You will not learn to make granola from at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Classically trained chefs can show you how to make a dacquoise out of nuts and eggs. Or crispy tulipes a la glace pralinee. And they do have a fabulous, multi-purpose crumb option, gratin, in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg and/or butter. But French chefs can't teach you how to make the perfect granola, especially one free of butter and excessive amounts of oil.
Granola is an American invention, and is better off made with the old-fashioned American ingenuity of the home cook.
In my early years of graduate school, I counted myself among those granola makers who had tried and failed. It seemed like such an easy task, but my renditions were always too sticky, too sweet, too fattening, too oily, too bland, and, too often, scorched. But still, I harbored hopes that one day I might create a paragon of granola in my own oven.
I persevered. My attempts were usually edible, and often delicious (especially the ones with butter), but they were never quite right. I wanted a lot from my granola--great taste, great nutrition, the right texture, and still quick and easy to make.
By jove, I think I've done it. Healthy fats from olive oil (not too much, but enough to get a crispy-crunch), nuts, and seeds, chewy (not scorched) fruit, and not too sweet (but still sweet enough to convince Nick that he is snacking on a crumbled oatmeal cookie).
The variations are endless and the results are far healthier and delicious, as well as much less expensive, than good-quality packaged granola. Yum!
Ultimate Healthy Granola
As one who has suffered through far too many scorched raisins, heed my advice: do not, I repeat, do not add the dried fruit until AFTER the granola has been baked and cooled. My current favorite rendition (as pictured) is cardamom with dried apricots and some chopped crystallized ginger.
For an egg-free, VEGAN version, eliminate the egg whites and add 3 extra tablespoons olive oil (the egg whites are here to add crispiness to the granola with less fat, but you can achieve the same crispiness with the extra oil)
6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw nuts such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raw sunflower or pepita seeds
1/3 cup flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed)
Optional: 1 teaspoon favorite ground sweet spice (or combo of spices), such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, etc.
3 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or molasses
1/3 cup olive oil or other neutral oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried fruit, e.g., chopped apricots, cranberries, raisins, cherries, chopped figs, or blueberries
1.Preheat oven to 350F.
2.Combine the oats, nuts, seeds, flaxseed meal, and spice in a large bowl.
3. Whisk the egg whites and the salt in a medium bowl until frothy. Whisk in the sweetener, olive oil, and vanilla until blended.
4. Add egg white mixture to the oat mixture; stir until to dry ingredients, and stir until the oats are evenly coated.
5.Spoon and spread the mixture onto two rimmed baking sheets.
6.Bake 20 minutes, then gently flip with a spatula, moving granola from the outer edges to the center of the sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes longer until golden. (If the granola starts to brown too much at the edges, gently stir those parts into the middle.)
7.Cool completely on pan, then stir in the fruit. Transfer to an airtight container. Will keep for 3 to 4 weeks (or freeze in airtight container/ziplock bag for up to 3 months). Makes about 8-1/2 cups granola.