Homemade Granola

Granola over Greek yogurt is a staple in the Walcott household. We are always trying different types and flavours but haven’t really found a favourite. Every now and then we’ll choose a chocolate flavour if we are feeling a touch naughty but usually try to stay clear and choose a healthier option.

What is a healthy option?

Does that mean… lots of fruit and nuts, low fat, different seeds perhaps? It’s not always clear. Often the sugar present doesn’t come from something ‘healthier’ like honey, agave or maple syrup, but from out-and-out sugar, sweeteners or even worse, corn syrup.

RAW GRANOLA READY TO BAKE

Personally I would stay away from artificial sweeteners and certainly corn syrup, but it can be difficult to find the least amount of sugar you want along with the perfect mix of fruit, nuts and seeds. Don’t like walnuts and don’t want to pick them out every time you pour? Although this is certainly a millennial first world problem, it’s 2017 and you can have your cereal your way!

Make it yourself!

The basics for your very own homemade granola are oats, some fat and whatever you decide to sweeten it with, along with all the bits and bobs you like. The important ingredients are the oats (funny enough), a small amount of fat(we used coconut oil) and touch of salt to bring out all the flavours. Below is an example of some I made this morning with what I had in the pantry.

Ingredients

  • Rolled raw oats 4 cups
  • Coconut oil (melted) 1/2 cup
  • Maple syrup 1/2 cup
  • Sea salt 1 tsp
  • Pumpkin spice blend (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves) 1/2 tsp
  • Raw almonds/Raw cashews (slightly broken up) 1 1/2 cups
  • California raisins 2/3 cup
  • Chia seeds 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla essence, just a touch
  • Coconut flakes (a handful halfway through cooking)

Like I said, there are a few essentials but otherwise you can pretty much do what you want, add cocoa powder, cinnamon, throw some chocolate chips in instead of the coconut, or both! You really can get creative and do anything here.

Method

Preheat your oven to 350°f or 180 °C and line a baking sheet with some parchment paper. This won’t take long to put together so don’t worry about wasting energy by turning your oven on first.

Melt your coconut oil over a gentle heat, and while that is working,  mix all the dry ingredients together, pour in your syrup and then add the oil and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking tray and flatten out ready to bake.

Pretty easy huh?  Want to use a different fat, fine. Use olive oil, avocado oil, walnut oil etc. Try a different type until you get the flavour you want. Now simply bake for about 10-12 minutes, take it out give it a stir and add your coconut flakes at this stage. Pop it back in, and after another 10-15 mins, take it out and let it cool. Now’s the time to add chocolate chips if you’re using them.

Granola
BAKED GRANOLA

Once cool just transfer to an airtight container. (Pro tip: if you want the cluster effect in your granola just don’t stir as much. Leave large clumps together and break it up once cooled. Almost like making a flap jack and overcooking it!)

This is so simple to make at home in just a few minutes, with unlimited variations and adaptations. Give it a go and take more control over your breakfast.

Advertisements

Buttery Breakfast Biscuits 

One of my most favorite things to eat and make on a lazy Sunday morning is the humble biscuit. The simple process and few staple ingredients it requires just produces a beautiful fluffy, buttery, crumbly bread. You can make them the morning you want them with minimal effort and time, and serve them sweet or savory for breakfast, a side for dinner later on, or a snack in between.

I just love going through the motions of making them. My family here in California always request I make these when we get together and I’m always more than happy to help. Another neat thing about this recipe is that you don’t need a rolling pin, just your hands. You can easily make them with your kids and have some fun!

The occasion this time was Easter weekend. After driving a couple of hours north to San Luis, we got to my mother in law’s,  the house bustling was with family, the salty scent of the beautiful ham roasting in the oven filling everyone’s nostrils,  and kids and adults alike were salivating at the feast ahead. My job was the biscuits( best job I’ve ever had), and we enjoyed these with jam, and then others with mounds of roasted ham and silky butter.

You don’t need anything fancy for this recipe: its very simple. Just follow these few tips below to help those little buggers rise in the oven consistently.

Ingredients

  • A.P flour – 2 Cups plus a little for dusting
  • Baking powder – 2 tbsp
  • Sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Cold good butter –  5 tbsp
  • Salt –  1 tsp
  • Whole milk – 1 Cup

Pretty basic huh? The method even more so…

Method

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into the flour and rub between fingers until the mix starts to resemble bread crumbs. The odd lump and large blobs of butter are great, this will create a flaky biscuit (we like this).

Add the milk bit by bit to bring it into a ball. Use a fork or a spatula, (this is the time to add anything if you like, cheese for example or any herbs). You may not need all of the milk, you just want it to come to a ball so you can turn it out without it being sticky.

Turn it out to a floured surface, pat it down with your hands to about an inch or so, gently fold it over a couple and repeat 3-4 times. See those little yellow smears of butter? This is a good sign. Don’t overwork the dough, you want the butter to stay cold and visible. Once done, cover it with a towel and let it rest for 30 mins or so. If I’m being honest, I got a little impatient and it only rested for 5 minutes or so and they still came out great, but if you can, always let any dough you make rest. While your dough takes a break, preheat your oven to 425f about 215-220c and prep a baking tray with some parchment and find the cooling rack in the back of the cupboard that you never use.

Once your dough has rested for 30 minutes (or a quick 5 minute cat nap like mine), you can start to create these fluffy yummy pillows. Flatten the dough so it is about 9 inches by 6 inches roughly. Take your cookie cutter (I used a tall water glass, just be careful) and push down through the dough. Be careful and do not twist or rock. If you do you end up crimping the sides you won’t get an impressive, even rise.

Is there anything more depressing than a deflated biscuit?

Once they are all cut out and placed on the tray with a bit of space around each one, bake for about 15 minutes, checking them at 10. They should be golden brown, risen a to a satisfying height and your tummy should be rumbling. Let them cool for a touch on the rack or slather in butter, load up your fillings, and enjoy!

Sriracha Candied Bacon

Sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy, that jerky like chew, what a treat this is. Whether you garnish a bloody mary on a lazy sunday to soothe Saturday’s overindulgence, or simply as a side at a party, perhaps you just want a naughty snack! Whatever your reason/excuse to make these, make enough as they will fly out, I guess pigs can fly when caramelised in brown sugar and lathered in Sriracha!

Ok, enough jokes bacon is serious work. With the power to convert some vegetarians i.e my Wife from time to time, shhhhh!. Or the smell to find its way upstairs to the nostrils of the teen sleeping off a hangover. I’m sure somewhere someone, has written a thesis on how anything wrapped in bacon is delicious, and I believe (no citation needed).

img_0919.jpg

ba·con
ˈbākən/
noun
  1. cured meat from the sides and belly of a pig, having distinct strips of fat and typically served in thin slices.
    • cured meat from the back of a pig.
      Also the most tastiest thing on earth!
       

    Maybe I added that last part, but you get the idea.

No matter your preference of type of bacon there are a few things you should know about the ‘cure’. I’m going to set aside back bacon and only talk about streaky bacon. Back bacon has a poor ratio of meat to fat which affects the cooking, texture and flavour of the finished product. As a child we would eat back bacon, maybe it was an English thing? I don’t know, everyone loves crispy, flavourful bacon, so go with streaky.

 

Eureka we’ve found a cure!

 

When selecting your bacon you will often see on the packet labeling ‘Cured’ or ‘Dry Cure’ there are a few differences between the two you should know before purchasing. Dry cure bacon is made the traditional way, a mixture of salt and sometimes other seasonings that’s rubbed into a belly of pork. After a few weeks moisture is drawn out as the salt penetrates deep within the belly giving it the texture and flavor we all have come to love.

When it merely says ‘Cured’ it may aswell say ‘added water’. When they cure it with a more modern method they actually inject a salt water solution into the meat. This does speed up the process, turning a few weeks work into a few days, but the added water is a problem. Not only are you paying more for your bacon as a small percentage of the weight is just water it will affect the cooking.

Ever notice when you fry bacon that sometimes it shrivels up? Or perhaps spits a hell of a lot of fat all over your stove top? This is the added water fighting its way out of your bacon just to dance in the pan in a violent splatter and end up on your forearms, ouch. You end up with an unappetizing curly piece of bacon that will not be cooked evenly as it coils up, and is not in full contact with the pan. Not to mention your blistered forearms and messy work top.

Use dry cure and you will see a massive difference, it is a touch more expensive but you get what you pay for and that is a superior product. Try it, fry a piece of supermarket bacon next to a dry cured slice and you will see the difference before your very eyes. If this is too much of an effort then trust me, buy cured.

Lesson over let’s get to the fun part, even as I write this I am literally salivating over the pictures and memories of this bacon. Memories, as what I intended as a snack for a couple of days barely lasted a couple of hours.

 

Ingredients/Equipment

  • 1 tbsp-Brown, soft dark sugar
  • 1 tbsp-Maple syrup
  • ½ tsp- Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp-Sriracha
  • As much bacon as you like
  • 1 Pastry brush
  • 1 Baking tray with wire rack

 

Method

Preheat your oven to 425°f (218°c-220°c, lay your bacon on a wire rack over a baking tray that is lined with kitchen foil. The foil will catch the fat and prevent your oven from smoking too much as the fat won’t make direct contact with the pan and burn, in addition to making clean up a lot easier.

While the oven is preheating start your Sriracha mix, simply mix all the ingredients together with a fork and you are done.

img_0918
Sriracha Mixture

Cook the bacon in the middle of the oven for about 16 minutes turning the bacon over half way through. As the bacon starts to crisp up brush each strip of bacon with the prepared mixture and pop back in the oven for about 2 minutes. Take the bacon out and flip it over and paint away. Repeat this process 3-4 times and when happy with the amount,or when you run out of mixture, take the tray out of the oven and let it cool for a short while.

img_0921
Painting on flavor

After a few minutes of cooling turn the bacon over so it doesn’t stick to the rack. When cooled store in a ziplock in the fridge or eat straight away, this will be sticky, chewy, spicy, sweet and crunchy.

 

 

Enjoy!

4b5f69b8-77f8-4a85-84f0-a228c9369e19
Bacon in a cup

 

 

 

How to get the most out of your cream

So you bought some heavy whipping cream. You only needed a dash for that soup you were making, or for your coffee, and you have a lot left over, just sitting there, waiting to go off. With a little bit of work and an even smaller amount of knowledge, you can have yourself three versatile products from this leftover.

0cf41e84-1f1f-4b97-8334-6bed2d093086
BUTTER

Butter is cheap and everywhere so it’s not essential that you make it. But since you have left over cream to use, why not? You don’t need to go online and search for a fancy butter churn, all you need for this is a little butter ‘shaker’ you can get online for cheap (I got mine at a thrift store), or use an electric stand mixer with a shield guard (and plastic wrap, as this can be messy). If you’re not using the butter shaker or mixer, use a mason jar with a lid this will work too.

 

For the mixer: Pour in your cream, put the shield guard on, wrap some plastic around it for extra protection and turn on. Start slow and then progress to a medium speed.

Just keep whipping and watch it becomes a beautiful whipped cream and continue on. As it gets thicker and thicker you’ll start to hear (and see) splashing. This is the buttermilk separating from the butter. If you use a jar, which is a lot easier and nowhere near as messy, the process is basically the same. Pour in your cream and keep on shaking. Rotate which hand you use because you’ll get a workout…which is great, as you are making butter to no doubt smear all over some crumpets later!

 

Tip: Add some sea salt, or honey, or anything for that matter, to your butter when soft to make posh artisan butters as gifts or for special occasions!

img_0208
BUTTERMILK

Buttermilk

Take off the lid and you will see the cream is whipped (this is also a neat trick for thickening up cream if you don’t have a whisk!). Put the lid back on and keep shaking. You will start to feel and hear the lump of butter jumping from top to bottom in the jar. This means the buttermilk is starting to separate. Retain the milk for another time and take out the butter. Wash it until the water runs clear and not ‘milky’, this will release any excess buttermilk and help the butter to last longer and not go rancid. Spoon it into your butter jar and put in the fridge, as there are no preservatives or any nasty no no’s in this butter, you’ll want to use it up within a week or so.

img_0207
CREME FRAICHE

 

 

Crème Fraîche 

 

Crème fraîche is expensive and not always easy to find depending on where you live. It’s a beautiful thick, slightly tart, acidic cream, great for dolloping on a pie (my favourite), stirring into a pasta sauce, finishing your scrambled eggs with, or really absolutely anything! It really is very adaptable, and sweet or savoury, you can even use it in baking. It’s another premium product you can make at home with literally zero effort, and again, using up some of that leftover cream and the buttermilk by-product from that butter you made earlier.

All you need to do for this is simply grab a small mason jar, or a small bowl, doesn’t really matter. Pour one cup of cream into your chosen container, then add two tablespoons of the buttermilk and stir. Tear off a piece of kitchen roll and rest on top. Ok, you ready the last and final stage? Take notes… leave it out on the counter in a warm place about 70°f (20-21°c) for up to 24hrs. It’s really that simple. You will notice that after 12hrs or so it will be thick and a touch sour and ready to refrigerate. It will last in the fridge for about 10 days or so, so make it a few days before you need it, and it will be perfect! Easy right?

So there you have it:  three quick and easy ideas for you to try something you probably haven’t made before but have eaten a thousand times! And all from a leftover ingredient. Give it a try!

 

Did you spoon eat the crème fraîche, like I did? Or make buttermilk pancakes! There are so many different things you can do with this, just alway remember to enjoy. And tell me about it here of course

 

Chewy Molasses Cookies

mo·las·ses
noun
thick, dark brown syrup obtained from raw sugar during the refining process, a version of which is used in baking.
Black treacle to some but black gold to me, this is a slow cascading wave of sweet dark bitter vicious sugar, and I love it. I think that people have just forgotten about this ingredient, maybe it’s a generational thing. My mother would use it and her mother would use it, yet somewhere down the line we just forgot. No doubt you have some in the back of your pantry, grab it out and check the expiry date (this stuff lasts forever) and let’s get to it.
The simplest way to incorporate molasses is in your baked goods, cookies are a perfect example and this recipe gives you the crunch and chew all in one bite.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt (sea salt is best)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup raw cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark soft brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • raw cane sugar for rolling/dusting

 

Method

Let’s assume you are going to bake some now, trust me you are going to want to try these mighty molasses morsels. The extras can be balled up and then frozen. Preheat your oven to 375°f, now melt your butter and be careful not to brown it. This would create a different flavour for the cookie and be great but, since the molasses is so dominate we don’t wanna try and to overpower it.

In one bowl sift the flour and all the spices together, in a separate bowl add the sugars and molasses leaving some of the excess raw sugar to roll the dough in. Whisk the egg into the sugar mixture and then pour in the melted butter and combine.

Mix the dry ingredients with the sugar mixture and you are done. I used a teaspoon to ball them or you can use a tablespoon if you prefer larger cookies. If the dough is too sticky (a little is ok) pop it in the fridge for 20 minutes or so to make it easier to work with.

molasses-cookies
Cookie Balls

This process depending on the size of cookies you want, or how much cookie dough you make can take a while but it’s worth it. Using your spoon of choice scoop out little balls, roll smooth into your hand and then into the sugar. Place them on a baking sheet and be sure to leave a bit of space between each cookie.

I baked the smaller cookies for 8-10 minutes to give that crunch and chew. When they come out of the oven let them sit for about 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack until ready to eat, give it a few minutes but a warm cookie is a tasty cookie. I have baked the frozen cookies for 10-12 minutes for the same results, but have a play and see what chewy-crunchy ratio you prefer.

These hold up so well in the freezer and can be made well in advance. Make sure you have room in your freezer for a tray to fit inside. Freeze the cookie balls on the tray for an hour or so and then put them inside a ziplock back, label and you have secured snacks for the near future. Next time you want a sweet fix,take them out and put them onto a tray, let them sit out for 10-15 minutes and then bake, depending on size you may need to cook them for a bit longer.

molasses-cookies-2
Chewy Cookies

I can’t tell you how many times i’m lying in bed at night and jump up to bake literally 2-3 cookies, ok 4 cookies but trust me, you’ll do the same.