Pretty much every time I make up a batch of granola my Mum says something along the lines of it being the best I’ve ever made. It was flattering the first couple of times, but after hearing it every time, the compliment began to grow a little thin. Surely not every batch of granola I make is better than the last. Was she sure she wasn’t just unfairly comparing a toasty, crispy, extra fresh batch with the tired, somewhat stale, several week old remnants of the previous lot?
And so, when she once again told me that my last batch of granola was ‘the best yet’, I (most likely) pulled a face of distrust (I have been told that pulling faces, more often than not unattractive ones, is somewhat of a habit with me. It’s mostly in the eyebrows, apparently, ‘expressive eyebrows’…) and I refused to buy into the compliment. Although I would go as far as agreeing that this particular granola was a very, very, good one. But I wasn’t willing or bold enough to go about casually using superlatives.
‘Eughh…hamster food’ was his initial response when he caught me snacking on a handful of the stuff.
‘It’s tasty hamster food’ I insisted, waving the handful in his face. ‘It’s maple syrupy!’ I attempted. ‘Just try a pecan or something and then tell me you don’t like it.’
And so he did. Followed by a hazelnut. Followed by a little finger scoop of the mix. And then another.
‘Ha! It’s not that bad is it. And look at all the healthy stuff in it…pecans, and hazelnuts, and seeds and dried fruit. And the teeny round seedy things, that’s amaranth seed. It’s pretty good for you, I think it’s high in protein, I’m not entirely sure, something good for you. It’s what makes it all extra crunchy.’
By this point I was beginning to feel like an adult trying to convince a child to eat vegetables. Only this child didn’t need much convincing, nor care about the healthy stuff. It was the sweet maple syrupyness that got him. Because for the type of guy who favours buttercream over cake (madness), sweetness is all that really matters.
Perhaps he didn’t openly admit to ‘liking’ the granola, as that would involve back tracking on a rather insistent dislike. Perhaps what he really said was closer to ‘not bad’. Or maybe he didn’t even say that. Maybe all he said was ‘mmm…its sweet’, as he carried on nibbling.
Either way, the granola hater was eating granola. And it was this that pushed me to consider tagging on the superlative. If even he’ll eat this granola, then it really must be the best yet.
But what makes it ‘the best’? In the boyfriend’s mind, it’s just the sweetness (despite the fact I followed suggestions given with the original recipe to leave the sugar out and just use maple syrup). To me – hater of sickly sweet- the granola came out tasty, maple syrup flavour sweet, neither sugary sweet, nor too sweet. This was also the first granola I’ve made with olive oil and, well, I think I might just go on making granola with olive oil indefinitely. While the granola didn’t taste particularly olive-oily, there was definitely a more, what shall I call it, mature(?) flavour. Something with a little more body, perhaps a touch peppery/floral/fragrant. It worked, whatever it was. The granola also had a lighter crispiness to it than the heavier crunchiness which is more what I get with granolas I’ve made with sunflower oil.
The real crunchy element came from the amaranth seed, which I felt made a brilliant texture addition. I know amaranth seeds aren’t likely to be something sitting in your kitchen cupboards, nor is it the easiest thing to come across, but if you can get hold of it, I’d say it’s definitely worth trying out in granola, especially if you like a bit of bite. Throw in favourite nuts – for me, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds. Seeds which, although they don’t exactly rock my world, make me feel virtuous and healthy. And dried fruit, over which I’m not fussy…although the sourness of dried cherries and cranberries is a win, raisins are a staple classic, I mostly just like apricots for their cheery orange colour and there’s something about the odd texture of dried dates that holds a strange appeal with me (is that weird?)
Maple syrup and olive oil granola – I’ve come across versions of this granola on several blogs including this one, this one and this one, the latter two versions drawing on this recipe by Nekisia Davis on Food 52
Note: Feel free to change the nuts, seeds and dried fruit to which ever types you prefer/ have to hand. Just keep the ratio of dry ingredients to wet ingredients about the same. When making granola I like to measure all my dry ingredients using cups – it just seems speedier!
- 3 cups oats
- 1 cup pecans
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup flaked almonds
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup amaranth seeds
- 175ml maple syrup
- 125ml olive oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup dried fruit of preference – I like a mixture of raisins, apricots, cherries, cranberries and dates
- Preheat the oven to 150°C and line a large baking sheet (with a lipped edge) with baking paper.
- Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.
- In a jug, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and salt.
- Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones in the bowl and stir well to ensure everything is evenly coated. (Optional but recommended: sample a bit of the raw mix…it’ll get you extra excited about the final thing. Well, I like raw granola mix, but perhaps I’m alone in this…)
- Tip the mix out onto the baking sheet and spread out in an even layer.
- Bake in the oven for about 40 mins, tossing every 10 mins, until a good golden brown colour and smelling amazing. Keep a good eye on it towards the end of the cooking time to prevent it over toasting and burning. It will continue to crisp up as it cools.
- Remove the tray from the oven and allow the granola to cool on the tray. Once cold, mix in the dried fruit and store in an air tight container. I find this granola keeps well for a couple of weeks.