Oats+almonds+maple syrup=

Almond GranolaI’m a huge fan of Cook’s Illustrated .. how fun would it be to work in America’s Test Kitchen??!!  Kind of a long story as to how I ultimately became a fan – next time we’re cooking together in my kitchen I’ll share it with you.  Anyhow, my husband and I were hosting his Foundation co-workers for an all-day strategy meeting and I wanted to pull out all the stops with breakfast.  Check out this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for homemade granola.  It was a huge hit, and is super easy to make.

simple ingredientsAlmond Granola with Dried Fruit

Store-bought granola suffers from many shortcomings. It’s often loose and gravelly and/or infuriatingly expensive (right??!!). We wanted to make our own granola at home, with big, satisfying clusters and crisp texture. The secret was to firmly pack the granola mixture into a rimmed baking sheet before bakbaseing. Once it was baked, we had a granola “bark” that we could break into crunchy clumps of any size.  Makes about 9 cups.

Chopping the almonds by hand is the first choice for superior texture and crunch. If you prefer not to hand chop, substitute an equal quantity of slivered or sliced almonds. (A food processor does a lousy job of chopping whole nuts evenly.) Use a single type of your favorite dried fruit or a combination. Do not use quick oats.

hand-chop almonds

Ingredients
1/3 cup maple syrup 
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups raw almonds, chopped coarse
2 cups raisins or other dried fruit, chopped (I used cranberries, banana chips, dried figs and raisins)

stir togetherAdjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in large bowl. Whisk in oil. Fold in oats and almonds until thoroughly coated.

Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread across sheet into thin, even layer (about 3/8 inch thick). Using stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact.

press firmly in panBake until lightly browned, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Remove granola from oven and cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break cooled granola into pieces of desired size. Stir in dried fruit. Granola can be stored in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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