Sunday, November 30, 2014

Coconut Ginger Granola

I've been meaning to make granola for months.  Today I reached granola critical mass.

It's a four-day weekend and everyone's out of town.  After a seeming eleven months of summer, it's grey and raining outside.  A few weeks ago, when I made fesenjoon and had friends over to watch Bourdain in Iran (Did you watch it?  Did you also discover that it in fact was possible to love him more than you already did?  Did you watch Vice's even-more-awesome 3-part Munchies Guide to Tehran?), a friend brought me some homemade granola, and it reminded how satisfying homemade granola is.  Then, over at Sabzi, Sara wrote this evocative post, with those photos in that cozy cold-weather light.

You guys, I ate so much in the last week.  It wasn't just Thanksgiving (though, my goodness was it Thanksgiving), it was amazing slices at Jim and Jason's newest Fairfax spot, Prime Pizza (followed by Scoops at Golden State, natch), it was three servings of truffle mac and cheese at work, it was In-n-Out for dinner, Grandma Nanny's apple pie for breakfast...just a bad scene.  An extremely delicious bad scene.

And in my case, this kind of marathon gorging leads to sore throat and Harvey Fierstein voice.  Really sexy.  Everything I read about what to eat to combat a sour stomach led me to two places: ginger and oatmeal.  And that's been guiding my diet the last few days:  ginger-miso soup with leftover turkey, chai-spiced oatmeal with fennel seed, ginger, and cardamom, and lots and lots of ginger tea.

And this.  Finally, today, I made granola.  I started with the Early Bird / Orangette recipe, the same one I was gifted, the same one Sara used, the same one I always make, because it's empirically the best.  But, I went a little "island" with it:  in addition to adding both fresh and powdered ginger, I replaced the olive oil with coconut oil, the brown sugar with coconut sugar. And I sprinkled the finished product with fresh lime zest.  A little "lime in the coconut" action.  And as usual, I left it in the oven as long as possible.  Admittedly, this technique leads to some casualties, but a couple pecan burn victims are well worth the deep flavor you get as the granola really browns.

The result was great.  It had all the familiar toastiness of the original recipe, with brighter pops throughout from the lime and ginger.  And the lime and ginger go really well with the coconut.  The best part of the process was adding the lime zest: it audibly sizzles and hisses (!!!) as it hits the hot granola.  I think the original recipe remains my go-to for every day, but when you need something special to brighten a grey day, throwing some ginger and lime flavors into a coconutty granola is a good way to go.

Coconut Ginger Granola
Makes about 7 cups.
Adapted from Orangette.

The coconut oil will solidify at room temperature, so once you've added it, keep the mixture moving, and get it to the baking sheet quickly.

3 C old-fashioned oats
1 C pumpkin seeds
1 C sunflower seeds
1 1/4 C unsweetened coconut flakes
1 1/4 C pecans, halved or chopped (I used a combination, as that's what I had on hand)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbs grated fresh ginger
2 Tbs ground flax meal (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C maple syrup
1/3 C coconut sugar
1/2 C coconut oil, melted
zest of one lime

Preheat oven to 300F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix first ten ingredients (oats through vanilla) to combine evenly.  Add maple syrup and coconut oil, and stir to thoroughly combine.

Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet.  Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until the granola is deep brown, about 45 minutes.  Remove from heat, and add lime zest.  Allow granola to cool before stirring lime zest through.  Store in an airtight container.

A note on gluten: I've added the gluten-free label to this post.  If you avoid gluten, you'll know better than I do to read labels to be extra sure. But, if you make this with gluten-free oatmeal, then the recipe is gluten-free.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Maple Apple Yogurt Cake

I think I'm gonna write a manifesto.  Mein Cake, maybe.

Hear me out. I feel like there are constantly people who are trying to tell you that you can muck around with recipes when you're cooking on the stove, but when you're baking, God help you if stray a hair from the recipe: your cake will explode, your friends will turn on you, and you'll have bad sex for seven years.

Enough of this dogma. There's a better way, people. I don't think I've ever followed a recipe verbatim, and I have a lot of reasons for this. For one, I feel like the pursuit of perfect recipe replication is flawed: your apples might be bigger, your salt might be saltier, and if your'e cooking in my kitchen, your oven will definitely be hotter than the recipe developer's.

The writer of the recipe likely doesn't know that I don't have scallions right now, but that a frizzy mess of chives is growing on my balcony. She doesn't know about the leftover brown rice wearing out its welcome in my fridge, and she'll never know when I replace her spinach with the gorgeous chard I found at the farmers market on Saturday.

She also didn't have my tastes in mind when she developed the recipe. I sneak in extra vegetables. I like more vanilla. I'll pull back heat. And when it comes to desserts, I like them knobby, dark with ingredients like brown sugar and whole wheat flour, and ugly: I'm not one for fussy pastry perfectionism (thought I'll gladly consume it if you make it for me).  I like my baked goods less sweet and more substantial.  Wholesome and haimish.

But most importantly, if I'm just going to clone something that already existed, I really don't see the point.  Tinkering in the kitchen is what makes cooking a creative process for me.  The point is to express a bit of myself in a dish.

So, when I ended up with some apples, some yogurt, and a couple hours free a few Saturdays ago, I decided I needed to make an apple cake, recipe or no.  I wanted as much of the good stuff -- big chunks of apple and walnuts -- as possible, barely held together by a whole wheat batter sweetened with maple syrup and some coconut sugar I'd purchased for Corinne's recipe.

The end result totally hit the spot.  Moist, substantially apple-y, and just as good for breakfast as it was for a snack.  Baking tyrants, get out of the way.  The revolution is coming, and it smells a lot like cake.

First, an apology: This post was originally written as I was baking, straight from impulse, totally unforced, seemingly perfect, nearly ready to publish.  Then, an unfortunate keystroke in the blogger interface led to that perfect post being deleted forever in an instant, taking a little of my heart with it.  I was paralyzed with indignance, and the blog suffered for it.  I'm back.

Maple Apple Yogurt Cake
Loosely adapted from Bakeaholic Mama
Makes 8 servings

1 Tbs ground flax seeds
3 Tbs water
1/2 - 2/3 C walnut pieces
1/2 C applesauce OR 1/2 medium apple + 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 C yogurt
1/3 C olive oil
1/4 C coconut sugar, or other sugar of your choice
1/4 C maple syrup
1 egg
1 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 C diced apple (I prefer Granny Smith or other tart, crisp variety)
butter or oil to grease pan

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix flax meal with water in a small bowl, set aside for at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast walnuts in a pan over medium heat, shaking or tossing frequently, until just fragrant.

If you are making applesauce, peel 1/2 apple and process in food processor with cinnamon to applesauce texture.

In a large bowl, mix applesauce, flax mixture, yogurt, sugar, maple syrup, olive oil, and egg to combine.  Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Stir to just combine.  Add walnuts and diced apples and incorporate evenly through batter.

Grease a standard loaf pan and pour batter into it.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes.