Be Merry / Breakfast of Olympic champions
Granola enjoys a healthy image, but only the homemade variety guarantees freshness and a high nutritional value. Here's one way to make your own.
When vegetarianism took off in the United States in the mid-19th century, it prompted many questions about nutrition, health and lifestyle. One of these was which type of breakfast would generate energy for daily activity and also be healthy and tasty. Salt, white flour, sugar, beef and lard were all burnt at the stake. In those days, there was an urgent need to find a substitute for bacon omelets, sugary pancakes, white toast (spread with lard ), and corn porridge suffused with butter.
One of the first people to put forward oats as a healthy breakfast alternative was the Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, who manufactured crackers out of toasted oats. Years later Dr. Connor Lacey ground the crackers into flakes, dried them and called them "granola." Only in the mid-20th century was granola enriched with various nuts, raisins and honey.
Granola owed its big comeback to the flower children of the 1960s, who embraced it for its nutritious qualities and its wondrous ability to cure the munchies induced by smoking pot.
Muesli, granola's Swiss brother, was also conceived as a solution to the breakfast question, which became an issue in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. Muesli was developed by Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner, one of the pioneers of treating diseases with fresh food. Muesli, which means mixture in German, is made from untoasted oats, wheat germ, almonds, walnuts and fresh fruit, all of which is soaked in whole milk. Since that day, Bircher muesli has been served for breakfast in almost every Swiss home according to that good old recipe.
Making your own granola is a worthwhile task, because good granola is first and foremost fresh and crunchy. Industrial granola will generally have added fat and sugars, which give it a fresh taste but undercut its benefits. Note that despite its image, not every granola is necessarily healthy; the ingredients should be checked with Swiss meticulousness.
With homemade varieties you can easily control the type of granola, and the quality and freshness of the ingredients. The following recipes are merely recommendations for you to experiment with and adapt to your personal taste. You can play around with the recipes by changing the ratio of the ingredients, substituting other kinds of nuts, altering the level of sweetness or amounts of fat. So long as you use fresh nuts (unroasted ), sun-dried fruit (not industrially-dried, which contains sulfur ), and sweeten with cane sugar, honey (normal or date ), you still get a healthy product that is rich in dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins.
Those of you who just don't have the time to make your own will find a worthy and tasty substitute in the form of Granola Daniel, which sells at the Tel Aviv Port farmers' market for NIS 50 a kilo.
This is one of the best granolas around. You can easily change or add ingredients to taste. For example: coconut, poppy seed, ground wheat germ, dried bananas or apples, black raisins, chopped dates, cubes of halva, bittersweet chocolate chips or cinnamon. The granola will stay fresh for up to two weeks when stored in the shade in an airtight container. If you want to make a double batch, use two separate oven pans for baking.
Ingredients (8-10 servings ):
For the syrup:
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons grape-seed oil or sunflower oil
1/4 cup (60 milliliters ) liquid honey
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the mixture:
150 grams whole oats
40 grams hazelnuts
40 grams cashews
80 grams almonds
40 grams pecans
30 grams sesame
30 grams sunflower seeds
30 grams pumpkin seeds
80 grams dried apricots, chopped
40 grams cranberries, sweetened with apple juice
40 grams dried blueberries or black raisins
Heat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius.
In a small pot, cook the syrup ingredients until they come to a gentle boil. Turn off the fire.
Combine the seeds, nuts and oats in a bowl. Pour on the hot syrup and mix all the ingredients until they are well coated in syrup.
Transfer the mixture to an oven dish lined with baking paper. Flatten the mixture to a height of no more than 1 centimeter, and bake for 50 minutes.
Give the granola a stir every 10 minutes to keep the nuts from burning, and flatten out each time to ensure it bakes evenly.
Take the tray out of the oven (mixture will be moist, but will harden as it cools down ). Combine immediately with the dried fruit, and cool.