in the chopped figs.

granola and figs ready to be mixed together

The final variation was cranberry orange.  I wanted to make at least one granola without nuts, for those who are allergic or dislike nuts, and this was it.  Still I wanted a good crunch, and some roasted, salted soybeans (also known as soynuts) caught my eye in the bulk section at Whole Foods.  These have the added bonus of giving the granola some added protein, too.  So the dry ingredient base for the cranberry orange granola was oats, kamut, and soynuts.  The wet ingredients were oil, maple syrup, orange juice, orange zest, molasses, and a bit of brown sugar.

dry and wet ingredients for cranberry orange granola

By now you know the drill: mix, spread in a pan, and bake until golden.  I stirred in the dried cranberries once the cooked granola had cooled a bit.

I am very pleased with how all three granolas turned out.  I’ve never been a huge fan of store-bought granola .  It tends to be pricey, sugary, and high in fat.  I think these have converted me, though.  They will be great as snacks or mixed with fruit or jam and yogurt for breakfast.  And each has a distinct character.  The pecan pumpkin spice granola is warm and comforting, and I am looking forward to enjoying it with yogurt and some of the extra pumpkin butter and a cup of tea.  The fig and walnut is the subtlest flavor and probably the most versatile.  I bet its light sweetness and hint of spice will be great with applesauce.  The cranberry orange granola was the most surprising to me and is probably the most unusual.  The orange flavor really comes through and pairs really well with the slightly tart cranberries.  With plain yogurt and a bit of orange marmalade, it’s going to be a burst of bright flavor on cold winter mornings.

For once, I actually measured and took notes as I cooked, so I can give you recipes for all three granolas.  These aren’t precision recipes, though.  You can definitely adapt them to suit yourself.  Each recipe makes 6-7 cups of granola, but it should keep for quite a while in an airtight container, or you can freeze it.  Much of what I made will be given away, so those of you who know me in real life should start thinking about what kind you’d like.

Granola success! Clockwise from top left: fig and walnut granola, pecan pumpkin spice granola, and cranberry orange granola

Pecan Pumpkin Spice Granola

3 cups rolled oats                                     3 tbsp. pumpkin butter

1 1/2 cups puffed kamut cereal             1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)             1/2 tsp. ginger

1 cup chopped pecans                             1/4 tsp. cloves

1/4 cup oil                                                 1/4 tsp. cloves

1/4 cup maple syrup                               3/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix oats, cereal, pecans, and pumpkin seeds in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients.  Pour over dry ingredients and stir well.  Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment (if you don’t have parchment, you can spray the baking sheet with non-stick spray.)  Bake for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until golden brown and dry.

Fig and Walnut Granola

3 cups rolled oats                                      1/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups puffed kamut cereal              1 tsp. cardamom

3/4 cup sweetened, dried coconut        1/4 tsp. allspice

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts                   3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup oil                                                  1 1/2 cups chopped dried figs

1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix oats, cereal, coconut, and walnuts in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, stir together oil, syrup, sugar, spices, and salt.  Pour over dry ingredients and stir well.  Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment (if you don’t have parchment, you can spray the baking sheet with non-stick spray.)  Bake for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until golden brown and dry.  Once cool, stir in figs.

Cranberry Orange Granola

3 cups rolled oats                                 zest of one orange

1 1/2 cups puffed kamut cereal         juice of one orange

1 cup roasted salted soynuts             2 tbsp. molasses

1/4 cup oil                                             1 tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup                           1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix oats, cereal, and soynuts in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, stir together oil, syrup, zest, juice, molasses, and sugar (if you omit the soynuts or use unsalted ones, add a little salt to the wet ingredients).  Pour over dry ingredients and stir well.  Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment (if you don’t have parchment, you can spray the baking sheet with non-stick spray.)  Bake for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until golden brown and dry.  Once cool, stir in cranberries.

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