Monday, February 9, 2015

DIY Granola: It's Easy!

Granola's hot! And you don't have to break the bank to buy it and worry that it's filled with everything you're trying to avoid--like too much fat, sugar, salt and gluten. The solution? Make it yourself. It's really easy. But first a little history. I find it fascinating, but if you don't, skip to the recipe at the end!

Once maligned as sixties hippy food for "crunchy" liberal types, granola, according to, traces its lineage back to one health-conscious doctor/nutritionist/would-be Presbyterian minister called Sylvester Graham, an early 19th century evangelist for vegetarianism and inventor of the graham cracker.
Later that century, another health-conscious doctor used graham flour to create twice-baked "health" food he called "granula," which John Harvey Kellogg of Corn Flakes fame, a Seventh Day Adventist who ran a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Mich., turned into a baked, ground whole grain product renamed "granola."

Fast forward to the 1960s when granola as we know it came to be. Some link that resurgence to the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Festival, which drew 400,000 people to a farm in upstate New York--and where massive amounts of granola were served. Out of this watershed rock 'n' roll moment emerged a recipe for Sunshine Happy Hippy Granola, which isn't all that much different than the recipe below.

Okay. Enough time travel. Back to 2015. Granola seems to have shed its hippy image and simply become hip--and expensive. I've seen prices ranging from $3.99 a pound for bulk granola to $12.99 a pound for a "gourmet" version.

At the top of the price pyramid are gluten-free, non-GMO, organic and/or locally sourced varieties with a range of fancy-sounding names that sound like cookies, cakes or hot drinks and display a knack for creative marketing and packaging ideas. But you can easily make something similar--maybe even better--for less money with less sugar and more of the ingredients that appeal to you and none of the ones that don't. I can't promise that this granola is low in calories--it's not, so watch your portions. And it does include some sweeteners and oil (and you can experiment with adding even less). But it's full of healthy protein, fiber, omega-3, cholesterol-fighting oats and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

My recipe is basically a blank canvas that you can paint to suit your own tastes. Use one kind of nut or several--or none. Use any seeds you prefer--or none. Use agave instead of honey and maple syrup, coconut oil in place of olive. Leave out some oil or the egg white and stir in a tablespoon of pureed pumpkin or peanut butter instead. It's gluten-free if you use the right kind of oats and vegan if you omit the egg white.

After the granola is baked to a golden crisp, I add about a cup of dried fruit and other mix-ins. The range of choices is broad. I usually add currants or raisins, mini chocolate chips and sour cherries or cranberries. Sometimes I mix in dried blueberries or Trader Joe's Golden Berry Blend. But you can go tropical with candied pineapple or dried mango--or try candied ginger and banana chips. The possibilities are infinite--or you can just leave out the fruit and chips and cut some of the calories.

Granola Breakfast Cookies, inspired by a recipe from The Two Bite Club,
using homemade granola in place of store-bought.

Recipes from two food blogs, Food52 and Bon Appetit, served as my inspiration. I wanted to reduce the fat and sugar while retaining the fresh, crunchy sweetness that makes granola so appealing when mixed with milk or yogurt, sprinkled over ice cream or an apple crisp, or used as a muffin topper or a cookie or energy bar ingredient. The  recipe calls for one egg white, though I have used two when the oats and nuts seemed in need of more liquid. I usually mix the egg white in with the other liquid ingredients. This allows me to use less oil. In theory, it also helps the mixture to "clump" a little more than usual when it bakes in the oven, attaining the clusters so prized by granola lovers. Unfortunately, this hasn't worked for me, probably because I stir the granola every 10 minutes or so to attain even browning. Another method I read about for "clumpifying" is to stir in the beaten egg white right before putting the mixture in the oven, then refraining from stirring. I'm afraid this would lead to burnt granola in my oven. However, every oven is different, so do experiment. After all, that's the fun of making granola--and cooking in general!

Fresh batch of granola--not much clumping, but lots of crunch!

Honey Maple Granola

(Makes 7-8 cups)


3 cups rolled oats*
1 1/2 cups nuts (I used 1/2 each of walnuts, pecans and sliced almonds)
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds 
2 tablespoons chia or hemp seeds--or a combination (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil (or canola or liquid coconut oil)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg white (large egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon*
3/4 cup-1 cup dried fruit (optional)
1/4 cup-1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

*Use certified gluten-free oats if you're gluten-sensitive. (Trader Joe's and Bob's Red Mill are two brands I like.)
**Feel free to substitute or add other spices, such as ginger, nutmeg or cardamom, depending on your taste and mix-ins.


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease or spread parchment on a rimmed cookie sheet (12-by-17-inch pan works well).

2. Mix oats, nuts, coconut and seeds together in a large bowl.

3. In a small bowl, stir together oil, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, egg white and vanilla. Add to the oats mixture and stir until the liquid is well mixed in.

4. Stir in salt and cinnamon or other spices.

5. Spread the granola evenly in the pan, patting it down with a rubber spatula to make sure the thickness is fairly uniform. If you prefer, you can divide the mixture between two cookie sheets, making a thinner layer of granola. If you do it this way, you will need to check it more often in the oven, as it will bake more quickly and could easily burn.

6. Check the granola every 10 or 15 minutes, turning it carefully with a metal spatula to make sure that it's browning evenly. Flip the pan back to front halfway through. When it's done, in about 50 minutes to an hour, it will be golden brown.

7. Cool for a few minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Then add dried fruit and/or chips. Granola keeps in an airtight container for about two weeks or in the freezer for up to three months. If you freeze it, leave out the dried fruit and add it later.

No comments:

Post a Comment