Tag Archives: cranberries

Christmas Granola (And the Story of the Great Granola Bake-off 2014)

It seems ages ago now but back in July I was interning at LongHouse in upstate New York. It might seem like an odd thing to do – take an internship unrelated to my PhD (it was all practical cooking and some blogging) only six months from potentially handing in, but I was in desperate need of a change of scene and some time away from Foucault. And so it was that I found myself in a barn kitchen, baking off trays and trays of Molly O’Neill’s granola.

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Normally, I make granola in small batches – 200 or 300 grams of oats at a time. Molly requested that I convert a 50 pound bag of oats into granola. She makes it twice a year, hence the vast quantities, and it is used in the LongHouse Food Scholars programme (as a breakfast staple), for visiting guests and other students, and to give away. I, of course, happily agreed to make all the granola. How hard could it be?

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Ah. Such famous last words. It turns out, 50lb of oats makes A LOT of granola. But y’ll probably knew all that already. It took the greater part of two weeks to make all the granola. I worked initially in the barn at LongHouse. This fantastic kitchen provided large mixing bowls and plastic tubs, large pots and two ovens, so that the granola could be baked in a series of six trays at a time. Unfortunately granola is not something you can simply put in the oven and then leave to do its thing. It has to be turned and stirred so that it bakes evenly. Too little time in the oven and it will not crisp, too long and you risk burning it due to the high sugar. Fortunately, I had company from Ali, who kept my spirits up (and ran around taking various photographs, including the ones below) and we had wine…

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The first mass of granola was baked and put into a large tub. This is where it all started to go wrong of course. We couldn’t find a properly fitting lid for the tub and so we wrapped it as tight as we could in clingfilm. But then students arrived and, instead of bagging it all responsibly into individual bags that were airtight, the granola was forgotten for the long weekend. The result? A request that I bake all the granola again, because moisture had gotten in and made it damp. I was slightly devastated. Hours of my life had to be relived! Part of me wanted to cry. Another part of me wanted to refuse. A third part of me wanted to lie down on the floor and not move for several days. But I took a deep breath and got on with it.

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By this time we had had to move kitchens. Initially I baked at Molly’s – in her new ovens. I was doing okay here but then, with the darkening light, I managed to over-bake several trays. Then the organising board on the fancy ovens gave up working and had to be replaced, so I moved to a third kitchen. These new ovens were temperamental and so required a more watchful eye. But slowly slowly, after several days, all the granola was baked to the right golden colour and dry. I was so paranoid about damp granola by this stage that I checked and re-checked all the trays as they came out of the oven. And sometimes put them back in for a few minutes, you know, just in case. We then spent an afternoon filling sealable bags with granola so that it would stay dry and could be used throughout the late summer.

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After that experience, making granola for hours at a time over several weeks, I was well and truly granola-ed out. I continued to eat it – Molly’s granola is exceptionally more-ish, but I didn’t want to have to make any more for a LONG time. Finally, this week, I decided it was time to venture forth into granola again. I often need something quick and simple for breakfast, before dashing to the office. I am highly dysfunctional in the mornings. If I can work from home, I do. I tend to be more effective if I can just get up, have a coffee and sit at my desk in my pyjamas for a few hours. If I have to get dressed, eat and leave, then I need my life to be as easy and straight-forward as possible.

This granola is adapted from Nigella’s book, Feast. Feast is one of my favourites – I love the writing and the organisation and the recipes. It’s my go to book – the one that came in my suitcase when I moved over from South Africa. Nigella writes that she got the granola recipe from a place in Connecticut called The Pantry. This granola is spicy and warm, and, with the addition of cranberries, rather than raisins, reminiscent of Christmas. It’s certainly my December choice.

I only made half the quantity she describes, mainly because I don’t need that much granola at a time. I left out raisins, sunflower and sesame seeds (because I thought I’d use what I already had), and reduced the amount of sugar. Nigella mixes everything together in one bowl but I heated up the apple compote with the sugars and oil because mine was frozen.

Christmas Granola
Adapted from Nigella’s Feast
225g rolled oats
50g pumpkin seeds
10g poppyseeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sea salt
80g whole almonds, roughly chopped
125g apple compote
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp honey
35g brown sugar
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
generous handfuls of dried cranberries and apricots, roughly chopped (approximately 3/4 cup of each)

Heat the oven to 160C and line the oven baking tray with baking paper.

Put all the dry ingredients, except the dried fruit, into a bowl and stir to distribute.

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Place the apple compote, golden syrup, honey, brown sugar and rapeseed oil in a pan and heat until everything is emulsified.

Pour this into the dry ingredients and stir, making sure everything is evenly coated. Place the mixture onto the baking tray, distributing it evenly.

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Cook for approximately 40 minutes, until the granola is evenly golden brown. Stir every 15 minutes or so. This timing will really depend on your oven. Once it’s baked to desired goldenness, remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before stirring in the fruit. Store in an airtight container.

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PS. I have finally given my supervisor a copy of my thesis draft. This means *squee* that I am on the long road to actually handing in…

Granola

Originally I made this granola when the Princess was visiting. She criticised me for making an excessive amount and then we finished it in like a week. The same happened when I made it again recently. It’s ridiculously addictive and is filling breakfast food. I don’t feel the need for lunch til at least 3pm… It’s also super easy to make and the only requirement is that you don’t forget it is in the oven (yes I did that) because the fruit gets a tad dry (in a will-break-your-teeth kind of way). Feel free to put what you like into it – I made apricot, cranberry and walnut this time but really, the choice is yours.

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Granola

Adapted from Alice Hart’s Vegetarian

300g oats

100g walnuts

100g apricots

100g cranberries

100g sunflower seeds

30g poppyseeds

100g honey

100ml sunflower oil

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Toss everything together in a large bowl. If you’re worried about the fruit burning, leave it out of the initial mix and add it onto the baking trays when you’ve got 10 minutes left. Spread the granola out over two lined baking trays and bake at 180C for 30 minutes, stirring everything and tossing it around every 10 minutes. Allow it to cool before storing in an airtight container. Eat with milk/yoghurt/as a snack.

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Cranberry and Dark Chocolate Cookies

Today I’m taking a break from the Italy posts and telling you about these rather wonderful, amazing, addictive cookies. They’re perfect for an afternoon snack – especially when you get home exhausted from the day and are even better late in the evening, past the hour of acceptable consumption, eaten on the couch, with a trashy movie. I was also going to make a pear tart tomorrow but some of the children I’m working with at the moment are baking bread and I’m going to have to go into school so I figured I’d share these with you today instead.

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I made these on Sunday in a fit of energetic inspiration and they’re still good, two days later. I suspect they last a while. They’re dense and bitter with dark chocolate which is broken by the sudden, unexpected sweetness of the cranberries. I think it’s a bit of a take on Christmas cookies made with white chocolate and cranberry and being that my current state of mind is a bit like a child on Christmas eve, I feel they’re appropriate. These are adapted from Bouchon Bakery, a book with which I am slightly obsessed. It’s Thomas Keller’s latest book. I have referred to The French Laundry Cookbook before. I am obsessed with the way they make brioche. The man is a genius. I want to make pretty much everything in the book and have already been converted to his shortcrust pastry, which I will tell you about at some point. But first, these cookies.

I adapted the recipe from Chocolate Chunk and Chip cookies. I couldn’t find any recipes that called for white chocolate and cranberry so I gave up and decided to do my own thing with one of the recipes that looked like it would take a lot of dark chocolate and some dried fruit. I never have chocolate chips in the house, mostly because I prefer to use chocolate that I can chop, so I used all regular chocolate, chopped roughly. Keller says that the chips hold their consistency whilst the chunks of chopped chocolate melt. I find they melt a little but overall hold quite well in the cookie. There’s enough dark bitter chunk for me to be satisfied. Keller’s recipes are extremely precise (60g of egg for example) so mine is an adapted version of his recipe. I did weigh everything (including the egg!) but I used golden caster sugar instead of granulated, black treacle instead of molasses, chocolate chopped into chunks for the entire chocolate amount required, and finally, I added in 100g of cranberries. This makes quite a few cookies. The instructions are to divide the dough into 6 equal portions, at 150g each and then cook three on a tray. 150g seems a tad excessive to me so I weighed them at 50g and cooked six on a tray and still had them spread together slightly (in a totally manageable way) so I feel like 150g is way excessive a weight for a cookie.

Cranberry and Dark Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery

240g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

135g dark brown sugar

15g black treacle

105g golden caster sugar

120g dark chocolate, 70%

170g butter, unsalted, room temperature

100g cranberries

60g egg (I weighed the egg and filled to 60g with buttermilk)

Place the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a bowl. Stir and set aside. Beat the butter in a warm bowl (Keller says until it looks like mayonnaise) but I think it’s better described as thick and fluffy. (I heated the bowl with hot water and dried it before adding the already partially softened butter. I didn’t feel the need to reheat the bowl, although he says you can.) Mix the two sugars and treacle together as best you can. (I think the aim of this is to be rid of the lumps that sometimes arise in very dark sugars). Roughly chop the chocolate and then the cranberries.

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Add the sugars to the butter and beat until lighter and fluffy – about four minutes. Then beat in the egg (if necessary weighed to 60g with extra buttermilk). Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

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Add the flour mixture in two additions. I switched to a spatula here, to fold the flour in. Lastly fold in the cranberries and dark chocolate pieces. The key thing is to not over mix.

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Now cover the bowl in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour. (Gives you time to wash the dishes…)

Line two trays with baking paper and preheat the oven to 160C.

Using an ice-cream scoop, weigh the mixture into 50g portions. Roll these between your palms and then squish them down onto the baking tray, lightly.

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Bake for about 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown. (The thumb test doesn’t work with these cookies). Remove from the oven and cool on the trays for 10 minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack.

I made about 24 cookies and they’re still good at the end of day two…

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