Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Homemade Crockpot Granola

Two Christmases ago, a magical device appeared in some of the stores in the big capital city here.  It was called a "multivarka" which translates to "multi-cooker".  Is it possible?  Could it be?  I had a wonderful suspicion that a multivarka was actually a crockpot.

My husband, who is pretty good at Christmas shopping, had a long conversation with a salesperson and confirmed that yes, a multivarka is indeed a crockpot.  And guess what I got for Christmas...

Now, what to make with my new appliance?  My sister recommended a recipe that had earned her accolades and won friends -- crockpot granola.  This was perfect, since I love granola.  Also, the
ingredients are very flexible, which is good for overseas living, where you never know what you're going to end up with when you head to the store.

Of course, I can't make a recipe without tweaking, adjusting, and reworking til it's exactly perfect for me.  And the great thing about this recipe is that you can add, subtract and substitute until it's exactly perfect for you.  Seeds and flax kinda gal?  Throw it on in there!  Big spoonful of peanut butter and chocolate chips mixed in?  Go for it!   Don't like coconut?  Leave it out!  This will really work for most any taste, as long as you have the right amount of oil and oats.  Sweetener can be adjusted up or down to your liking.

So have fun with this one, make it your own.  Use the recipe as a basic guideline and go from there.  Happy multi-cooking!

*Update:  It seems like "multi-varka" now refers to a device more like a rice-cooker, and not a crockpot.  I haven't seen any crockpots lately to let you know what they're called now, but just wanted to let Ukraine people know in case they buy the wrong thing by mistake!*

The Step-By-Step

Oats, Nuts, and Coconut

Chop up a cup of almonds (or whatever other nuts tickle your fancy). I like the almonds, myself.

Now get out your coconut.  This is the kind we can get here (some may know it as dessicated coconut).  It's a little more dry, and less sweet, than the regular shredded stuff you'd normally get in America.  If you are using the shredded sweetened stuff, maybe dial down the sweetener in the next step a notch.  

Dump the coconut, almonds and 5 cups of (non-instant) oats into the crockpot. 

Add Liquids and Cook

Pour in melted honey (or other sweetener), oil, and vanilla.

Stir it all up and make sure the liquid stuff is all distributed nice and evenly.

Alright, now here's the trick.  You cannot seal the lid.  The granola will just steam and never get crunchy if you do.  SO.... stick a wooden spoon under the lid to ensure that the steam will escape.

Set your slow-cooker on low for 3 1/2 hours.  My sister apparently leaves hers to cook overnight.  For my crockpot, I need to stir the mixture every 30 minutes to an hour, otherwise the edges will over-brown and the middle won't get crispy.  I guess my sister has the better slow cooker.  Hmph.

I like my granola to still be a bit moist, and I'll tell you why in a minute.  But for perfect-for-me granola, I need it still slightly moist when it is finished cooking.

Add Mix-Ins and Cool

Did I mention how amazing your house smells while this is cooking?  Inhale.  Ahhhh.

Here is the granola after 3 1/2 hours on low, which is the perfect level of toasted-ness.  Yes, that's a word, are you questioning me?

At this point you can mix in whatever else you'd like.  This is a blend of dried papaya and pineapple that I found in a store.  I've also used raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, chopped dried apricots, dates.  Whatever sounds good to you.  

Ok, here's my top-secret tip.  No other granola recipes will tell you to do this.  Why do I do it this way?  CLUSTERS.  I like my granola to have nice, bite-sized clusters in it.  I'm a wee bit insistent about it, actually.  

Must. Have. Clusters.

Other recipes will tell you to dump it out onto a baking sheet to cool.  But after many attempts, I found the best way to achieve clusters is to pour my still-warm granola into a 9x13 pan and press it in.  THEN let it cool.  As it cools, it will stick together (assuming you heeded my advice and stopped cooking it while still slightly moist).  Then I just use a spatula to lift chunks out of the pan into my storage container.  Break into correct-sized pieces, and voila! Granola with clusters.

Genius, I know.  You don't have to thank me.

Now go enjoy a nice bowl of granola.  With clusters.  Made with your amazing multi-cooker. 

The Recipe

1 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts,  etc)
1 cup coconut
5 cups oats (not instant)
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, corn, sunflower, canola, coconut, etc)
1/2 cup liquid sweetener (melted honey, agave, maple syrup, etc) 
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups other add-ins (dried fruit, chocolate, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, etc).

Put the oats, chopped nuts, and coconut in the crock of a slow-cooker.  

Pour in the oil, honey (or other sweetener), and vanilla.  Stir well.

Keeping a wooden spoon in the pot to keep the lid from sealing, turn the slow cooker on low for 3 1/2 hours.  Stir occasionally.  Watch and turn off when the granola is toasted, but still slightly moist.

When done, stir in dried fruits or other additions (do not add any chocolate until granola is completely cool).

Dump the granola into a 9x13 pan, press it in compactly with your hands, and allow to cool.  Once granola is completely cool, lift out chunks with a spatula and break into bite-sized clusters.  Pour into an airtight container for storage.