Although I’ve always loved granola (who doesn’t?), I never got into the habit of eating it consistently for a few reasons. First of all, it’s not that nutritious. While it contains some wholesome ingredients, granola contains plenty of fat and sugar (especially in the grocery store brands made by the big food companies). Second of all, the brands that are the more nutritious, least processed options are crazy expensive. I will not pay upwards of $7 for 8 ounces of granola.
I had heard that making your own granola was ridiculously easy, but held off for several years not wanting to go down that tasty, addictive road. But alas, the granola recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook finally looked too good to resist. This is now a regular in my life. No, it is not a health food. But it could be a lot worse! And luckily, a little goes a long way…although a lot goes a long way, too.
Coconut Maple Granola
slightly adapted from the Big Cluster Maple Granola in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman
The main thing I’ve changed from the original recipe is that I’ve swapped coconut oil for olive oil. I melt the oil in the microwave before adding it. I’ve made it with olive oil, and it’s fine, but the flavor is sweeter and the granola more fragrant with the coconut oil. I also love the flavor of maple syrup, so to emphasize that, I use 2/3 of a cup of the darker grade B syrup. Recently I also added some cardamom along with the cinnamon, and while I couldn’t pick out the flavor per se, I did think that batch was extra delicious.
Although dried cherries are kind of expensive, they are really good in this. I used raisins one time when I was out of cherries, but they were too one-dimensional and sweet to add much to the granola. If you don’t want to spend the money on unsweetened dried cherries, just omit them and add berries to your yogurt and granola. Also, the original recipe calls for toasted wheat germ. My bag doesn’t say that it is toasted, and it definitely gets toasted in the oven, so I think whatever you have will be fine!
The other thing I’d add is that to get the big cluster effect don’t spread out the granola too much on your baking sheet. It needs to be touching in a thin layer. Sometimes it ends up in clusters, sometimes not. In the end, I don’t really care if the granola is in big clusters or not — sprinkled over yogurt, I don’t notice a difference.
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
scant 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups dried cherries or another dried fruit, diced if large pieces (optional)
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients but the egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout. Spread it in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet (don’t use foil — it will stick!). Bake for 45 – 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola carefully, breaking them up as little as possible. Rotate the pan if granola is baking unevenly. When it is evenly browned and feels dry t the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Cool completely. Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into whatever size clusters delight you. Sprinkle in dried fruit.
yield: about 7 cups