Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: You don't need a recipe to make a homemade granola that puts the boxed ones in your cupboard to shame. (Hint: Also makes a great last-minute gift.)
Granola is good. It’s good fuel to ensure you have a productive morning. It's a good snack that's filling enough to tide you over until your next meal. It's a good dessert accompaniment, sprinkled on ice cream or a lumpy, bubbly fruit crisp. But homemade granola ... homemade granola is great. Homemade granola is an entirely different species from that thing you find in a cardboard box on the top shelf of your grocery store. Homemade granola is a wildly selfish animal that only you can control.
When you make your own granola, you don the boss's boots and put yourself in charge. Fond of coconut? Throw in 2 cups. Not crazy about sunflower seeds? Don’t let them anywhere in your sight. Infatuated with chocolate? Add half a bag of your favorite chunks -- no, add the whole thing.
I like to think of making granola as more than an exercise in baking (partially because it's not really baking, but more like throwing and mixing and crisping), and more along the lines of a delicious and rebellious takeover. Forget what you know, tuck those traditional granolas back in their boxes, run to your pantry and search until you find that secret, special, fabulous granola animal that is simply waiting to be unleashed.
How to Make Granola Without a Recipe
1. Toss oats and add-ins (minus any chocolate) into a large bowl. Think dried fruits, coconut flakes, nuts, Chex cereal, or seeds. 1/2 cup of oats rounds out to above one serving, so use that as a guide for how much you want to make.
2. Drizzle your oaty fruity nutty pile with brown sugar (about 1/4 cup for every 2 cups of oats), a few glugs of maple syrup or honey, a dash of vanilla, and canola or olive oil (around 1 tablespoon for every cup).
3. Mix your masterpiece well, get your hands on in there and coat everything there is to coat.
4. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake at 350˚ F until crispy, golden, and toasty, about 20 minutes, every so often stirring the granola with a spoon to ensure it browns evenly.
5. Let cool on the sheet before breaking up into lumpy gorgeous globs.
6. Mix in any meltables (à la chocolate, butterscotch, or peanut butter chips) once it's completely cool, and have yourself a handful of the final product, the new species you just created.
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Photos by James Ransom