Thursday, October 24, 2013

Peanut Butter Maple Granola

Someone is feeling human again--so first off, thank you all for the prayers. This is NICE. Thank you, Lord!

So, I've been baking and cooking a bit.  Here's a family fave: Homemade peanut butter granola.

It took me YEARS of testing to work up a decent recipe. The first years were marked by tired jaws, chewing the tough stuff I produced. I scoured the internet for recipes on food websites and private blogs, testing, adapting, trying. Finally, it all came together one day, the lightbulb went on, and I executed this recipe, and then instantly wrote it down for the permanent record when it worked.


3 cups Quick oats (plus additional Quick oats)
2-1/2 cups regular rolled oats, or combination rolled oats, barley, or other rolled grains of your choice
3/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup flour

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup maple syrup (can use honey, molasses, or corn syrup)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil or butter (I used coconut oil)
3/4 cup water

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

In saucepan over med/high heat, combine peanut butter, maple syrup, sugar, oil, and water, and bring to a boil. Stir and mix well. If you use natural peanut butter, you will need to stir it a bit more to mix it well.

Pour boiling ingredients over dry ingredients and mix well. You will have a cookie-like dough.

Let the mixture sit for about 5-10 minutes. The hot liquid is actually "cooking" the grains a bit, to soften them and improve their finished texture. This is a good time to get your two baking sheets ready, coated with non-stick spray.

Sprinkle in a light layer of quick oats (above), then using your hands mix it to a "crumbly" texture. (below)

Continuing to mix in quick oats as needed to make the "crumbly" texture, crumble the "dough" onto your baking sheets in a thin layer, making your crumbles "granola" sized.

One batch will make two full cookie sheets, about, but of course, for my family of 8, I make a double batch, which gave me these four cookie sheets (and then some):

Note the cozy woodburning stove in our kitchen, that heats our whole house. Not so cozy when you're on a baking marathon. Welcome to my 90-degree kitchen. Whew! I'm breaking a sweat!

Like I stated above, I had a bit leftover, and someone on facebook asked me if this would work for granola bars. Lightbulb! (Gru's voice).  Of course it would work. I think. Since I had already added in the extra quick oats to make the batter "crumbly," I just added in a spurt of boiling water and a smidge more syrup, pressed the  dough into a greased baking pan, about 1/3 inch thick, cut into bars, then used a spatula to put them on a baking sheet (I think they will bake more evenly if separated).  Because this granola recipe isn't particularly sweet, I dusted these with sugar, and then I think I actually heard the bars screaming for chocolate chips. I simply pressed them point-down into the bars. (Dominoes, anyone?) 

For integrity's sake, I left almost half of them plain. But out of sheer honesty, I will tell you the next time I try these granola bars, I'm putting Nutella in the liquid. But wait... did the granola bars work? I baked them at 300 for quite some time (I really never time my baking, people. I just watch. Sorry). I pulled them out when they were evenly light golden brown all over. So now they're done, and the consensus is... with the chocolate chips, oh my, yes. Almost perfect. Without, they are not quite sweet enough.  If making plain granola bars, I would probably double the sugar in the recipe, and still dust with sugar to bake. But why do that?  Let's just make the chocolate chip ones, folks!

Now comes the patience part.  Bake the granola at about 225 for about an hour, stirring occasionally (just use your hands to move the browner edges to the center--it's not too hot). If you're daring, bake at 300 and check more often--but you must watch or it will get too brown too quickly.  Excuse me... I must go check mine. I will be right  back...

The granola is finished when it is "dry" and evenly golden brown--toasty.  Let it cool completely then store in an airtight container.

Now, make sure you have plenty of ice cold milk or almond milk on hand, and some hungry children!

Oh, how I love adding raisins to this! So, please do. Really, The chewy with the crunchy is just dreamy. When I eat it, I feel like I'm camping in the Rocky Mountains, watching the sunrise. And I should know. I used to live in the Rocky Mountains.

You may want to sprinkle with a little sugar or Stevia. This is not a particularly sweet recipe.  I added some "Nutresse" to mine (a natural sweetener make from monk fruit).

And what a lovely idea for a Christmas gift, people, for those of you who like to bake for others or try to give otherwise useful gifts.  Add some dried cranberries and slivered almonds, or pecans and dried blueberries, or... ... ... you tell me? What can you come up with?

Then, put it in a mason jar or pretty bag with a ribbon.

Oh, my, if people knew what a sacrifice it feels like to bake granola for 4-6 hours, your mouth watering the whole time, then give it up as a present? Whew! What a gift!  I can see it now:'

Me:  "Merry Christmas!" (holding out granola)
Them: "Thank you!" (Tug)
Me: (Tug)
Them: (Tug)
Me:  (Tug)
Them:  (Tug)
Me, smiling, finally letting go. Sigh.

And, FYI, chocolate fans. I have tried adding chocolate to this recipe various ways. I've added cocoa to the liquid, and chocolate chips.  I've even stirred in melted chocolate chips after baking to coat as a glaze.  It just doesn't work.  If you want chocolate in your granola, add some mini chocolate chips to your bowl, or eat a few no-bake cookies with milk. That's as good as it gets, folks. Every time I tried making chocolate, we all voted the peanut butter version was better, hands down.

But, I do plan to try the Nutella route--since that is a nut-based product, I think it may work in the liquid in this recipe. I just keep forgetting to try it because I don't like Nutella (gasp). But my family does.

Thank you, Lord, for the health and your provision that allows me to bake today for my family.  Thank you for those who have been praying for me and bless them!

Happy crunching!  I'm crunching now, and, Yep, this recipe, in my  mind, is all that I claim it to be. Yum.

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