I’ve never thought of myself as a recipe developer, more of a recipe modifier or follower. With so many years of following under my belt now (I’m not talking about my girth people, it’s just an expression), I’ve gained weight the confidence to alter ingredients or methods and still end up with a yummy result.
So when faced with two fabulous granola recipes last Saturday and unwilling (incapable??) of choosing one over the other, I combined the two – one from Melissa Clark, NY Times food writer and cookbook author and the other from Cheryl Sternman Rule, award-winning food blogger of 5secondrule and author of a beautiful cookbook about fruits and vegetables called RIPE.
Granola is one of those creations that with a few practice runs, you’ll find yourself preparing in your own style, likely without even glancing at a recipe. But to understand the technique and figure out your family’s sweetness quotient and love for nuts or dried fruit mix-ins, you’ve got to start somewhere, then take notes on the raves and criticisms and adjust it to your own style.
Agave-sweetened Pecan Coconut Granola
prep time: 10 minutes; cook time: 30 minutes
Cheryl’s recipe relies on agave nectar to sweeten it, while Melissa’s uses maple syrup and a little brown sugar. Agave has a lower glycemic index than other sweeteners and packs a sweeter punch, so you use a bit less. I’ve made granola with maple syrup, though, with wonderful results. For the oil, Cheryl uses canola, while Melissa uses olive oil in the NY Times version and coconut oil (an expensive but healthy alternative) in her Cook This Now version. Both also use dried coconut, in addition to the oats and other seeds, nuts, and dried fruit. I’ve made granola with and without coconut – satisfying either way – depends on your personal relationship with the multi-talented tropical fruit. But be careful about using sweetened vs. unsweetened. If you use sweetened coconut, you’ll need to cut down on the sweetener in the granola.
- 4 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
- 1 ½ cups (or more) roughly chopped raw pecans (Cheryl’s recipe uses pistachios, which is a great choice as well but they cook more quickly than pecans so add them in 10 minutes into the baking instead of mixing in at the beginning)
- ½ – 1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds, if you have any
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup olive oil (can use canola oil)
- ½ cup agave nectar (can use approx. 2/3 cup maple syrup & ¼ cup brown sugar)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp almond extract
- dried fruit options: cherries, apricots, raisins (if you use dried fruit, add it in after the baking is done, as soon as it comes out of the oven; we prefer our granola crunchy, not chewy and leave out the fruit)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees, or 300 convect.
Have two sheet pans ready, lined with silicone mats or parchment paper (optional).
In a large bowl, stir together the first six ingredients – oats, coconut, pumpkin seeds, nuts, cinnamon, and salt
In a smaller bowl, stir together the oil, agave nectar, vanilla and almond extract. Add this mixture to the larger bowl and combine well.
Spread in an even layer on the two sheet pans. Bake for approx. 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Note the color before you place them in the oven – it’s done when it has noticeably darkened. It will be soft when you first take it out. Let it cool on the sheet pans. It will harden as it does. Store in a glass jar, cereal holder, or Ziploc bag. (Remember to add the dried fruit as soon as it comes out of the oven if you are using any.)
Eat alone as a snack, top your favorite yogurt, add bananas, strawberries, and milk or sprinkle on your favorite frozen yogurt or ice cream.