Premium granola makers seem to be popping up like morels after a spring rain. And these fancy-pants granolas do have some benefits to tout. Interesting flavor combinations and top-notch ingredients make granolas in this style simultaneously decadent, wholesome and satisfying. But a small bag of bakery-style granola can set you back six or seven bucks– yikes. Even using a few relatively spendy ingredients you can get a lot more granola for your buck when you make it yourself. So I just whipped up a fancy new granola recipe, complete with pedigreed ingredients (almonds & olive oil). This granola is fancy enough for a brunch centerpiece or a baked gift, but wholesome and healthy enough for weekday mornings.
I am aware that the technique that I describe for making granola is not the simplest out there. But it’s certainly the best I’ve found. A few years back I got sick of trying granola recipes and getting unsatisfying results, so I came up with my own technique. I wanted granola that has crisp, toasted grains, and is formed into clusters. Your average granola recipe runs into a few problems. Most recipes won’t ever clump together, so you end up with something that looks more like mueslix. Other recipes will form clumps, but it won’t be crispy, and certainly won’t taste like toasted oats. The solution that I came up with is to cook the oats and nuts twice. First, the oats are toasted together with some fat– this gives them a pleasantly crispy texture– and the nuts are toasted to bring out their flavor. Then the toasted oats and nuts are mixed together with a sugar solution, an egg and some flavorings. Then the whole mix is baked for a second time, but this time at a much lower temperature. The lower temperature dries out the granola leaving you with perfectly crisp, oaty, granola clumps.
4 ½ c. rolled oats
⅓ c. olive oil
1½ c. almonds
⅓ c. sesame seeds or pinenuts (optional)
½ c. flour
⅓ c. sugar
the zest of 1 orange or 1 lemon
⅓ c. water
1 t. flaky sea salt
3 qts. granola
Toast oats & nuts:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Measure the oats and olive oil together into a large bowl. Toss the oats until they are evenly coated in olive oil. Spread oats out on a sheetpan and toast for 12-16 minutes until the oats have turned golden and are crispy. Stir the oats once while you are toasting them to ensure even browning. Place the almonds on a separate sheetpan and toast for 8-10 minutes until they are lightly browned and fragrant, stirring once. If using pinenuts or sesame seeds, toast them along with the almonds.
Make sugar solution:
While the oats and nuts are toasting, heat the water and sugar together until the sugar is completely dissolved. (Either microwave or stovetop works fine for this.) Stir in the orange or lemon zest.
Turn the oven heat down to 300 °F. Coarsely chop almonds. In a large bowl, mix the toasted oats, chopped nuts and flour. Crack the egg into the mixture and pour in the sugar solution. Toss the mixture until the moisture is evenly distributed throughout. Line your two sheetpans with parchment paper*. Divide the granola between the two sheetpans and spread out to an even thickness. It should mostly cover the bottom of the pan, but there should also be gaps– think more of a scattered look than a big granola bar sheet. Sprinkle flaky sea salt evenly over the granola.
Bake the granola for 25 minutes or until lightly golden and almost entirely dried (the granola will continue to dry out as it cools) . Halfway through baking switch the position of the two sheetpans in the oven and rotate them. Resist the resist the urge to stir the granola. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to a month.
*You don’t have to use parchment paper, but it makes cleanup easier.