Thursday, November 14, 2013

Vanilla Coffee Granola

I was going to start this post with a little rant on how crazy busy I've been for the last few weeks, but let's just skip ahead to the good stuff, shall we? Question: what does coffee-vanilla-granola spell? Breakfast, of course!

I used to eat a lot of Uncle Toby's granola bars as a kid and I've recently become a fan of granola of again. They're really great for breakfast on the go because I can just pop a few chunks in a ziplock bag and munch on them during my commute. All that crunchy fibrous oats tell me I'm getting a good start to my day. If you use complex sugars as sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and dates, you'll get a slow release of energy throughout the day, which is perfect for those I'm-too-busy-for-long-lunches days. Plus, you can custom fit your granola recipes to fit your palette by using your choice of grains, nuts, dried fruits and even chocolate! Finally - and here's the part I like most - granola recipes are almost fail-proof. There are no complicated maneuvers or skills necessary; all you do is measure, mix, bake and break.

This recipe was inspired by Vegetarian Ventures' Vanilla Bean Espresso Granola recipe. What I've made is basically a poor-student-on-a-budget version of that recipe: I used vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans and instant coffee mix instead of espresso. Out of personal preference, I opted for olive oil rather than coconut oil, which I'm sure has a higher cholestrol content. I also used dried shredded coconut from a Middle Eastern grocery store which is a little darker in colour and still has bits of its brown husk. I like that better because it's less processed than the pristine-white (possibly bleached) shredded coconuts you get from giant supermarkets.

If you like loose granola with your milk, yoghurt or ice cream, then you need to bake for 15 minutes, stir and bake for another 10 minutes. To make chunks like mine, press your mixture down firmly to make a compact layer in your pan, then bake for 25 minutes straight. Be sure to let it cool completely before breaking the granola into chunks. Otherwise they'll crumble into little pieces and you might burn your fingers (duh!).

I experimented with using egg white to help the granola clump better but it took a little bit more work to get everything sufficiently crispy. The granola turned out just as chunky without the egg white so I'd suggest skipping the extra work.

My favorite way to enjoy this Vanilla Coffee Granola is by making a yoghurt parfait. Simply layer yoghurt, granola and fruit or berries. I didn't have either on hand so I dolloped some jam and drizzled some honey for sweetness. The tangy bite of the yoghurt, the deep hum of coffee, the sweetness of fruit/jam/honey, the crunch of grains and nuts - seriously, that's a heavenly mix of flavours and textures!

Get the full recipe after the jump!

Vanilla Coffee Granola
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconuts
1 1/2tbs honey
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs instant coffee mix dissolved in 1 1/2 tbs hot water
1/4 tsp salt

1. Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
2. Stir to mix everything well. It may take a few minutes to make sure all the liquids are evenly distributed.
3. Pour mixture into 12"x12" cake pan lined with parchment paper. Press down firmly to make an even and compact layer of mixture.
4. Bake for 25 minutes at 325F. To make granola chunks: Bake for 15 minutes, rotate your pan to make sure the granola bakes evenly, and continue baking for another 10 minutes. To make loose granola: bake for 15 minutes, stir and bake for another 10 minutes.
5. Cool completely before breaking into chunks. Store in an airtight container.

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