Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chocolate Granola

I’m afraid Grandmama’s Biscuits were a bad influence on me. Their fluffy, white flour goodness put me in a refined-grain spiral of delicious destruction. I followed them with a loaf of homemade white bread and a batch of this no-knead white bread dough from which I made a rustic loaf to serve alongside Italian Chickpeas with white pasta and some Pain au Chocolate.

It was time for some high WFQ* therapy, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to make something that tasted great. I hadn’t made Granola for a while, so I thought I’d try a new recipe. Okay, so this recipe had been languishing in my stash for over 4 years. All the more reason to dig it out and make some chocolate granola.

This recipe follows the basic theory of granola-baking with which I have become familiar, but there are a few twists as well. The usual sweet, syrupy coating that covers and flavors the rolled oats and nuts is spiked with bittersweet chocolate. The coating mixture is thick, and I found it easiest to get my hands right in to get it well-distributed amongst the oats and almonds. The granola then bakes at a lower temperature for a shorter time than in other granola recipes I’ve made. This makes for a slightly less crunchy and toasty granola, but also one without burned chocolate in it.

I focused on the affinity between chocolate and almond flavors when making changes to the original recipe. I used chopped almonds, almond oil, which I love in granola anyway, almond extract in addition to vanilla, and dried cherries. You could use whatever nuts you like, canola oil, all vanilla extract, and whatever dried fruit you like. I do, however, highly recommend the chocolate-almond-cherry combination.

This granola is not super-sweet, so doesn’t quite demand to be served for dessert instead of breakfast. The chocolate flavor is there but subtle and the almonds and cherries performance-enhance each other deliciously. I’m thrilled that under the chocolaty coating there resides chopped almonds and whole grains. Otherwise, I’d have to feel guilty about the way I keep returning to the bowl for handful after handful of this lovely, semi-sweet granola.

*WFQ: Whole Food Quotient

Chocolate, Almond, and Cherry Granola
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, December 2007

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup wheat germ
1 cup chopped almonds
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons almond oil or canola oil
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup dried cherries

1. Preheat oven to 300 F. Prepare a large, rimmed baking sheet by lining it with a silicone baking mat or parchment or foil coated with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ and almonds. Set aside

3. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey and almond oil. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warm and forms a thick paste.

4. Add the chocolate, salt and cinnamon. Stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Return to the heat and warm gently if the mixture cools too much to melt the chocolate. Stir in the vanilla and almond extract.

5. Pour the sugar mixture over the oat mixture and stir or work with your hands to combine. I found that working the mixture with my hands allowed for more even distribution of the thick coating. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

6. Bake at 300 F for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire cooling rack. Stir the granola again. Let stand until cooled slightly. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the dried cherries. Cool completely.

Makes 6-7 cups. Store for a few days at room temperature in an airtight container or freeze in a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag.

Other recipes like this one: Granola, Gingerbread Granola, Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies with Black Walnuts (you could use almonds instead of the walnuts)

One year ago: Barley Pancakes with Orange Juice and Vanilla

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