My Favorite Granola
This tried-and-true recipe is easy, completely customizable, and addictively delicious!
All through my 20's I was never a big granola-eater. I always shied away from the store-bought stuff because of the high fat content and/or cardboard taste (not as many good options back in the early 2000s). But this granola changed all that. Sometime in my 30's, as I increased my workout schedule, and started running longer distances, I found that the combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in high-quality granola gave me much-needed energy without hurting my stomach. But I gravitated toward homemade over store-bought (yet another benefit of working at America's Test Kitchen at the time), so while preparing for my first-ever overnight relay race I decided to make my own granola to take on the trip. It’s based on the Super-Chunky Granola recipe from Cook’s Illustrated and the DIY Cookbook – and not just because I worked there, but because so many of my coworkers had raved about it. Turns out, this is probably one of my favorite recipes from all of 2012.
I was also inspired by Molly Wizenberg’s dedication to granola-making, and sometime in the fall of 2012, I actually became the kind of person who made homemade granola on a regular basis and kept it in mason jars on my counter. My own dedication waned a bit with the dawn of motherhood, but thankfully my kids are huge granola fans and love to help me in the kitchen sometimes, so we still occasionally sneak in a batch between bags of Grandy Oats and Trader Joe's ancient grains granola.
How I Personalized It
When making a snack that’s intended to give me sustained energy, I try to avoid refined sugar like the brown sugar in the original recipe. So, I played with the ingredients a little bit, and subbed honey for the brown sugar. Side note: In my limited understanding of the topic, honey contains monosaccharides, fructose and glucose, which when separate are more accessible to the body for energy than when connected as a disaccharide in sucrose, or regular sugar. But don’t quote me on that. I also decreased the oil a little bit from the original, just because it worked and I wanted to use a little less fat.
But my favorite modification is the nuts. Instead of choosing just one kind, I mixed pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts. All that variety in flavor and texture means this granola never gets boring! You can use a mixture of whatever nuts make you happy. After making a few basic batches, I tried a spiced variation and that became my new gold standard. That may change come summer, but right now I’m really loving all of the warm spices. You can leave out or modify the spices to suit your tastes.
After the granola is baked, consider these other mix-in suggestions:
2 cups chopped dried pears
2 cups chopped dried apples
1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots
This variation might be the one for summer: Tropical Granola with Dried Mango
Reduce vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons and add 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger and 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to maple syrup in step 2. Substitute coarsely chopped macadamia nuts for some of the nuts, and 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut for 1 cup oats. After granola is broken into pieces, stir in 2 cups chopped dried mango or pineapple.
My Favorite Granola
Makes about 9 cups. Based on Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, March 2012.
Don’t be misled by the long ingredient list. This recipe is super simple. All spices, except the salt, are optional – this is just my favorite combination. Feel free to play and figure out what you like. Chopping the nuts by hand is the first choice for superior texture and crunch. If you prefer not to hand chop, substitute an equal quantity of slivered almonds or chopped pecans. (A food processor does a lousy job of chopping whole nuts evenly.) Do not use quick oats.
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups (10 ounces) raw pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts, chopped coarse (I typically do a blend of 5 ounces pecans, 3 ounces almonds, and 2 ounces hazelnuts)
2 cups raisins or other dried fruit, chopped if desired - added after baking! (I use golden raisins, dried cherries, and dried cranberries. Use just one of your favorites, or a combination.)
1. Prep: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine: Whisk maple syrup, vanilla, spices, and salt in large bowl. Whisk in oil. Combine oats and nuts in another bowl, and then fold into syrup mixture until thoroughly coated.
3. Bake: Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread across sheet into thin, even layer. Using a large, stiff spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact. Bake until lightly browned, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking (do not attempt to stir mixture). Remove granola from oven and cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break cooled granola into pieces of desired size. Stir in dried fruit. You’ll likely need a very large bowl for this step. Transfer to airtight containers. (I like to store mine in mason jars, but zipper lock bags work well too.) Granola can be stored in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.