Granola is the second recipe in our family cookbook. Right there on page 1, directly under Breakfast Casserole. While the casserole does sound delicious, and we’ll definitely be sharing it at some point, neither of my brothers or I have a memory of eating it as kids. But granola, on the other hand, is a completely different story.
Growing up, our dad had a few signature recipes. A couple that we’ll be sharing soon, Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls and Bran Muffins to be specific, but I can’t think of anything else that was more in the realm of All-Things-Dad, than his granola.
Whenever it came time for him to make a new batch, it was like watching a scientist perform a detailed experiment. The kitchen in our childhood home wasn’t huge, and while there was just enough room for two, or even two-point-five in the days when we were smaller, we all knew to clear out and let Dad have his granola making space.
All the liquids, all the brans, the flours, the spices, and the nuts came out of the cabinets along with measuring tools. And don’t forget the big green bowl. A faded avocado color, I’m not positive what it was made from but the ever so adult word ‘melamine’ comes to mind. It was the biggest bowl in the kitchen and definitely the only one that could manage to contain all the granola ingredients once combined. Even with the big green bowl the mixture had to be stirred carefully. With the big silver spoon, of course. I wasn’t actually sure what to call the kind of spoon he used but with the help of Google it would seem that it was a stainless steel basting spoon. The things you learn.
Speaking of learning, before pursuing a Master's degree in Architecture, our dad was, in fact, a science teacher. So my analogy holds up! And as any good scientist would do while in the lab, our dad always took notes while making his creations. But in all the batches of granola he’s made over the years I’m fairly confident that no two have been exactly the same.
I’m sure he had his reasons ranging from trying to use up one ingredient or another, to striving to achieve the perfect level of crunch, but I’ve imagined the core of why my dad was always testing new variations probably aligns the essence of every granola in existence. It strikes me as a food with the lofty goal of finding the precise balance between ‘Healthy’ and ‘Who Already Ate All The Granola I Just Made A Fresh Batch Yesterday?’
To be Hahnest, I’ve never actually made a batch by myself until now. I’ve certainly watched it being made many, many times. But since granola was always our dad’s domain, and he was always generous about shipping or sending us home with a bag after each visit, I never felt the need to conduct a cereal experiment of my own. But now that I’ve actually gone through the process and finally baked up my own granola for the first time, I’m realizing that the main reason I hadn’t tried in the past was because I was intimidated.
I can see now that the resistance was strong even as I prepped the recipe. All ingredients had been sourced and they sat waiting for me on the counter. And there they continued to wait. Pretty sure I postponed making the granola for at least a week. There was one day I thought would work well but when I opened up the cookbook my eyes fell upon hand written notes under the typed recipe that threw off my plan, and they were in my dad’s unmistakable scribe.
In this instance he was providing more instructional details, but it caused me to wonder how much his granola methodology had changed since this last version of the family cookbook had been printed in 2006. Time to text Mom!
Within minutes she’d sent pictures of three more versions of his granola recipe. Even looking at them now my head is spinning a little again. Mom said the red version is “pretty much” what he makes now, which my brain received and immediately sorted into the ‘Cool-Story-But-I-Will-Sort-This-Out-Next-Week’ box. Does your brain have one of those? Procrastination organization at its finest!
When I finally put on my big girl britches and committed to following through on my granola plan, I was pleasantly surprised that conducting a little scientific experiment of my own was actually fairly fun! But did I follow my dad’s red version exactly? Nope, in true experimental mode I chose to do further research.
As it turns out, granola recipes are thankfully very forgiving. I took elements from each version that I liked and made sense to me, and formed my own, albeit very similar, recipe. A sprinkle of this, a dash of that! The improvisation was the best part, and fortunately, the more ingredients I combined the more excited I felt. ‘I can do this!’ I thought to myself, ‘I can make granola!’
It might seem trivial to most, but after so many years of being a passive observer, to successfully complete this granola making mission felt like a right of passage. Truthfully, it’s hard to go wrong when melted butter, honey, and cinnamon all make an appearance in your baking bowl, but sometimes logic doesn’t always factor into daily decisions as much as it could. I’ve noticed a trend in my life where my anticipation of how events will play out is usually much worse than what happens in reality. In this instance, granola provides an interesting case study, but also hopefully a helpful example of why digging in and getting started is usually the best thing I can do.
Ultimately, I think this theory applies to just about any facet of life. And heck, it’s ok if it feels a little uncomfortable while I’m deciding whether I should use brown sugar or maybe sub in molasses this time. Neither option is going to ruin the recipe. Because let’s face it, they’re both delicious!
The big take away for me from this experience is that the longer you mull over how to proceed, or what the repercussions might be if you choose the “wrong” ingredients, the longer you have to go without having granola in your tummy.
And we all need a little more of that deliciously satisfying homemade cereal in our systems to fuel us for starting whatever projects life sends our way!
Feels like a perfect time to finally unveil the latest and greatest granola version, á la the Kate Hahn twist.
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- 6 cups oats
- 1 cup wheat germ
- 1 cup wheat bran
- 1 cup walnuts (consider a generous cup, I like walnuts!)
- 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup dried coconut
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
In a separate bowl, add liquids and warm to combine. *If not using a microwave to melt your oils, combining all liquids in a saucepan on the stove works well to help warm for easier mixing.
- ½ cup melted butter
- ½ cup melted coconut oil
- ½ cup honey
- ¼ cup molasses
- ¼ cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 175 F. Once liquids are completely combined, pour over the dry ingredients and stir until evenly coated. Transfer and spread the mixture between two baking sheet pans and bake until dry (6 hours or more).
I find it helpful to stir the mixture every few hours, but that will break down the granola pieces into smaller bits, so it’s up to your personal preference. Depending on your climate or the weather, the granola may need to dry overnight in the oven before storing in sealed containers. You’ll know when it’s dry because it’ll no longer seem chewy when you sample, you’ll experience a full-fledged crrrrrrrunch!
And might I add, that big crunch pairs nicely with dried fruit like raisins or craisins, but I wait to add mine when I pour up each bowl. Because let's be Hahnest, some days raisins are delicious, and other days they need to stay away from my cookies AND my granola.
But should you find yourself postponing your own trip to Granola Town, then just holler at me. I’m happy to share some of my batch because it turned out deeee-LISH!
p.s. j/k it’s already gone. But I WILL make it again if anyone needs a little extra help powering up for this thing we call life ☺