Salty Kitchen Sink Granola

Even on sale, the store-bought granola brands I favor tend to hover in the $5 range for less than a pound. And they're not nearly as good as what I can make at home in an hour. This recipe takes beautifully to substitutions or omissions; the important things are well-toasted nuts, seeds, coconut, oats, something sweet, and a healthy shot of salt, something that's undiscernible in most commercial brands. And also in many online recipes, though I'm happy to note that CHOW's simple recipe includes it.

Everything tastes better when it's salted, right? So does granola. It is also light on the sweetener and contains no oil. Well. No added oil, anyway. The nuts are plenty oily.

A Cook's Illustrated recipe for Toast and Roast Granola (sorry, you can't have it, it's members only) is the basis for this variation, but I monkeyed with it and made it, I daresay, better.

Salty Kitchen Sink Granola

1 cup of nuts, any kind you like: almonds, walnuts, cashews (I am particularly fond of almonds and cashews)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional but you really want it, unless you're a coconut-hater)
1/4 cup big seeds: pumpkin, sunflower
2 tablespoons little seeds, like sesame seeds (oh, you can use flaxseeds if you likeā€”but I'm warning you, they don't taste good)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sticky sweetener (whatever you've got, honey, maple syrup, treacle ... I've even used condensed milk successfully)
1/2 cup dried fruit

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Cut the nuts into the size you would like to eat. Do you like crunching into big whole nuts? Leave them whole. I like chopped cashews, and slivered AND whole almonds, all together.

3. In a 12-inch skillet, toast the nuts over medium heat, stirring every few seconds, until they begin to brown and smell wonderful, about 3 minutes. Don't turn up the flame to hurry things up. You will burn them.

4. Stir in oats and coconut and toast until oats begin to color, about 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Add in all the seeds and stir until you can smell them cooking, about 1 minute. Sprinkle mixture with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

6. Take pan off heat.

7. Drizzle sweetener over and mix with a spatula until well coated. Taste the mixture. Is it salty enough? No? More salt. Is it not sweet enough? More sticky stuff.

8. Bake in oven until granola is medium golden-brown and smells so good you are drooling, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes so granola won't burn on edges.

9. Take a sample. Burn your mouth.

10. When granola is toasty enough, sprinkle on the dried fruit (if using), stir, and smoosh the mixture with your spatula into a flat-topped 3/4-inch mound, pressing firmly to make it packed and even. Press a paper towel onto the surface of granola and let it cool. You have a cooling rack? Good. Cool it on that.

11. When cool, break into big chunks and store in airtight container.

As the nuts and grains are well-cooked, they will go rancid more quickly than when raw. I haven't had any problems with this particular granola going bad. Heh.

Image source: CHOW.com