Maple Coconut Granola

Granola is a contentious food. Associated with crunchy hippies and health nuts, it gets a bad reputation for tasting like grass. It’s also tends to be hard to chew, full of hard chunks of ancient raisins and fibrous grains. Who has patience for hard-to-eat food in the morning? Because of all this,¬†people tend to forget that granola can be so full of delicious things that it tastes more like a dessert than a breakfast food. If you don’t believe me, try the Coconut Yogurt Parfait at Resonance Cafe. Thick, creamy yogurt with sweet almond granola and fruit preserves. They include it in their breakfast menu, but I order it as desert- usually to share, because it’s so filling after a meal. Resonance is my favourite cafe in the city- all vegan, delicious and affordable food, plus they double as a jazz club at night. You’ll definitely be hearing more about it this month.

Mile End from above. Crooked 3-story brick buildings, big trees, and a short stroll to the mountain

Mile End from above. Crooked 3-story brick buildings, big trees, and a short stroll to the mountain

During the day, I work as a cook, primarily personal chefing for a small family in Mile End, Montreal. Mile End is a bit like Sesame Street, in that everyone knows everyone else and it’s perfectly reasonable to take a stroll down the street just to stop by local businesses and friend’s houses to say hi on your way home from work. Resonance is in Mile End too, as is Boulangerie Guillaume. Guillaume serves as the baker for many businesses in Mile End, providing bread for Resonance and several small restos in the area. The bakers have a small wooden delivery trike, and early in the morning you can see them peddling along the bike path, basket stacked with row on row of fresh, warm baguette. The sandwich bread at Resonance is provided by Guillaume, perfect squares of thick-cut white bread, perfect for grilling on the panini press. Many mornings, Work Dad will walk over to Guillaume to pick up some fresh bread to serve with coconut-macadamia butter and guava jam. Other days, a quick bowl of cereal is on the menu.

Mmmm granola

Mmmm granola

That is where this granola comes in. Playing to the exotic tastes of my work family, I wanted something with toasted coconut to serve as a quick breakfast to go with fresh mangoes. Brimming with coconut, walnuts and dried fruit, this granola fits the bill perfectly. Large flake oats provide the base and hemp hearts and flax provide added omega 3 fatty acids. I solve the problem of tough, dried-up fruit by presoaking them in hot water before baking. This keeps them much more soft, easier for little mouths to manage. This is the kind of breakfast that will hold you over til lunch. This makes about 8-10 cups of granola, so make it once and you’ll be set for a couple months. I keep a mason jar out for daily use and refill it from an airtight bag int he freezer as needed. Serve it with coconut or almond milk, or maybe coconut yogurt and passion fruit jam.

Soak your dried fruit

Soak your dried fruit

Maple Coconut Granola

3 cups large flake oats
1.5 cups medium shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/4 cup ground flax
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1) Put on a kettle to boil with a couple cups of water and preheat the oven to 350.

2) Once boiled, pour the hot water over the dried fruits in a small bowl and leave to soak.

3) Toast the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts on a cookie sheet in the hot oven until just barely toasted, about 5 minutes.

4) Stir the oats, coconut, hemp hearts and flax together with the cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.

5) Drain the water off the dried fruit and add to the oatmeal mixture along with the toasted nuts and seeds and the maple syrup and coconut oil. Stir well.

6) Spread granola into two large baking pans. Bake in 10 minute intervals, taking the pans out to stir thoroughly between each interval, for 30-40 minutes, until golden. Cool and store in airtight containers in the freezer. Granola keeps in an airtight container on the shelf for 2 weeks.

Delicious grains

Delicious grains

Put it in your mouth, or how to bake like a professional!

I live a pretty charmed life. I admit it. I get to bake batches of cookies and muffins and tarts every week. This week alone I have baked a variation of the whole wheat chocolate chip cookies from VCIYCJ, the vegan and gluten free muffins from Naked Foods¬†(chocolate orange raspberry variation), and about 150 shortcrust fruit and custard tarts. And it’s only Wednesday. I get to pick out the recipes I want to make, the ingredients that look best from the market, and I even get to be the first to sample everything, warm and melty straight from the oven. Then, I get to pack one or two for my loves and I leave the rest at work to contribute to someone else’s waistline. It’s an ideal scenario for everyone involved.

Just do it. You know you want to.

See this? You need to taste it to be sure it’s good. It’s a mitzvah.

I am not going to share a recipe with you today. Instead, I will share some insight I have gained in my experience as a professional cookie sampler. I mean, baker. That’s right.

  • The first batch never works out as well as subsequent batches. Keep the first batch small.
  • The darkest chocolates don’t melt as nicely or taste as good in baked goods as they do plain. Stick to no higher than 70% cocoa for most applications.
  • Sample your dough. You are a vegan baker, there is nothing gross or potentially fatal in your dough, so give it a taste and see how you feel about it before sticking it in the oven.
  • In fact, taste all the things before putting them in your dough. Your sugar, your salt, your soymilk, your chocolate. Much sampling is required. This prevents disasters, especially if you’re cooking for 300 and the sugar is right next to the salt.
  • Cook with coconut oil as your fat, coconut milk as your liquid, and chopped good-quality chocolate instead of chocolate chips.
  • Always add more chocolate and more vanilla than called for, at least by half.
  • Don’t overwork your dough. Beat the heck out of your wet and dry ingredients when they are separate, but only delicate lady fingers should touch the two together. Unless you’re cooking gluten free, in which case go for it.
  • Vegan things like to stick more than non vegan things, and gluten free things like to fall apart with alarming ease. Use muffin liners, and give them a spray with oil to be extra sure.
  • It things are sticking, let them sit in their pans a bit before transferring them to a cooking rack. They’ll usually loosen up a bit.
  • There is always a fail-cookie, -muffin, -tart. It happens with every batch. It can usually be identified by its weird shape, unwillingness to unstick itself from the pan, or by just plain falling apart when you go to pick it up. Your job, as a professional in the kitchen, is to dispose of the evidence as quickly as possible by consuming all trace of it.

That is all for today, MoFo-ers! 150 more tarts await me in the morning. I will dream of tiny dancing fruits. You, my friend, should dream of chocolate.

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