A Malvern Hills Ramble – Sustained by Hearty Granola

Earthworks at British Camp, Malvern Hills

Earthworks at the British Camp, Malvern Hills, England

If the word “ramble” brings to mind someone droning on without focus, you are probably not English.  In England and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, a “ramble” is a walk. One “rambles” the public rights of way that lace through the UK countryside – paths established before the days of Downton Abbey.  And, like many things English, time has done little to change them.  Thanks to diligent efforts by local British Ramblers groups to protect the routes and ensure that owners allow passage through their lands, these beautiful and convenient footpaths remain for all to enjoy.

Stiles - Passage for Ramblers; Barrier for Livestock

Stiles – Passage for Ramblers; Barrier for Livestock

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On our recent visit to the UK. we met up with the Worcester Ramblers, our local Ramblers group when we lived in England.  We met our friends at the car park for the  British Camp, an Iron Age (800 BC) Fort on the Herefordshire Beacon in the Malvern Hills.  From there, we climbed past the ancient British Camp earthworks and then navigated a lovely 11-mile walk through the Malverns.  Traversing farms and grazing fields, passing through villages and churchyards, we were treated to panoramic views of Worcestershire, Herefordshire, the Cotswolds and beyond – gorgeous even on a cloudy morning.

Views From The Beacon

View from the Herefordshire Beacon

Funneling Through The Trees

Funneling through the Trees

Village Church

Village Church along the Way

I knew from past experience that the length of the walk would get my stomach growling well before the lunch stop in Ledbury.  So, a good breakfast was a must.  And nothing sticks to my ribs like some hearty granola along with a bit of fruit and dairy.   So, we were lucky were we that our hotel had excellent homemade granola.

Granola, a toasted mix of oats, nuts, sweeteners, coconut and other ingredients, is a great breakfast (and snack) food.  Loaded with nutrients, fiber and flavor, it also stores and travels well.  And, because granola has a good source of protein, carbohydrate and fats, it keeps me going on an 11-mile hike.

But what is the perfect granola??  An individual preference certainly, but I was curious about why the process for making granola was so varied. You would think that some basic steps would hold true for all granolas.  So, I did a bit of testing to come up with my ideal formula.

Granola - Appropriately Served In

Granola – Appropriately displayed in Royal Worcester Porcelain, hand-crafted in Worcestershire, not far from the Malvern Hills.


COOKING FUNDAMENTALS:  GRANOLA

  • TOASTING.   Granola is almost always toasted, for good reason – to add texture and blend ingredients.  But why do some recipes have you toast the individual ingredients (e.g., nuts)?  No reason that I can see – other than extra work.  So, I’m going with mixing ingredients and then toasting the combined mixture.  
  • BAKING TEMPERATURE.  And what about the proper baking temperature?  While I’ve seen a range of oven temperatures from 200 deg F to 350 deg F, after some trial and error, I settled on 300 F.  This is sufficient for good crispness, doesn’t prolong the process and is low enough to avoid scorching the granola.
  • FAT.  Most granolas contain added fat (in addition to the fat in the nuts and coconut).  The fat adds flavor, improves texture and serves as a vehicle to meld ingredients.  But which one?  And is fat really necessary??  Butter and oil are both common, so I tried both of those.  And I decided to use “no fat” as my baseline – using fruit juice instead, taking a cue from some “low-fat” granola recipes.  Here are my results:

BUTTER

OIL

JUICE

TASTE

TEXTURE

X

   

BEST

EXTRA CRISP

 

X

 

GOOD

LIGHT, CRISP

   

X

MEDIOCRE

DRY

Bottom line is that I loved both the butter and oil variations.  I thought the butter provided the best flavor as well as good texture;  the oil, while not providing much flavor, produced a nice light and crisp texture. I thought the fruit juice version was dry and generally lacking the crunch and taste that I like so much in granola.


After trying at least 16 batches of granola, comparing fats, oven temperatures and flavors, I settled on the basic recipe below.   I’ve also included two variations on the basic recipe.  The first is my overall favorite: butter and honey base with star anise and cranberry.   The second is more traditional:  oil and maple base with raisin and cinnamon.  But if you like the basic recipe below, don’t let my suggestions limit your choices.  There are plenty of ingredient and seasoning mixes that work.

Granola and Fresh Blackberries

Granola and Fresh Blackberries

Granola – Basic Recipe
——————————————————————————–

Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Yield: makes about 3 quarts

6 tablespoons butter, or olive oil
1/3 cup honey, or maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick , or star anise
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups oats, rolled, (about 12 ounces)
1 cup pepitas, or sunflower seeds or a mix of both (about 4 ounces)
1 1/2 cup almonds, slivered, or pecans or a mix of both (about 6 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar, brown, (about 3 ounces)
1 cup shredded sweet coconut, (about 4 ounces)
1 cup raisins , or dried cranberries

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  (I find convection provides a better texture)

2. In a small saucepan, combine butter, honey, cinnamon stick, cinnamon, zest and salt. Heat until melted, combined and at a low simmer.  Remove from heat, add vanilla, and let mixture sit about 5-10 minutes while mixing dry ingredients.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, seeds (pepitas or sunflower), nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.

4. Remove cinnamon stick from butter mixture.  Combine butter and oat mixtures and pour onto a jelly roll pan. I prefer to line the pan with a Silpat for easy stirring and cleaning.

Bake about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.

5. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

Granola in Sheet Pan (Jelly Roll Pan)

Granola Ready to Toast in Sheet Pan (Jelly Roll Pan)

Granola – Honey, Star Anise and Cranberry
——————————————————————————–

Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Yield: makes about 3 quarts

6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup honey
4 star anise
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups oats, rolled, (about 12 ounes)
1/2 cup pepitas, (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, (about 2 ounces)
3/4 cup almonds, slivered, (about 3 ounces)
3/4 cup pecans, (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar, brown, (about 3 ounces)
1 cup shredded sweet coconut, (about 4 ounces)
1 cup cranberries, dried

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. (I find convection provides a better texture).

2. In a small saucepan, combine butter, honey, star anise, cinnamon, zest and salt. Heat until melted, combined and at a low simmer.  Remove from heat, add vanilla, and let mixture sit about 5-10 minutes while mixing dry ingredients.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, seeds (pepitas and sunflower), nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.

4. Remove star anise from butter mixture.  Combine butter and oat mixtures and pour on a jelly roll pan. I prefer to line the pan with a Silpat for easy stirring and cleaning.

Bake about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.

5. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add cranberries and mix until evenly distributed.

DO-AHEAD DIRECTIONS:  Prepare granola through the final step. When cool, store in an air-tight container.  Keeps for about a month.

Granola – Maple, Raisin and Cinnamon
——————————————————————————–

Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Yield: makes about 3 quarts

6 tablespoons oil, olive
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups oats, rolled, (about 12 ounes)
1 cup sunflower seeds, (about 4 ounces)
3/4 cup almonds, slivered, (about 3 ounces)
3/4  cup pecans, (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar, brown, (about 3 ounces)
1 cup shredded sweet coconut, (about 4 ounces)
1 cup raisins

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. (I find convection provides a better texture)

2. In a small saucepan, combine oil, honey, cinnamon stick, cinnamon, zest and salt. Heat until melted, combined and at a low simmer.  Remove from heat, add vanilla, and let mixture sit about 5-10 minutes while mixing dry ingredients.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, seeds (sunflower), nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.

4. Remove cinnamon stick from oil mixture.  Combine butter and oat mixtures and pour onto a jelly roll pan. I prefer to line the pan with a Silpat for easy stirring and cleaning.

Bake about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.

5. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

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13 thoughts on “A Malvern Hills Ramble – Sustained by Hearty Granola

  1. Jeannee,

    thank you for both the ramble and the recipes……..loved walking in England. I remember the Lakes District in particular……..so beautiful. 11 mi. wow go you! wonderful fotos

    as it is……made my first granola yesterday! burned it…….good recipe from jan’s daughter, a dietician. no added sugar, so not as lovely but good for diet……..thanx for these. will try with butter and perhaps splenda brown sugar mix

    enjoyed! x0

    Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2015 22:51:01 +0000 To: c_johnson52@msn.com

    • Carol – Yes, love the Lake District!

      And for the granola, you can make these lower in calories by trying Splenda or eliminating the brown sugar entirely (the honey or maple syrup adds a good deal of sweetness). Also, while I don’t recommend eliminating the fat completely, you could cut it back a bit – perhaps 4 T instead of 6T? It should still provide enough fat for a decent texture.

      And aren’t we lucky that we have such a lovely place to walk as well??? 🙂

  2. J – Happy New Year!

    Did you know that in New Zealand, instead of hiking, we go tramping?

    Rambling sounds so much more leisurely…

    Love the picks (and a good granola recipe is hard to beat)

    x

  3. I do love the word ‘rambling’ it immediately makes you want to slow down and take it all in:) Great post and love the granola recipe, homemade definitely beats store-bought, even the farmers market ones can unpredictable at times…I’ll be trying mine with a touch of butter:)

    • Thank’s Peri. Nice to hear from you, and good to be back at blogging – been a long break! I’ll have to check and see what you’ve been up to. Also, I have a friend who just got a “big green egg” and I’ll be looking your way for good nan recipes for him. It should be a great way to bake nan.

  4. I really enjoyed this post. It’s lovely to hear about your rambling adventures here in the UK (a concept that can be so difficult for people who have never been here to understand), and a good breakfast is definitely the right way to start!

  5. You have taken all the guess work out of making granola, Jeanee…thank you for sharing your recipe along with the lovely ramble.

  6. Jeannee, when we lived in London we got very interested in rambling. Terri and I had fairly high stress jobs in the city so a ramble in the countryside was just to ticket to clear the cobwebs. We’d usually take the train to some village, get a room at a B&B, ramble on Saturday, nice dinner on Sat. night, sleep-in on Sunday, and catch the last train back to London. It was marvelous. Thanks for the reminder. ~James

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