This should really be a post about how AC thinks everyone in California wears Birkenstocks and eats granola all day :P But regardless of his misconception, I think I'm getting closer to my perfect bowl of granola.
Some people like their granola really soft so it turns slightly soggy when mixed with yogurt or milk. Some like it on the other extreme, where it almost hurts your teeth because it's so crunchy (even when in yogurt/milk!). I like it somewhere in between, but definitely with a lot of clusters.
While this granola recipe didn't yield as many clusters as I had hoped for (more on this later), its flavor turned out better than most of my 4-5 previous attempts at homemade granola. I think that's because this recipe tells you to toast the nuts separately from the oat mixture, and then add them in with the dried fruit at the very end. This prevents the over/under baking of "goodies" that usually happens when you mix everything together in the beginning and bake in one big batch.
Adapted from Epicurious, July 2008
Makes about 7 cups
1 C almonds
4 C old-fashioned rolled oats
4 T unsalted butter
1/3 C pure maple syrup or honey
1/2 C dried blueberries
1/2 C dried cherries (or other fruit such as dates, cranberries, etc.)
1/4 C sweetened shredded coconut
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line a large shallow baking sheet with foil. Spread the nuts on the sheet and roast for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Transfer browned nuts to a board and chop. Set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the maple syrup. Mix this syrup with the oats and shredded coconut. Pour mixture onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly. Bake for 30 min, stirring once with a spatula halfway through, until the oats are lightly colored. Let cool; toss with dried fruit and nuts.
*For crunchier granola, add 1-2 egg whites to the oat mixture before baking
** I've read that you can create more clusters by adding H20 to the mixture. Essentially the wetter the oats, the more likely they will cluster. I love my clusters -- so I'll test out this water theory next time, and let you know how it works...