Cookbook of the Month, October 2017: Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen by Dana Cowin (+ a recipe for not-too-sweet granola)
October finally brought a bit of cold(er) weather to southern California, a welcome change that made me want to turn on the oven and start experimenting. A September heat wave is not uncommon around these parts, so the beginning of fall often means a very antsy time for me. The season leaves me waiting for that perfectly crisp day-- a day for bread baking, soup stirring, and granola making. I know it's ridiculous to complain about warm weather, but we all love a good day where we can cozy up to a fire, drink some tea, and get a good indoor project going.
And this leads me to a project I've had on my mind for awhile-- working my way to the perfect homemade granola recipe. I've tried countless granolas in every city where they happen to cross my path. I've tried the house-made granolas from high-end bakeries and local coffee shops, farmers' market granolas, and my fair share of grocery store versions. I've tried the too-sweet varieties, the ones that are overloaded with coconut, the freshest, the stalest, and everything in between. I have stuffed souvenir bags of granola into already-overflowing luggage for the purposes of my research. I have learned that what makes a good granola is a highly personal question. For me, the perfect granola is more salty and savory than sweet. I tend to favor the nuttier, oat heavy granolas versus cereal heavy varieties. And I'm a big fan of crunch over chew. Whatever you like, I suggest finding a good base granola recipe to work with and then adjusting it to your own preferences.
My granola recipe was inspired by Dana Cowin's book, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen. I love this book because it talks about Cowin's journey in food, and how the mistakes she made in the kitchen have shaped her along the way. For anyone who has put hours and hours into the practice of a craft, you know the many unglamorous and at times, humbling moments it takes to become better, more effective, and more confident at what you do. In the book's forward, Chef Thomas Keller reminds us that cooks should have patience and "enjoy where you are while you are there." Funnily enough, when I was working my way through culinary school, my very wise mom gave me that same advice. I was coming home from my pizzeria restaurant job exhausted, covered in imported OO pizza flour, wet dough stuck to my clogs, and not completely certain where this food journey would lead me. And I definitely needed to hear those words every once in awhile, that reassurance that life is all about stepping stones. So whatever your craft and whatever stage of the journey you're in, try to enjoy where you're at. It's advice that got me through those late night, sticky clog, smelly dumpster, closing shift moments-- but I think it can apply to a lot of life's transitions. So in honor of fall, and all of the kitchen mistakes that we have made (+ those we have yet to make) here is my adapted recipe for not-too-sweet granola.
Not-Too-Sweet Granola, inspired by Dana Cowin's granola recipe
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp cardamom
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ginger
- 3 cups oats
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1/8 cup pepitas
- 1/8 cup hazelnuts, rough chopped
- 1/2 cup dried blueberries
- Method: Preheat oven to 275 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Put olive oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together thoroughly. Add oats, almonds, hazelnuts, and pepitas. Stir to coat. Transfer to parchment baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake and stir occasionally, until golden brown (about 1.5 hours.) Let granola cool. Stir in dried blueberries. transfer to airtight container.