Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumpkin Granola

I think I can measure how busy I am on any given day by the number of unread posts in my Google Reader. It seems unfathomable that I used to get my unread blog posts down to zero (yes, zero!), but now any number less than 400 is fine. Even though I read blogs every day, often more than once, the blog posts just never seem to dwindle.

All of this is meant to excuse this long, silent absence over here for the past three weeks. (Three weeks, yikes!) I’ll justify that by saying that I’ve had many tests and, as a result, many three-bowls-of-oatmeal days. I think the hardest thing about Georgia Tech is that it just sort of sneaks up on you. Four weeks until a test seems like an eternity (especially after the most recent one), but then I find myself studying a few days before and wondering to myself, When did we ever learn this? How in the world did they come up with this answer? As an Industrial Engineering major, when why do I need to take Physics II? When will the magnetic field of a curved disc ever be relevant to my life? Can you imagine being a Physics major?! (Turns out they have to take Honors Physics, so no: I cannot imagine doing this to myself.) A lot of these questions I ask myself revolve around physics, because I can’t exactly say I’ll never need to know accounting or probability.

As I said, there have been plenty of oatmeal three-a-days around here. Not that I mind, but it’s not exactly inspiring, and it really doesn’t do much for this space.

Luckily I have this pumpkin granola pushing me back into the kitchen. I’ve wanted to make granola for a long time. I used to buy those expensive (especially on a college student budget) Kashi granola bars that were so good. There was a pumpkin spice flavor that, lo and behold, actually didn’t contain any pumpkin in it at all. It’s like when you read the ingredients on the back of the blueberry muffin mix box (Why is there red dye in this? What is a blueberry-flavored nugget?). Anyway, I forced myself to quit the granola bar habit because at the end of the day, even though they were oh so good, I knew I could make a homemade version that was better for me and my taste buds (and my wallet, although ironically I made this at home over fall break using my parents' pantry).

What I love about this pumpkin granola is how deliciously crunchy it is. I was worried at first it would be too soft but after a day or so it crunched up deliciously. The smell is also incredible. A blend of spices and warm autumn flavors like pumpkin, maple syrup, and apples all get mixed up before being tossed with chewy dried fruit and some toasty nuts. It’s also not nearly as sweet as other granola, but I think that really lets the pumpkin and spices shine.

Now that I’ve tried pumpkin granola I can’t wait to experiment with other flavors. I’m thinking a coconut version or one with other fruits like pears would also be delicious. I also think this would be fabulous as a topping for fruit crisps. Can you imagine topping cinnamon-scented roasted apples with this? I think I may have just found a new Thanksgiving  dessert.

Pumpkin Granola
Adapted from Serious Eats

I halved the sweetener in this recipe, but if you like a sweeter granola go ahead and add another ¼ cup of maple syrup. Use whatever nuts and dried fruits you like. I used almonds and walnuts and dried cherries and cranberries but pecans, pumpkin seeds, raisins, and even dried apples would also be delicious. The measurements here are pretty loose – I just grabbed handfuls of the nuts and dried fruit, but I have pretty small hands, so adjust accordingly. (I’d say my handful is somewhere between a ¼ and 1/3 of a cup.)

Yield:  8 to 12 servings

3 cups rolled oats
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
Handful dried cranberries
Handful dried cherries, roughly chopped
Handful raw almonds, roughly chopped
Handful raw walnuts, roughly chopped
¼ cup maple syrup
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a half-sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine oats, spices, dried fruit, and nuts. Stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk the maple syrup, vanilla, pumpkin, and applesauce. Add to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine.

Spread out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through baking, until the granola is golden and smells heavenly.

Allow the granola to cool slightly before digging in. Stored well in an airtight container at room temperature, the granola will keep for at least a few weeks.