Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Irish Orange Soda Bread

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Orange juice gives this bread a golden glow.

Irish Soda Bread is the classic holiday bread for March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. We start seeing these breads for sale at the beginning of March.

The original version was made with only four ingredients: flour, buttermilk, salt, and baking soda. But the American taste for sweet and tender has spurred creative bakers to offer a sweet, rich bread that’s enjoyed by most folks, whether Irish or not.

Irish Orange Soda Bread
Yield: two small loaves, or 18-24 rolls
4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
½ cup buttermilk (or use 7/8 cup milk with 2 tablespoons vinegar)
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 egg, beaten
½-1 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or silicone sheet.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and butter. Add raisins.
3. Stir in buttermilk, juice, zest, and egg. Mix until it forms a soft dough.
4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into two small loaves, or 18-24 rolls. Place on prepared baking sheet and with a sharp knife cut an ‘X’ into the top.
5. Bake in preheated oven until a light golden brown, 20 to 50 minutes, depending upon size.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Customers like classic foods, but especially ones with a new twist. Even a size difference is enough to catch a consumer’s attention. Try making single-serve breads – simply round the small balls of dough, flatten slightly, and score the tops. Sprinkle with sanding sugar or streusel.

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Recipe Development, Orange Almond Biscuits

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Orange Almond Biscuits: one recipe, two cookies.

Recipe development can be fun but it often takes several attempts to refine your new product. My client wanted a tasty, not-too-sweet, dry, long shelf life, healthier cookie suitable for eating with coffee, tea, or wine.

First attempt had the basics.

My first attempt had the basics – good sweetness level, texture, and health component. I made this several more times with some changes in both the recipe and technique.

I made the recipe several times to refine the final outcome.

I settled on two sizes and shapes, each with a different finish. The small logs were rolled in Turbinado sugar which gave them a wonderful crunch and added sweetness. The S shaped cookies (S is for sesame!) were rolled in sesame seeds. Recipe development was complete.

Excellent!

Orange Almond Biscuits
Yield: 30 ounces dough
• ½ cup butter, melted
• ½ cup sugar
• ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
• 3 eggs
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ teaspoon orange extract
• zest from 1 orange
• 2 ounces almond meal
• 6 ounces whole wheat pastry flour
• 6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• toppings, if desired, sesame seeds and/or Turbinado sugar

1. Mix butter, sugar, orange juice, eggs, extracts, and zest. (Use oil if you prefer. But if dough is sticky, refrigerate for easier handling.)
2. Add all dry ingredients and mix to combine.
3. Divide into equal-sized pieces, roll each piece into shape. Put topping into bowls and lightly press cookie in, then flip over and place on baking sheets. Sesame seeds make a nutty crunch, Turbinado sugar gives an extra sweetness and nice crunch.
4. Bake at 325° F for 30 minutes; drop temp to 300° F and bake longer, maybe 15 minutes. Turn off heat but leave in oven. If after cooling, these are still soft inside, bake again to dry out, 250° F for 30 minutes or so.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Pears!

Friday, February 19th, 2016

For something different to offer your customers, bake with pears! Every year when in season, I make a few pear pies and strudels. This fruit has a pleasant, unique flavor.

Pear strudels.

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The most important point about pear filling, is that pears should not be treated like apples. The filling needs to have an abundance of spice. That’s the single biggest mistake most people make and then complain it was a terrible, tasteless pastry.

Pear Tips:
1. Unlike apples, pears need to be ripe before baking. Otherwise, they have little to no flavor and the crunchy texture of apples. About pears. How to tell when a pear is ripe, plus other facts.
2. Remember, you are not making apple pie  or apple pastries, you are baking with pears. I’ve seen far too many recipes for pear filling that have no spice or just a pinch of cinnamon. Use enough spice to add flavor to your pie. I suggest using up to 50% more spice than you would if baking an apple pie. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom are all good spices to use.
3. For the crust, use any pie or strudel dough, phyllo leaves, or puff pastry dough. Below is my flaky pie crust recipe.

Pear strudel.

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Crust
yield: 6-8 medium-small strudel
5 cups all-purpose flour (approx. 1¼#)
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable shortening (1#)
¾ cup cold water (or use part vodka, part water)
extra flour for rolling out dough

Pear filling
6-8 ripe pears
½ cup sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon mixed spice, your choice of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom
½ cup flour (or ¼ cup cornstarch)

1. For filling, I gauge how much I need by how many strudels I will make. Approximately 1 pear per strudel. Mix all ingredients and set aside.
2. Line baking pan with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. For dough: In a large bowl, lightly mix flour and salt, then cut in shortening. When mixture looks fine-grained, drizzle in water and mix into a ball. Knead lightly, separate into pieces. Use at once (or wrap and chill for one hour or up to five days
4. For strudels, roll dough into a rectangle, spread filling, roll up and place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. Slit dough deep enough  to reach the middle of the strudel. This helps the center dough bake properly.  If you wish, tops can be brushed with water, milk, butter, or beaten egg. You can also sprinkle with sugar.
5. Bake in preheated 375° oven 45-60 minutes. Strudels are done when juice has bubbled out for a few minutes.
6. Let cool at least an hour before cutting. If wrapping for market, cool thoroughly before wrapping. To freeze, cool to room temperature then wrap well and place in freezer.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! With the trend toward home-made, seasonal, and local, your customers would appreciate purchasing fresh fruit pastries. If you want to be known for your incredible pear pastries, remember to NOT treat them like apple products.

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Chocolatize Your Gingerbread Season

Friday, December 11th, 2015

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The spicy flavor and sturdy texture of gingerbread cookies are a classic part of the holiday season. Even people who don’t usually eat gingerbread cookies, may partake for the season’s sake. And now we have chocolate gingerbread, a flavor that transcends the traditional holiday cookie. We have chocolatized this seasonal treat!

Substitute cocoa for part of the flour, see recipe below.

The cookies can be stored together with no adverse taste issues.

Either use your favorite gingerbread recipe (substitute 1/3 of the flour with cocoa) or use my recipe.

Classic Gingerbread Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup molasses
1 large egg
5 cups all purpose flour (or 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups cocoa)
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves (delete cloves for chocolate version)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar, then mix in molasses and egg. Stir dry ingredients together and add to wet. Divide into discs, wrap, and refrigerate several hours or days. Roll out and bake at 375 degrees until done – the cookies will puff and set. The chocolate gingerbread can easily burn, so watch closely.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! This holiday season, treat your customers to something new!

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Apple Pie, FAQ

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

This pie was the best ever - flaky and flavorful.

Pile apples high with at least two varieties, use fresh spices, and taste filling before baking.

Consumers love pie! But baking pie seems to be problematic for many people. I am totally sympathetic to the pie-challenged, since pie making was not always my favorite baking activity. But practice definitely results in better pies. Over the years I’ve learned a few tips for making wonderful tasty and flaky apple pie:

About Apples
Sadly, I’ve found that recommendations for best baking apples were not always accurate.  I learned early in my bakery career there was inconsistency in those lists. My biggest irritation was piling a mountain of apples into the crust for making a mile-high apple pie; but then occasionally the apples baked down to mush while the pie crust stayed nice and tall. I solved the problem by using a mixed variety of 3 kinds of apples and from then on my apple fillings were always excellent.

Last week for home use, I bought two kinds of apples.  There are so many new varieties I wanted to try, I just picked ones that looked good to my hungry eyes. The pie was for family so I wasn’t concerned about customer complaints. It wasn’t until the next day when I was slicing those apples that I checked several internet lists and the two kinds I had purchased were both said to be “mush” in baking. Damn. I briefly considered making a strudel which would surely hide the problem, but I decided to make a pie and cut the slices thicker. Success! The “mush” prone thicker apples held up just fine. (I haven’t replicated this procedure but I would try it again the next few times I make apple pie. If you inadvertently buy apples that may not hold up in baking, and try this method, please email to let me know your results.)

Apple Pie Tips: 1. Use at least two varieties of apples.  2. Cut apples into both slices and smaller chunks. The smaller pieces fill in the crevices. 3. Most recipes don’t have enough flavor. After mixing your filling, taste it and see how you like the taste. Older spices tend to lose flavor so feel free to add more spice (and more sugar).

About Pie Dough
Recently I’ve been involved with a pie crust project which means lots of pie baking. As I researched the subject, I came across foodie/scientists, foodie blogs, and their “science of cooking” which is a misnomer (here’s one of the many articles I found.) Proper scientific methods include repetition to achieve repeated similar results. Unfortunately, many foodie/scientists jump to conclusions, write with authority, and create ever more myths. I am not a food scientist. I can only share what I have learned from practical application and baking thousands of pies (sometimes grudgingly) throughout my career.

Pie Dough Tips: 1. For many years I used ice cold water but on several occasions there was no ice water when it needed to be added to the mixer. My practical experience taught me that results for using ice water vs cold tap water were the same. Now I use cold tap water. (Warm water will soften the fat too much.) 2. I like a wetter dough which = softer dough, and easier to roll out. 3. I read all about the science of using vodka (actually any alcohol works, it depends upon the flavor and color you’re looking for) so I’ve been experimenting with using vodka for part of the water. To reduce the number of variables, my current pie project is only using vodka. 4. In family focus groups (taste and texture tests) I’ve learned that while butter is nice, an all-vegetable shortening and vodka makes for a flaky crust and a delicious taste.

Not a scientific study: Three year olds don't always like weird pie foods, top left, but five year olds will eat their own piece plus their brother's.

I still often use my part butter crust recipe, but below is a variation that results in consistently excellent pie.

Crust
yield: enough for two double crust pies
5 cups all-purpose flour (approx. 1¼#) plus extra for rolling
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable shortening (1#)
¾ cup cold water (or use part vodka, part water)

1. Have your filling ready, and set aside.
2. Pan spray baking tins and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. In a large bowl, lightly mix flour and salt, then cut in shortening. When mixture looks fine-grained, drizzle in water/vodka and mix into a ball. Knead lightly, then separate into four pieces, two slightly larger. Use at once or wrap and chill for one hour or up to five days.
4. Don’t worry about working fast – take the time you need. Roll out larger pieces of dough and place in lightly greased pie pans. Trim any dough hanging more than ¼” over the edge. Add filling, roll out top crust, and place over filling. Gently roll edge of top and bottom crust together and press down to seal. Flute edges, or not, in any way you want. Vent top of each pie. If you wish, pie tops can be brushed with water, milk, butter, or beaten egg. You can also sprinkle with sugar. Or just leave plain.
5. Place pie pans on a cookie sheet with a large piece of parchment or aluminum foil under each pan. Bake in preheated 375° oven 45-60 minutes. Pies are done when juice has bubbled out for a few minutes.
6. Let pies cool at least two hours before cutting. To freeze, cool to room temperature then wrap well and place in freezer.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you have a home-based food business and do not make pies, consider adding this product line to your offerings. With the trend toward home-made, seasonal, and local, your customers would appreciate purchasing fresh pies any time of year.

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Maple Walnut Bars, New Product Idea

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

Maple Walnut Bar recipe

is very similar to a recipe for Pecan Pie.

One of the most versatile and easiest recipes for transformimg into a new product, is a recipe for Pecan Pie. The filling can be tweaked into different flavors by substituting various sweeteners and extracts. It can be further transformed into bars, by using a cookie crust instead of a rolled pie crust.

Maple Walnut Bars
yield: 9×13 pan

Crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Filling:
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups maple syrup
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
3-4 cups shelled walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350° F and lightly grease 9×13 pan.
2. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Blend in flour until crumbly, press into prepared pan. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, until edges are medium brown.
3. While crust is baking, mix eggs, syrup, sugar, and melted butter. Stir in vanilla, salt, and nuts.
4. When crust is done, remove pan from oven and cool for a few minutes. Pour mixture on crust and spread evenly. Bake 30-40 minutes. Bars are ready when center of pan appears set.
5. While still warm, run knife around perimeter edge. Cool thoroughly and chill for easier cutting. Store covered in fridge; keeps up to one week.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! These bars are especially nice if you have access to local maple syrup.

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‘Tis the Season for Blueberry Pie

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Blueberry pie for my family

and

our neighbors.

Are you a pie maker? Or are you afraid of this sometimes fussy pastry category? I wasn’t always fond of baking pies, but I loved making seasonal pies for my family. Rolling out one pie wasn’t too bad.

But when I opened my bakery and café, mass producing these beautiful seasonal baked goods was unnerving. Thankfully, my bakers rolled out most of the pies. It wasn’t until years later, after I sold my shops, worked in corporate R&D, then as the sole pastry chef in a restaurant hotel kitchen, that my love for pie-making developed.

From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix, page 98:

When I first learned that pies were on the menu twice each week, I was rather distraught. I was not an ace pie-maker. I started my Hotel Gold career making one-crust pies, but after practice I was soon making them with two crusts.

I was quite impressed with myself. It didn’t take as long as I thought; all that swearing made the time go faster. I made twenty-three pies each time they were on the menu – nineteen with sugar and four sugar-free. I always made pies first, before breakfast. I could take off my jacket and get them done before the kitchen was too unbearably hot, when both the dough and pastry chef would get soft and sticky.

When I realized I could do a dessert night of pies in less than three hours, as opposed to a cake dessert that involved several long hours of mixing, baking, and icing, pies became my friend.

The following recipe makes two 9″ double crust pies, or multiple small and handheld pies. When I don’t feel like rolling a top and bottom crust, I often make rustic pies – one large bottom crust that folds over the top of the pie.

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Blueberry Pie!

Filling
8 cups blueberries
1 ½ cups sugar, or more
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg, optional

Crust
5 cups all-purpose flour (approx. 1¼ #)
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup vegetable shortening (½ #)
¾ cup cold water
extra flour for rolling out dough

1. Mix all filling ingredients and set aside.
2. Pan spray baking tins and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. In a large bowl, lightly mix flour and salt, then cut in shortening and butter. When mixture looks fine-grained, drizzle in cold water and mix into a ball. Knead lightly, then separate into four pieces, two slightly larger. Use at once or wrap and chill one hour or up to five days.
4. Don’t worry about working fast – take the time you need. Roll out larger pieces of dough and place in lightly greased pie pans. Trim any dough hanging more than ¼” over the edge. Add filling, roll out the top crust, and place on top of pie. Gently roll edge of the top and bottom crust together (I prefer to tuck the top crust under the bottom) and press down to seal. Flute edges, or not, in any way you want. Vent top of each pie. If you wish, pie tops can be brushed with water, milk, butter, or beaten egg. You can also sprinkle on sugar. Or just leave plain.
5. Place pie pans on a cookie sheet with a large piece of parchment or aluminum foil under each pan. Bake in preheated 375° oven 45-60 minutes. Pies are done when juice has bubbled out for a few minutes.
6. Let pies cool at least two hours before cutting. To freeze, cool to room temperature then wrap well and place in freezer.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you have a home-based food business and do not make pies, consider adding this product line to your offerings. With the trend toward home-made, seasonal, and local, your customers would appreciate purchasing fresh pies during the summer months.

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Pecan Pastry Sticks, New Product Idea

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Back row made from one ounce pieces of dough. Front row made with 2 ounces dough.

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These Pecan Pastry Sticks are made from my original recipe for Rugelach using a cream cheese based dough.

Rolling out Rugelach was messy, tedious work. Eventually we stopped this time-consuming, annoying process that used more labor than necessary. We began making larger logs, as above. My mom called these pastries the “lazy man’s Rugelach.”

This adaptable recipe is easy to fit into your production schedule. You can roll them out and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Thinner sticks in the back row made from one ounce pieces of dough. Front row made with 2 ounces dough.

This product is shelf stable with a long shelf life.

Scale dough into 1 or 2 ounce pieces.

Roll out on heavily floured surface.

For thinner sticks, cut each piece in half

and sprinkle with filling.

Refrigerate or bake immediately.

Baked, cooled, and ready to store in an airtight container.

Ready to eat!

Pastry Dough
1 pound butter
1 pound cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ cup water
17 ounces (4 cups) flour

Filling
Cinnamon sugar
Finely chopped pecans
Optional, egg wash

Cream butter and cream cheese. Mix in vanilla and water. Add flour and combine until dough forms a clean ball. Wrap and refrigerate.

Use 1 or 2 oz dough per individual pastry stick; size varies depending upon product needs. Roll out dough on well-floured surface, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and pecans. Fold sides in and roll up as you would a jelly roll. Place seam side down on baking sheet. Can be refrigerated unbaked up to one week. Before baking cut across the tops, egg wash, and sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar.

375-400° for 15-20 minutes, until a golden brown. Cool thoroughly before storing in air-tight container.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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The Price of Eggs, Oh No!

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Dense and tender, egg-free brownies.

Have you seen the price of eggs recently? A virulent bird flu has forced the killing of millions of chickens. Fewer chickens has created a large drop in egg production and a short supply means higher prices.

The Wall Street Journal reported in a story, Egg Prices Jump as Bird Flu Spreads, that “Avian influenza has resulted in the deaths or extermination of at least 38.9 million birds, more than double the previous major U.S. outbreak in the 1980s. Of that total, more than 32 million are egg-laying hens, accounting for about 10% of the U.S. egg-laying flock.”

Now might be a good time to review your products and think about ingredient changes. If any of your recipes call for large amounts of eggs, try reducing the number of eggs (start with no more than 25% and substitute ¼ cup of liquid per egg). I’ve seen lists of ingredients that are supposedly good substitutes for eggs.  But some of those impart flavors you may not want in your baked goods, such as bananas. Consider using a shelf-stable egg substitute such as EnerG, a natural powdered product which costs less than eggs.

BROWNIES, VEGAN STYLE

Brownies and Blondies

Best Egg-Free Chocolate Brownies
Yield: 8×8-inch pan
½ cup oil
½ cup soy yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons coffee powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

1. In a medium bowl stir together oil, yogurt, and vanilla.
2. In a separate small bowl stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, coffee powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix dry ingredients into the wet until combined.
3. Pour/scoop batter into a well-greased pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 25-30 minutes, until the top feels firm when gently pressed.

Best Egg-Free Blondies
Yield: 8×8-inch pan
½ cup oil
½ cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

1. In a medium bowl stir together oil, applesauce, and vanilla.
2. In a separate small bowl stir together sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix dry ingredients into the wet until combined.
3. Pour/scoop batter into a well-greased pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 25-30 minutes, until the top feels firm when gently pressed.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Homemade brownies are always excellent sellers. Consider adding an egg-free vegan product to your line of baked goods. (Vegans would appreciate it!)

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Revisiting Granola

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Maple Walnut Granola

Healthier eating is a strong current trend. So although supermarket shelves and gourmet stores are saturated with granola products, for some baking businesses it’s worth pursuing.

Bake magazine had an article last month, “Grow business with granola” that addressed the strong trend of healthier eating:

“Snacking is a normal occurrence in many people’s daily lives. But while some people choose to reach for greasy potato chips when the snack craving strikes, more and more people are opting for healthier snack options. According to a Statista survey of approximately 24,000 American adults from January 2013 to March 2014, some 56.5 percent of American households eat nutritional snacks. Additionally, approximately 16.8 percent of American households eat chewy granola snacks more often than other nutritional snacks, such as fruit.

“This data points to a potentially new market to which your retail bakery could appeal: granola. By adding granola to your existing product line, you can easily reach this healthy snacking crowd. Doing so has already paid off for Heather Hardcastle, chef and owner of Flour Craft Bakery in San Anselmo, CA.”

The article continues, with some very excellent sales and marketing ideas. But ends with a clear message to those interested in introducing this product. “If you are thinking about launching a granola line, Hardcastle offers this advice: “Cereal/granola is a competitive category. Make sure your product stands out in a fundamental way or that your process yields a unique result, as shelf space is limited.

Artisan food is another strong trend now.  If granola is something you can sell locally, you have an excellent chance of success. But if you envision your product sold outside your region, think it through. Just remember that there are many great products catching dust on gourmet food shelves.

Maple Nut Granola
1 ½ cups oil
1 ½ cups maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon maple extract, optional
10 cups regular rolled oats
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 cups any combination of nuts (walnuts, pecans, filberts, etc.)

1.Preheat oven to 325° and lightly grease (2) 9×13 pans
2.In a large bowl or stockpot, combine oil, maple syrup, vanilla, maple extract if using, and salt.
3.Add oats and cinnamon and mix thoroughly. Mix in nuts.
4.Divide mixture between two pans and bake 20 minutes, then stir contents and bake another 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 300° and bake 10-15 minutes longer. Check mixture at 5 minute intervals. When it’s a deep golden brown, it’s done. Do not overbake or it will taste burned.
5.When granola is fully baked, remove from oven to cool. If you like large pieces, press the mixture down with a spatula before cooling. Break up any chunks that are too large and store in an airtight container or plastic bag. Keeps several months.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Consider packaging granola in snack-sized bags. It’s viewed as a healthier impulse purchase, especially at farmers’ markets and convenience stores.

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