We’re off to a slow start around here.
In the holiday preparedness department, that is. We don’t have a Christmas tree. We haven’t hung a festive wreath on our door. We have drunk zero mugs of peppermint hot chocolate with little marshmallows on top.
It only just hit me today is December 9th and if I intend to do any wreath-making or tree-decorating or delicious-holiday-beverage-drinking, I had better get it in gear. So my mind has finally turned towards Christmas. This morning I tracked down my favorite holiday cookie recipe (lebkuchen!). Now I’m dreaming of filling the house with the smell of candied orange peel and cardamom. And I can’t wait to pick out just the right tree. After all these Christmases, I still experience a childlike delight each morning as I tiptoe in to sit quietly by the twinkling lights and breathe in the piney smell of the forest.
Alongside the sharing of meals, the making and giving of homemade gifts is the heart of the season for me. I’ve offered many over the years: rosemary shortbreads and coconut macaroons and spicy cheddar cheese straws and carrot-cardamom jam. One year, I thought my poor hands were going to be forever useless from piping sheet pan after sheet pan of peanut butter meringues. Another year, I nearly bankrupted myself making a mountain of pistachio-apricot bark with Valrhona dark chocolate and Theo cacao nibs.
But I’ve learned my lesson. And with each passing holiday season I’ve grown a bit wiser in my holiday goodie-giving. So now, one of my go-to gifts is homemade granola. It’s simple to make. It stores and ships marvelously well. It’s inexpensive (at least compared to Valrhona dark chocolate bark!). And everyone loves good granola.
This year's flavor is apple-rosemary. I have yet to meet a homemade granola I didn’t like, but the subtle sweetness and savory notes in this version are especially pleasing to me. The sweet-tart apple brightens the earthy walnuts and the rosemary adds a slight herbaceous note. The warm spices make this granola perfect for the holidays.
There are infinite possibilities for improvising here: pear in place of the apple, sesame instead of flax, almonds in lieu of walnuts. I hope you’ll make this recipe your own. I also highly recommend baking up an extra batch so you have some for your own cupboard. It is delicious on top of creamy yogurt with a sliced pear or apple. If you’re feeling especially festive, swirl in a few spoonfuls of chestnut jam and elevate the whole affair to something brunch-worthy.
I hope you’ll join me and indulge fully in the holiday spirit. Hang a wreath. Drink some cocoa. Hell, splash a little bourbon in there--it’s the holidays! Bake up a jar of granola. And enjoy the beauty of the season.
Apple- Rosemary Granola
- 1 recipe wet ingredients (see below)
- 1 vanilla bean
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup rye flakes (also known as rolled rye. If you can't find rye flakes, just use all rolled oats)
- 2 cups raw walnut pieces
- 1 cup flax seeds
- 1 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 6 tablespoons maple syrup (preferably grade B, which is darker and more delicious)
- ¼ cup honey (If you can get your hands on buckwheat or chestnut honey, it will make your granola extra special)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3-4 cups dried apple slices (about 3 medium apples if you are drying your own)
If you are drying your own apples, position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 200° F. Slice the apple very thinly--using a mandolin helps for this. I don’t bother to core the apple as the seeds just fall out as you slice. Place the apple slices on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 1 hour. Turn the apple slices over and rotate the pans. Bake for another hour. Test the slices to see if they are crisp. If so, remove them from the oven and let the apples cool completely before removing them from the pan. If not, bake the apple slices for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until completely dry and crisp. These will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.
To bake the granola, preheat the oven to 300° F.
Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Place the sugar in a small bowl and add the vanilla seeds. Using your fingers, rub the seeds into the sugar; this will keep the vanilla from clumping together in the granola.
Place the vanilla sugar in a large bowl. Add all the dry ingredients (not the dried apple slices) and stir to combine thoroughly.
Combine the wet ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well to combine. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry ingredients have been coated.
Divide the granola between two parchment-lined sheet pans. Spread the granola out and place the pans in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, rotating the pans and stirring the granola every 10 minutes or so. After 45 minutes the granola will be golden but not completely dry. Don’t worry about that, it will crisp up as it sits. Place the sheet pans on wire cooling racks and give the granola a final stir so it doesn’t dry into big clumps. When the granola is completely cool, stir in the dried apple slices. Transfer it to an airtight container (I like a big mason jar) and store in a cool dry place. Tightly covered, the granola will keep for several weeks.
Makes about 10 cups