Saturday, January 24, 2009

Beatrice Goes Granola

Granola with yogurt is one of my favorite breakfasts, so the recent granola recipe in the New York Times caught my eye. I wondered how homemade granola might compare to the stuff I buy in the store. And, as someone who grumbles about prices every time she walks down the cereal aisle, I wondered if homemade granola might be more affordable than store-bought.

The recipe provides a basic road map for homemade granola -- rolled oats, nuts and/or seeds, dried fruit, coconut, cinnamon, maple syrup or honey -- while leaving the reader leeway to choose the specific ingredients. I decided to try a basic granola involving walnuts and chopped dates.

I started by combining the oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, salt and dates in a large bowl (and when I say "large," I mean large -- a standard-sized mixing bowl will not cut it, because the recipe involves about 10 cups of dried ingredients).

If you've read the recipe, you'll notice that the dried fruit isn't supposed to be added until after the granola has been baked. Whoops. I hoped the dates might just wind up being a little chewier than normal, but they actually were crunchy (although still edible) after the granola cooled... Please learn from my mistake, and be sure to wait until after the granola is baked to add the fruit!

Next, I added about 1/2 cup maple syrup. The mixture became damp and a little clumpier, but was not completely drenched.

The recipe then directs that the granola be poured onto a baking sheet, and cooked at 350 F for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. My baking sheet doesn't have rims, and so I lined it with parchment paper and folded the edges of the paper up to help keep the granola from falling off. As you can see from the photo, the granola was really piled onto the sheet. It might be a good idea to bake the granola in two batches to help it cook more evenly and to make it easier to stir.

Baking granola smells fantastic...

After about 40 minutes of baking and stirring, the granola was a nice golden brown (the photos don't really capture the change in color).

How did it taste? Oatier (if that's a word) and fresher than store-bought granola. I was quite pleased with all the walnuts. My only criticism would be regarding the crunchy dates, and those were my own fault.

And how did the price compare? As I figure it, the granola cost about $9.36 to make, broken down as follows:

1 cup chopped dates: $1.60
2 cups walnuts: $2.69
a generous six cups bulk rolled oats: $1.83
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut: $.91
1/2 cup maple syrup: $2.33
salt and cinnamon: negligible

The recipe yielded about 10 cups of granola. Bulk granola starts at about $3 per pound at Whole Foods, and I sometimes buy about 8.5 cups (1 pound 19 ounces) of boxed granola for $4.39. The homemade granola cost about $.94 per cup to make (plus baking time), while the boxed store-bought granola costs about $.52 per cup. While the oats are relatively inexpensive, the add-ins and sweetener really add up.

Conclusion: homemade granola may have certain benefits, including freshness and the ability to choose your own ingredients, but price is not one of them.


Dana Treat said...

I think baking granola is one of the best smells in the kitchen. Even better than chocolate chip cookies and I didn't think anything could trump that. Very interesting analysis on cost here. I have just always thought that homemade tastes so much better it's worth the cost.

Beatrice said...

I was really surprised that the homemade cost more than store-bought. I can definitely understand the opinion that homemade granola is worth paying a little bit more for.

Dine With Donna said...

I have used Adelle Davis' recipe for years. I know what I am eating and how it was prepared and that is worth much to me. There has to be a reason it is selling so much less. I too love the wonderful aroma in the house after I make a batch.

I am glad to see you are continuing to post. I was in Italy for 5 1/2 weeks. Until I get caught up and over jet lag I am posting travel photos.

bbattjes said...

I doubt the store bought granola has the large quantity of expensive dates and walnuts that your recipe calls for.

Beatrice said...

Actually, I get date and nut granola -- and I the quantities didn't seem that different.