Hear me out. I know I bombard you with granola recipes at every opportunity, and if granola isn't your thing, you've probably long checked out of this blog and decided that I am a tree-huggin' hippie who lives on nuts and seeds and chants in my backyard.
But the trouble is, I want to believe everyone likes granola. I mean, don't get me wrong, I feel like a loser every time I try to explain to someone just how fantastic that last batch of homemade granola was! Then I realize they are staring at me like I've got three heads and they smile politely and walk away.
I know, it doesn't sound terribly exciting, and how many granola recipes does one person need? But I've eaten a lot of granola in my lifetime - some delicious and some positively horrible - so I consider myself a granola authority of sorts. (I should be on Food Network's Unwrapped where they all have titles like Cheez Wiz Connoisseur and Twizzler Enthusiast.) But I do this for you! So you can have the best granola around each morning, for your afternoon snack mixed with a bit of Greek yogurt, to spread the good news that homemade granola is a world away from that pasty-pale store-bought garbage!
So about this particular recipe - it balances sweet and salty in a way most granola recipes do not. Rather than a slick of flavorless vegetable oil to keep it crisp, this recipes uses hearty olive oil that gives the brown sugar and maple syrup lacquering each crispy bit a good kick in the pants. And while we're talking about the syrup, and I hesitate to tell you this because I never want to be the sort of person who insists upon a particular ingredient or the entire batch will be ruined! But in this case, do your best to seek out a good, rich maple syrup. I'd never tasted Grade B syrup (for some reason I had it in my head that it was inferior to Grade A and if I was going to spend the $8, I was getting Grade A - this could not be farther from the truth) before this recipe but found a jug of it on sale at the Common Market and decided to give it a go. It came from a local sugar shack in Western Maryland called S&S and it's unlike any syrup I've ever had - it's sweet, of course, but it's also a touch bitter at the end, and to me, it tasted like coffee. A delicious cup of rich-bodied coffee that happened to pour out of a maple tree.
But moving on and off my maple syrup high horse. Besides that, there's the coconut chips. I've always used sweetened, shredded coconut for my granola recipes, but I found a bag of these at that same Common Market and as it turns out, they crisp up like tropical chips in the oven, lightly coated with that magical maple slurry and just a bit salty from the coarse salt sprinkled over the top. And it's that same salt that keeps this granola grounded, keeps it interesting, keeps you reaching back into the back for another handful on your way out the door.
Now I realize that nuts and seeds can certainly add up, but I usually hit the bulk section of my local grocer and it isn't too bad - I keep the nuts in the freezer and it'll last through several batches of granola (and I'm convinced it ends up costing less than buying multiple boxes of cereal).
I love this recipe as-is, but I also like to stir in a handful of dried cherries once it's cool enough to handle. Their tart chewiness lends a great contrast to the crunchy granola and were it not for my dried-fruit averse husband who doesn't like when I add the "chewies" to the mix, I'd eat it that way every day.
One last thing and I promise I'll shut my trap and let you get on with it - don't skimp on stirring the granola really well in the 15 minute increments mentioned below. I neglected it once before and the maple-sugar mixture tends to pool in the center of the pan (or maybe I just need new, less warped pans?) and I ended up with a handful of gluey pieces once it finished baking. So just keep stirring! All will be right with the world.
Olive Oil & Maple Granola
Adapted from Food52 & Nekisia Davis
Makes about 7 cups
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup raw sunflower seeds, hulled
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 1/4 cup raw pecans, left whole or coarsely chopped
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
3/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Dried cherries, optional
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut chips, pecans, brown sugar, and a hefty pinch of coarse salt.
In a measuring cup, whisk together the maple syrup and olive oil. It won't really come together in any sort of cohesive manner, but give it a good stir and then quickly pour it over the oat mixture. (I've made it before just by mixing everything together in one bowl from the get-go, but I got it into my head that some bits were becoming saturated in olive oil, others in just syrup, and vowed to just mix the syrup and oil together and sleep peacefully at night.)
Toss it all together with a rubber spatula until well coated - really make sure you get all the way to the bottom of the bowl where the dry bits of oats and coconut shards tend to hide. Tip the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread it evenly.
Bake for 45-55 minutes, stirring and flipping the granola every 15 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. As soon as you remove it from the oven, sprinkle it once more with a good pinch of coarse salt and toss it every 30 minutes or so until the granola is completely cool. Mix in a handful of dried cherries, if you like.
The granola will keep in a plastic bag or container at room temperature for about a week, but we keep ours in the freezer. I find the dried fruit will soften the crisp of the granola after a few days unless it's frozen, plus my baby Daddy says he enjoys the ice cold milk that results from frozen granola.