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News / Life / Clark County Life

Spoil someone you love with peachy granola

Give peach a chance — fruit adds sweet flavor, fragrance to mix

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 3, 2024, 6:08am
3 Photos
If you like peaches, pie and granola, then this breakfast is made for you.
If you like peaches, pie and granola, then this breakfast is made for you. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

My daughter is home for spring break and I’m having a ball spoiling her. She’s so much fun to buy things for because she has very specific tastes and I love the rush I get when I absolutely nail it, finding just the right thing to delight her. She’s also endearingly unassuming. She rarely asks for things and seems so genuinely grateful for any gift, it makes my heart melt.

What’s that you say? You think I might be a tiny bit biased, a little blinded by love? Heck yeah. I think my daughter is the absolute best. But that’s my job, to believe the best about my kid, no matter what. Or at least until she does something that really annoys me, like leaving her stuff all over the living room with her laptop charging cord snaking across the floor as a prime tripping hazard.

Anyhow, she’s not nearly as shrewd and canny as I was, as the only child of only children and therefore the only grandchild to two sets of doting grandparents. My performances were pitch-perfect: a whisper-thin veneer of humility, sweetness and gratitude obscured my voracious greed. Or maybe my daughter is exactly like I was, and she’s got me well fooled. If so, well, I guess I’m happy to be bamboozled.

The one thing she’s outright asked for isn’t an object. It’s food. Because she buys all her own groceries now, she’s properly horrified at the high price of granola, and so she asked for homemade granola to take back with her. I was delighted to satisfy this request and created a granola I knew she’d love. It was kind of experimental, but when is my cooking not experimental? My daughter loves peaches and pie, so I attempted to make a granola homage to peach pie. The experimental part is that it includes a whole can of peach slices with syrup.

How can you put so much liquid and juicy fruit in granola without turning it into a mushy mess? The secret turns out to be cooking it in three to four 30-minute intervals, mixing it up in between each toasting session, and then letting it cool to room temperature in the oven after the final toast. The oatmeal soaks up the liquid and the peach pieces are reduced to tiny, deliciously chewy bits. The visible peach parts simply become one with the oats, adding their sweet flavor and fragrance to the mix.

A cautionary note to those uninitiated in the ways of granola: This crunchy treat is a delicate dance between toasty and burnt. The oats will turn a deep golden brown, but you must decide when it can’t be toasted any more, and that might depend on your oven and your pan. I toasted the peach pie granola in two different pans, one black enamel and one aluminum. The granola in the black pan toasted faster — that is, the granola in the black enamel pan required three 30-minute toasting sessions while the granola in the aluminum pan required four 30-minute sessions. You have to keep your wits about you when grappling with your granola.

But first, the mixing. Drain a can of peaches in syrup but reserve the syrup. Cut peach slices into teeny-tiny bits. (If you want to be extra thorough and save time, you could even blend the whole can of peaches and syrup into a loose puree.) Combine peach-bits and peach syrup in a very large bowl with 7 cups of rolled oats, ½ cup packed brown sugar, 1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter, ½ cup maple syrup, ¼ cup molasses, 2 tablespoons vanilla, 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon salt. Make sure everything is thoroughly mixed. If necessary, just shove your hands right into the granola to feel when the oats are evenly moist, and all the ingredients are well distributed throughout the oats.

Turn the oven on to 300 degrees. Spread the mixture to about a half-inch thickness, give or take, across the bottom of your largest roasting pan. Even then, you might need two or three pans or cookie sheets to accommodate all that granola. Bake it for 30 minutes, remove from oven, stir well, then spread it out evenly again and return it to the oven for another half-hour. Repeat once or twice, depending on the color of the granola. It should be dark golden brown but not burnt. You’ll be able to smell if it’s turned the corner from granola to charcoal, or “charcola,” if you will.

Another tricky part is that the granola will not yet be crunchy when it comes out of the oven; the crunchiness only comes after it’s been cooled. For a little extra crispiness, cool it slowly in the oven after the heat has been turned off.

When the granola is completely cooled, break it up and put it all together in one big bowl. Mix in a cup of pecan pieces and half a cup of diced dried peaches. Serve with milk or yogurt or just grab fistfuls and stuff it into your wide-open mouth. No, no, that’s not polite. You’ve got to chew with your mouth closed, otherwise all the granola will fall out.

Peach Pie Granola

7 cups rolled oats

1 cup canned sliced peaches, cut into tiny bits with syrup reserved

1 stick butter, melted, or ½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup maple syrup

¼ cup molasses

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup pecan pieces

½ cup finely chopped dried peaches

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients, including peach-bits and peach syrup, together in a very large bowl, but save the pecans and dried peaches for later. Everything should be evenly distributed and the oats should be evenly moist. Spread to about ½-inch thickness, give or take, across your largest roasting pan or two medium roasting pans. Place pans on center level and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, stir thoroughly, and return to oven for another 30 minutes. Repeat one more time or possibly two more times, depending on brownness of granola. After the last toasting, let it cool in the oven after the heat has been turned off. It will only be crunchy when it’s completely cooled. Break up granola and add pecan pieces and chopped dried peaches. Store in a cool, dry place.