Granola is my go-to snack; it is something I always have in my pantry and that I munch on by the handfuls. What makes it so delicious to me are the big, clustery chunks. I shamelessly dig through the bag in search of these precious clusters and rejoice upon discovering every oat-y, nutty clump. But after I have extracted all of them, the last thing I want to do is break out a spoon to gather the remaining scraps. Wouldn't it be awesome if I could find a granola recipe composed entirely of clusters?
My wish came true when I received my copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Deb's maple granola is subtly sweet, golden, and oh-so-clustery. I love the freshness and crisp texture of homemade granola, and the tart cherries offset the oats' earthiness perfectly. An egg white is the secret ingredient though, the protein that binds everything together during the baking process. I love the aroma of oats, nuts, and coconut, glazed with maple syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon, permeating my house. Even though I want to dive right into the tray as soon as it comes out of the oven, it is crucial to let the granola cool completely so you can break it up into clusters later on.
Wrapped in a cellophane bag with a pretty ribbon, this wholesome treat becomes a simple and easily transportable homemade gift. It was a hit when I made it for my pop-up bakery at The Summer Opportunities Fair, and I am sure that it will be well-received by whoever you choose to give it to (if it even lasts that long in your kitchen).
Recipe courtesy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ*
2 tblsp olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup good quality maple syrup (I use Trader Joe's organic brand)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups dried cherries or other dried fruit of choice
*I substituted wheat bran for wheat germ and it worked perfectly. I do not recommend omitting it entirely because small pieces help to bind the granola together.
1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Pour the wheat germ/bran onto a baking sheet and toast it in the oven just until aromatic, about 5-7 minutes. Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour in the olive oil and maple syrup, coating everything evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir it into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout.
2. Spread the granola in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until it is golden brown on top and feels dry to the touch. Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Once the granola is completely cool, break it up into desired-size clusters. Sprinkle in the dried fruit.