Cocoa, Almonds and Coconut Granola

I suppose this could happen with almost anything in the food world, but for me homemade granola was a serious wake up call on how different (for good) foods done at home are.  Now we can't live without it.  Even when we travel I make a batch so I can have them for quick breakfasts or snacks.

Here I'm sharing my cacao granola recipe.  I could have it everyday without getting bored.  But before, let me tell you some recommendations that, in my experience, work all the time doing any granola.

1. I have found that "marinating" the ingredients for 5 to 10 minutes before heating them improves the marriage of flavors.  Since the time on the heat is minimal, this extra minutes help all the flavors come together beautifully.

2.  Start heating the skillet with all the ingredients on it, and when the bubbles start, it's really a matter of 20 - 30 seconds cooking them to prevent a smoky or burn flavor.  If you want to build up the flavors, you can heat them for a whole minute.

3.  I think a nice ratio of ingredients is 2 parts oats, 1 part nuts, 1/2 part total extra ingredients (coconut flakes, chocolate chips, seeds, dried fruits...), 1/4 Tsp. salt, 1/2 cup oil and 1/3 or 1/2 cup of liquid sweetener, depending on how strong is the flavor of the one you're using.  With these proportions in mind and experimenting with your favorite seasonings and flavors you could make any granola without a recipe on hand!

4.  While in the oven, it's important to turn the granola every 10 minutes or so.  I have found that closing the door oven just 3/4 of the way while you take out the tray to toss helps keep the temperature nicer and the granola doesn't end with a burned flavor.  But try to keep the tray out the oven for just 1 minute.

5.  Cook on a 325° oven for the first 20 minutes; then on 275° for the last 5 minutes to dry out the oats.

Hopefully these ideas help you make granola all the time!  For now, here is the recipe for the cacao granola I promised earlier...

Cacao Granola
3 cups
Total time - 30 minutes  Active time - 5 minutes
Equipment - Cookie sheet

Old fashioned oats – 2 cups
Sliced almonds – 1 cup
Unsweetened shredded coconut – ¼ cup
Flax seeds (optional) - ¼ cup
Unsweetened cocoa powder – ¼ cup
Maple syrup– ½ cup
Coconut oil – ½ cup
Natural vanilla extract – ½ Tsp
Fine sea salt – ¼ Tsp

Preheat oven to 325°.

Combine the oats, almonds, shredded coconut and flax seeds in a medium bowl.

In a medium or large sauté pan mix the cacao, maple syrup, oil, vanilla and salt.  Place it in the burner and bring it to medium heat.  As soon as the mixture begins to bubble, stir and cook for just 20 seconds more.  Remove from heat and pour it over the oats.  Mix well, until you see all the oats, almonds and coconut covered with the cacao mixture.

Pour the oats on the cookie sheet and using a spatula spread them well throughout the tray.

Place it in the oven and it will cook for 25 minutes total.  When you reach the first 10 minutes take out the tray, leave the oven door 1/4 open and using a spatula turn the oats as much as you can in less than a minute.  Spread them again and place on the oven for 10 minutes more.  Repeat the last step, only this time you'll decrease the oven temperature to 275° when taking the tray out.  After turning and spreading the oats for the second time, place the tray back on the oven and cook for 5 minutes more.  

When finished, take the granola out and let it cool for 10 minutes before storing to prevent it's own steam to make it go soft.  You can enjoy them for up to 4 months if stored in a air-tight sealed container.