Honey & Olive Oil Granola
One bowl. No fuss. Packed with MUFAs and PUFAs. There is, indeed, a perfect food. Homemade granola. This homemade granola, to be exact.
Homemade granola is ridiculously simple and incredibly versatile. You can basically add whatever components you like, as long as you have sufficient wet stuff to coat the dry stuff (sorry for being so jargony).
First, the wet stuff. There are a lot of options for the wet part of your granola: melted butter, coconut oil, canola oil, fruit juice, molasses, … I wanted to make a heart-healthy granola recipe, so I decided to use olive oil. I truly enjoy the taste of olive oil, but I know that some people get weirded out by the thought of olives in a typically-sweet baked good. I found, though, that combining the rich, full-bodied olive oil flavor with the delicate, warm sweetness of honey created a beautiful flavor pairing! If you really squint your taste buds, you can discerne the olive oil as you eat the granola, but the flavor just plays nicely with the honey rather than overpowering it, so the result is something that just tastes darn good!
Now, the dry. Oats and nuts. Those are the typical, go-to granola bases, sometimes augmented with things like dried fruits, seeds, and other flavor-enhancers. For this batch, I was baking with an almond allergy in mind, so I chose to use cashews, coconut, sunflower kernels, sesame seeds, and whole flaxseed to yield taste and textural variety, while also adding all those good things that companies spend the entire back of a box to tell you how wonderful they are for you. I certainly read those “I’m-so-healthy-and-amazing” claims with healthy skepticism, but there’s no arguing that these things are tasty, so why not! Just take any cure-all claims with a grain of salt; speaking of which, I also added salt! Coarse sea salt, to be exact, at the end of baking gives the perfect balance to the sweet and savory players in this mix.
A few granola key points:
Mix it real good. Your ingredients will only clump into clusters if they have something sticky binding them together, so, make sure that each thirsty oat gets its fair share of honey and oil.
Add smaller things halfway through baking. Tiny nuts and seeds or thin flakes of things burn realllly easily, so they should not be baked for too long.
Add dried fruits and things that will melt to the cooled granola, not the to-be-baked granola.
DO NOT STIR THE COMPLETELY BAKED PRODUCT for at least 20 minutes after removal from oven. Those 20 minutes are a critical window, during which the clumping magic takes place. Do NOT disturb the granola during this time or you’ll just have lots of crispy oats.
Wait until granola has TOTALLY cooled before packaging it up. Any steam or moisture that gets packed up with the granola can cause sogginess and even mold growth in a relatively short period of time. Nobody, I repeat, NOBODY, want moldy granoly, I mean, granola.
I do have one additional caution to extend associated with this recipe. If you have problems with diverticulitis or diverticulosis (I can never remember which one it is — good thing I’ll be a dentist when I grow up… in 2 months), you may want to omit the smaller seeds in this recipe. I do not want the be the reason for any intestinal duress, so please curtail this recipe as needed to suit your own needs. Yes, the previous directive ALSO includes addition of things like chocolate chips and such to the cooled granola — yes, my physician says I need to eat more chocolate, too.
Honey & Olive Oil Granola
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
8 ounces salted cashew halves
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup pure olive oil
1/2 cup (+ an extra squirt or two) honey — invert bottle on or near the oven as it preheats to help the honey flow more easily;
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 cup sunflower kernels
1/4 cup whole golden flaxseed
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Coarse sea salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit, and line the largest sheet pan you own with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, cashews, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Measure and add olive oil directly to the oats bowl. Measure the honey in the same cup that you used for the oil (that way the honey won’t cling to the sides of the measuring cup — it just plops right out like magic!!), and add it to the bowl as well. Add vanilla and use a rubber spatula to toss the contents of the bowl together, ensuring that every single oat and cashew is bathed in the honey and oil. Spread the granola mixture into an even layer on your prepped baking sheet, and bake for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the coconut, sunflower kernels, flaxseed, and sesame seeds. Remove pan from oven, dump on the coconut-seed mixture, and use a metal spatula to carefully stir together the contents of the pan, trying to avoid losing any oats overboard. Re-spread granola into a single layer, and return to oven for 10 minutes. Remove pan and re-mix/re-spread granola one last time, before returning pan to oven for 3-5 more minutes — granola should be starting to brown, but don’t let it burn (honey makes it subject to easy-catching!). Remove from oven, and place pan on a wire cooling rack; DO NOT STIR GRANOLA (this no-stir-cooling yields those BIG granola clusters that everyone loves). Immediately sprinkle top with some coarse sea salt. After 20 minutes of cooling, break apart the granola in smaller clusters, and gently stir the contents of the pan to prevent steam-trapping under the hot granola (= soggy granola). Stir occasionally, minimizing cluster-destruction, as granola cools to room temp. Once completely cooled, granola maybe transferred to airtight jars and/or zip-top bags for room-temperature storage, for up to 5 days.