Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Granola: The Inn, my Grandma, and the Sugar Plum Epiphany

Years ago I worked at an Inn in Washington, DC, and got to play host in a lovely Victorian, and in the kitchen I got to develop all sorts of fun recipes for tea time baked goods and weekend breakfasts. It's basically having company for a living, and I loved it. It came at the same time I was transitioning to more time in the pottery studio, and I eventually found myself at a place where I had to choose between my two more or less full-time jobs. I chose the studio, but I loved my time at the Inn, and the memories and experiences still influence me today. And in this case, I really mean today

sweet, toasty oats!
Today I made some granola as a part of my #cook90 fun, and I always harken back to the Inn and their very popular Swann House Granola in some form when I make my own granola, as it uses mostly fruit for sweeteners and is oil-free. 

No added oil or overly refined sugars, just a lot of good, natural sweetness!
There's also influence from my grandmother, and the date pinwheels that were and still are my all time favorite cookie. By cooking down the dates, bananas and spices (like in the pinwheel recipe), the oats are easily coated, and I don't have to clean out a food processor. Win-win.

Cook down the fruit until you can blend it into a smooth sauce.
My Sugar Plum Epiphany came when I realized I still had extra ingredients from making Sugar Plums, and they are perfect ingredients for granola, and this maybe my favorite batch yet. Shout out to the great bulk food offerings at my local Co-op and Hopey & Co., where I always find the best bits. And only one place for my nibs, and there will always be nibs!

Small condiment bowls (nom-nom bowls)
are perfect for lining up ingredients. 

And so I offer my recipe for 

Sugar Plum Granola

3/4 cup dates, loosely chopped
2 very ripe bananas, cut into chunks
1/4 cup maple sugar (or syrup)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 cup water
4 cups oats
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup candied ginger chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Place dates, bananas, maple sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and water in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until everything is very mashable. Use an immersion blender to blend everything into a thick paste. Remove from heat and cool.

Place oats in a large bowl and cover with the banana date mixture. You can use a wooden spoon, but I suggest you dampen your hands and get in there and make sure the oats are evenly coated with the mixture.** 

Lay the granola out on parchment lined baking sheets - if you like clumps in your granola, leave clumps, or separate them out for more individual crunch.

Bake for 90 minutes in a 250 oven, stirring up the granola every 30 minutes, or until it's nicely browned and toasted.

When it's cooled, mix together with the dried fruits and nuts.

Sugar Plum Granola. And because I know you'll ask,
the beautiful slotted spatula is made by Arroyo Seco Woodcraft

**Save out a scoop of the coated oats, before toasting,
for a nice addition to a morning smoothie!

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