Maybe he's right
I’ve been making granola regularly, at least once or twice a month, for something like fifteen years. I’ve gone through several recipes and versions, from the lowish in fat - a tragic notion that, I now believe, goes against the whole concept of granola - to the intricately spiced, thoroughly nutted, and generously sweetened. For a while, this 2008 version was the recipe that I hewed most closely to. It’s simple, solid, and though it does involve chocolate, I don’t know, it still feels like a sensible breakfast to me. (And I’ve decided that there are far more dangerous delusions to harbor.) Two years ago, I found the Early Bird recipe, and then I got on a roll with that. But before long, I started to wish it were less sweet, and then I made the batch size larger, and then I started making it without the seeds, because I never seem to have any, and before I knew it, my slow paring-down and tweaking had shaped it into something else entirely.
I wasn’t going to write about it - I will remind you: FIVE GRANOLA RECIPES - but Brandon keeps nagging, asking me if I’ve written about it and why not. He thinks it’s the best yet, and maybe he’s right. My mother is also hooked on it, so that’s something. It’s the only granola I’ve wanted to make for the past year, if not longer. It’s deeply toasty in a way that verges on savory, rich enough to make me look forward to breakfast but not too rich for everyday, and most importantly, it has the strange, mystical ability to make coffee taste even better than it already does at seven o’clock in the morning.
Like the Early Bird recipe - and like my friend Megan’s wonderful Marge Granola - I use olive oil for the fat component, because I like the savory quality it brings. In the sustained heat of the oven, its grassy, vegetal flavors mellow out, so there’s nothing remotely salad-y tasting going on in the finished granola; the olive oil just gives it a deeper complexity than other vegetable oils can. And while you could maybe use less oil than I do, I like that it’s satisfying enough to stay with me for a few hours, and I like the way the oil helps the oats and nuts to crisp and crackle. Do what you will.
Also like the Early Bird recipe, I don’t use any spices. I like to keep it quiet, to leave room for the gentle, warming flavors of toasted nuts and oats. I also use maple syrup as my sweetener, but unlike Early Bird, it’s the only sweetener I use. And while it does look and sound like a lot of maple syrup, it’s less sweetener per cup of oats than almost any other granola recipe I’ve tried. I should also add that I used to sort of choke when I thought about using anything more than a tablespoon of maple syrup at a time, because it’s so whoppingly expensive, but its flavor really does make a difference, a dusky sweetness. At Delancey, we mail-order maple syrup from Stannard Farm in Vermont, and it’s wood-fired(!), dark and very subtly smoky. The way I feel about it borders on the evangelical.
As for the dry ingredients, there are the usual rolled oats, and whatever combination of nuts shows up in my cabinets that day, and a decent dose of kosher salt, and always some big flakes of coconut, the kind that crunch like wafers. And I measure the oats and nuts by weight, so it’s easy to throw together quickly with no measuring cups and, YES! YES! GOD YES! fewer dirty dishes and spills. I’ve even managed to make a batch of this granola with June around, weighing and stirring and slipping it into the oven so fast that she hardly had time to get feisty and start hanging on my legs, yelling EEEEEEAT. I can’t say that about much else.
P.S. I wrote a lot of this post at Delancey, where "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" was playing on Spotify. And before that, it was "Uptown Girl." I don’t really have anything to say about that, other than yeeeeeeow, it was great.
Granola No. 5
You can use any nuts you like here – or even seeds, if you want to. That’s the beauty of measuring by weight: as long as you use about 400 grams in all, it doesn’t matter which nuts or seeds you use or how much of each. I most often use almonds and walnuts, which I coarsely chop, but I also like to throw in some pecans now and then.
About kosher salt, take note: I use Diamond Crystal brand, which is less salty than Morton. If you use the latter, you’ll probably only want to use about 1 ½ teaspoons.
600 grams (6 cups) old-fashioned rolled oats
100 to 150 grams (about 2 to 3 loose cups) unsweetened coconut chips
400 grams nuts (maybe 3 to 4 cups? see headnote), chopped if you like
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup (240 ml) maple syrup, preferably Grade B
2/3 cup (160 ml) olive oil
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 300. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl, and stir well. Add the maple syrup and olive oil, and stir to evenly coat. Divide the mixture between the two prepared sheet pans, spread it out, and bake, stirring the granola and flipping the pans once or twice, until golden brown, about 40 minutes. I generally check on the granola every 15 minutes as it’s baking, and I gauge its doneness by color: in particular, I’m looking for the coconut chips to toast and for the whole mixture to achieve nice, even browning.
Allow to cool completely, then transfer the granola to airtight containers. Eat with plain yogurt (my favorite), milk, or on its own. You can store it at room temperature for a couple of weeks, easy, but if you use it more slowly than that, consider freezing some of it.
Yield: I’ve never actually measured, but probably about 3 quarts.