In search of the perfect granola

Olive oil granola with dried apricots
Olive oil granola with dried apricots

I was a long-suffering lover of granola who could never find quite the perfect kind at the grocery store or in recipes for the homemade variety. I searched and searched. Boxed granola always included some ingredient I wasn’t terribly fond of, and the recipes I tried never gave me the crisp crunch I sought.

Then I came across Melissa Clark’s recipe for olive oil granola. It’s been several years since I started making her version, and it’s basically so awesome that I’ve never yearned for any other kind of granola since.

I have found my granola soulmate.

Considering granola is basically just rolled oats toasted with nuts and some kind of dried fruit, you’d think it’d be pretty easy to make. Yes, it’s super easy. But only after you’ve found the perfect balance of ingredients, all added in in just the right amounts. Ratio is everything, guys. Too many oats and not enough prized bits of dried apricots, for instance, will make for a truly boring granola. Too many nuts and you’ll feel like you’re eating trail mix for breakfast.

Clark found that perfect balance, then generously offered it up for everyone to adore.

As for sweeteners, well, nothing beats maple syrup in my book. But too much sweetness can also ruin the delicate balance that granola stands on. A sweeter version is the official one published in the July 15, 2009, edition of The New York Times, but Clark later blogged about a version in which she dialed down the maple syrup and brown sugar a touch, and that version is the real keeper.

A couple of notes: I adapted the recipe a touch, swapping out the more expensive pistachios for pecans and using almonds instead of pumpkin seeds. I’m also not a fan of cardamom, so I omitted that, and I used the more commercially available sweetened coconut flakes in place of coconut chips.

I’ve made this granola as host/hostess gifts for friends and for the food swaps I’ve attended at Terra Firma Farm in Stonington. It’s pretty much universally loved, which is great because it’s really so quick and easy to make, and because it freezes well. After my first food swap, one woman who had taken home the granola hunted me down and left me a voice message asking me to please bring some more for the next food swap.

Who knew granola could make you feel like a superstar? I (I mean, Melissa Clark), rock.

Olive oil granola with dried apricots

Adapted from The New York Times’ Melissa Clark

3 cups rolled oats

1½ cups raw pecans

1 cup raw almonds

½ cup sweetened coconut flakes

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Thoroughly combine all ingredients except for the apricots in a large bowl.

Spread mixture in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown. Add in apricots and toss to combine.

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