Alright, so the truth is that the best granola out there is the stuff you make yourself and Bittman agrees. This has nothing to do with being cheap and more to do with making what is going to be a whole lot tastier granola.
Prior to actually making it myself, I was buying it at Whole Foods. Theirs granola selection is great, but Whole Foods is not. I enjoyed the “Rainforest Granola” the most and I thought that its mystical combination of ingredients would be impossible to copy. Turns out I was wrong and it’s actually pretty easy to make once deconstructing all the flavors. Giving yourself one and a half kilograms of good breakfast material takes around an hour of time which is not bad when you work it all out. So, without further ado, here is the recipe (in metric of course) for “Rainforest Granola”:
1kg rolled oats (not steel cut)
250g well-chopped cashews
100g all purpose white flour
75g puffed rice (more if you like puffy, crunchy stuff)
350ml canola oil
350ml maple syrup or honey syrup (not straight honey)
15ml vanilla extract (more or less depending on your preference)
Mix all the dry ingredients together. Then mix in the oil, syrup/honey, and vanilla. Toss it all together well and make sure that everything is coated with the liquid ingredients. If not, your oats will burn and suck a good deal.
Preheat your oven to 150C (300F). Get out two nonstick cookie trays and spread the mixture over them evenly. Put them in the oven once it’s to temperature. Pull out the trays and flip the mixture every 10-15 minutes. If you have a proper convection oven, total cook time is 30 minutes. If you don’t, give it 40 minutes and alternate the sheets for even cooking. Bittman says to use 175C (350F) for heat and cook it for 30 minutes, but it doesn’t work as it cooks too fast and is considerably less than desirable. Basically, you want that thin layer of sugars and oil on the dry ingredients to caramelize and be melted when you pull it out.
Take it out and let it cool very thoroughly and the melted quality will harden up quite fast. Chunk it up and store it making sure to devour damned near half of it in the process as fresh-out-of-the-oven granola is most likely in the buffet in heaven. Store it in a sealed container and it will probably keep long enough to last a nuclear winter.
Obviously, you can substitute in a good number of other things for the nuts, puffed rice, and vanilla to make whatever you’d like to have.