If there were an award for making batch after batch of mediocre gluten-free granola, I would have won it several years running. I’ve filled a lot of mason jars with just-okay granola: too crisp, a little soft, burnt bitterness on the edge of some of the oats or nuts. For about 6 months, I baked the fruit in with the oats, which left the apricots or dried cherries so crispy chewy that the experience of eating my granola truly became the crunchy cliche.
Danny was never terribly impressed. He ate our quick breakfast of yogurt and homemade granola dutifully, with little joy. How much joy is there in using your jaws that much?
After we met our friend Megan, my granola game changed for the better. Megan writes the lovely site A Sweet Spoonful. More to the granola point, Megan runs the artisan food company, Marge Granola. This woman knows how to make granola. (And she has a gluten-free granola for sale too.) A couple of years ago, I let go of the notion that I could make granola and learned from Megan instead.
Megan has a master recipe for granola in her lovely book, Whole Grain Mornings. Months before the book went to print, Megan and I took a long walk around Vashon and talked about the structure for her book. All of us who write need listeners to help us think about the best way to tell our stories. After our talk, Megan settled on a seasonal approach to breakfasts. This means that we pick up the book every few months and discover a new breakfast. It’s a book we’ll always have on our shelves.
Megan asked me to test her granola recipe before the first draft was done. That first batch was a revelation. Why was my granola never this good?
Here’s what I learned from making Megan’s granola.
I always made oats the loud star of my granola. Megan’s granola is 3 cups of oats to 2 1/2 cups of nuts and seeds. It’s whole grain but it’s full of protein too.
Using at least 2 or 3 kinds of nuts and seeds in that blend makes the taste and texture even more surprising. Here, I used pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chopped cashews. However, every time I make this granola now, I use whatever we have on hand: pecans, flaxseed, chia seeds, or walnuts.
Mostly, I learned from Megan the essential lesson: pull the granola out of the oven before it’s crisp. Like cookies, granola finishes cooking as it cools. I kept baking my granola until it was crunchy to the touch in the oven. That meant that out of the oven, it took a lot of energy to chew. Now, when I smell the maple syrup in the oven, and the nuts are honey brown toasted, I pull that baking sheet out.
Once everything has cooled entirely to room temperature, add the dried fruits. (Also, chocolate is good. As are butterscotch chips from Guittard.) Having an assistant to toss those onto the cooled granola might be the best part. Stir and stir until you have an even field of granola.
Since I started making granola Megan’s way, we’ve had batch after batch of excellent granola. Everyone in the family is happy to eat it. (Desmond is especially happy with it when there are butterscotch chips involved.) It never fails.
When there are so many variables to a morning — tired eyes after an hour awake at 3 am, a toddler teething, the 7-year-old slept in late and still wants to dance to the barn raising dance from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers before school — it’s good to have a big jar full of truly delicious, gluten-free granola in the pantry. Thanks, Megan.
Remember — traditional oats are not gluten-free. They must be certified gluten-free oats to ensure a celiac can eat them safely. We trust and like Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats, which are probably the most widely available. My favorite gluten-free oats are grown in Wyoming, by a family whose celiac son figured out why oats made him sick. (Answer: the oats were grown next to wheat, transported on the same truck as wheat, and produced on the same lines as wheat.) GF Harvest gluten-free oats are hearty and earthy, consistent to every batch.
Be aware that about 8% of celiacs seem to react to avenin, the protein in oats, as though it is the gliadin and glutenin in wheat. I’m a very sensitive celiac and I’m fine with oats. In fact, I seem to thrive with them in my regular diet. However, not all are so lucky, so test it out for yourself.
Prepare to bake. Heat the oven to 325°. Line a 13 x 18-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix the granola. Combine the gluten-free oats, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Toss them together until everything is combined. Pour in the olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract and stir everything together with a rubber spatula until the oats and nuts are evenly coated.
Bake the granola. Spread the granola onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir the granola up on the baking sheet. Continue baking until the cashews are browning and the smell of the maple syrup wafts in the air, another 15 to 20 minutes. Remember that granola will not be as crisp as you want, so don’t use that as a gauge for doneness.
Cool the granola. Put the baking sheet on a countertop and walk away. Let the granola cool completely to room temperature on the baking sheet. Add the raisins and butterscotch chips and mix to combine. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks or in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.