It's safe to say that I'm a crunchy granola freak. Like, a nutty freak. It fits right into my lifestyle. It's cheap, it's nutritious, and a good on-the-go protein and fiber filler that I can grab on my way to work or toss in some almond milk for a midnight snack or a camping trip. Good granola is just so comforting. I grew up eating my Mom's version from her Mennonite cookbook but recently I noticed something odd - combing through the confusing library of granola brands at Whole Foods that promised no oils or refined sugar, it amazed me how much these little 12oz bags sell for. When did something as simple as granola with cheap ingredients, popularized by a bunch of hippies get so expensive? I also noticed that in the more affordable granola brands the crazy amount of sugars but such little fiber. How could one cup of the stuff top 600 calories? And why do we have to pay $14 for a measly 12oz bag? I figured there had to be an easier way.
My second kitchen job in NYC was prepping brunch for an East Village all-day brunch spot called 'Permanent Brunch' of all things. I made biscuits and sous vide eggs in the morning but my favorite thing was making their granola bark, only because I knew I'd get to snack on it later. The place needed work but their granola was by far their best achievement. The granola would arrive stacked high with thin clustery brittle shards in a shallow bowl of greek yogurt, berries and honey. It was so good that I would pocket a handful at the end of a shift. I also ran off with the recipe because I couldn't wait to stock up on my own, especially since that poor brunch spot failed quickly. PS: if you ever decide to open an all day brunch place, don't. Brunch food is messy and not worth the pain or small profit. I'll leave it at that. But back to the crunchy stuff.
Recently, on a search for other granola recipes to try, I found the Instagram for Liz Pruiett, co-owner of the famous Tartine Bakery. If you haven't discovered her insta prettiness, here it is. The recipe caught my eye and other than a few picky steps and extra ingredients, it was very similar to my Permanent Brunch recipe. First I did Pruiett's version and then I added stuff I liked from the Permanent Brunch recipe like orange zest (lemon works too) to cut the heartiness of the cinnamon. Instead of sesame seeds I used sunflower seeds, and pecans for almonds. Like any kitchen sink recipe, you can really sub in almost anything. A grated a thumb sized nob of ginger or chopped up candied ginger or raisins are good subs too. I love extra crispy granola and the key to getting that clustery crunch is both the use of the whipped egg white and also letting the moisture out by opening up the oven door and turning the sheet tray which both release steam (we want it moisture free) and it gives the bark an even brownness. THANK YOU Chef Pruiett for the inspiration for your gorgeous recipe (with my little tweak of course because why not?). Try it and tell me what you think.
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup, or both
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon or nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
1 1/4 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
1/2 cup flax or chia seeds (whole or ground)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup almond flour
zest of 1 orange (or lemon)
1/3 cup grapeseed oil (olive oil or coconut oil or melted butter)
1 egg white, whisked until frothy
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit. Prepare a 13 x 18 inch sheet tray lined with parchment hanging over the ends and set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, add honey, brown sugar, water, vanilla and salt over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and then turn off heat.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, cinnamon, pecans, coconut, seeds, almond flour, orange zest, and stir to combine. (I threw a handful of raisins in my second batch).
4. Once the liquid has cooled, whisk in the oil and then the whisked egg white. Pour it over the dry ingredients and mix well.
5 .Spread the mix evenly over the sheet tray. With another sheet tray or cast iron pan, firmly press over top of the granola to tightly pack the mix evenly.
6. Bake for 40-45 minutes in the middle rack, opening the oven door once or twice to let out steam and rotate the tray. Your house will smell heavenly and the granola should be a nice even brown. Be careful not to keep it in longer than 45 minutes or it can burn and turn bitter. Remove from the oven and, holding each side of parchment, keeping it flat as possible, carefully transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and set in fridge or freezer for 20-25 minutes. By controlling the temperature and letting it cool, this will ensure an evenly crispy granola. At this point break it apart by hand or use a pizza cutter for something more even to make rectangle granola bars if you prefer and transfer to a sealed container.
PS. You don't want to keep it out or moisture will get inside the granola and make it chewy, which you may prefer. In which case let it sit out for a few hours and then seal it up.