One night, like many before me, I got hooked. Molly Wizenberg's exquisite blog, Orangette, sucked me in with her crack-like writing, spare photography and mouthwatering recipes. Guided there by rave reviews of a chocolate granola recipe, I sifted through her blog for hours, unable to pry my eyes away from her addictive writing style, driven by a lust for chocolate granola. I envisioned something like what you see above, baked granola coated in chocolate, but figured the recipe had to be something really innovative to garner such attention. But when I finally came upon the recipe, at around 4am, I felt a bit disappointed at the image that greeted me: plain granola with chunks of chocolate mixed in. I could have come up with that.
So this is my take on what "chocolate granola" ought to be: buttery, toasted oats flavored with brown sugar and vanilla, baked, cooled and coated in bittersweet chocolate. A delectable treat for breakfast, a late afternoon pick-me-up, or sprinkled over coffee ice cream for dessert.
You could take this recipe in many other directions. Try one of the delicious dark milk chocolates on the market now, such as Scharffenberger. Vary the nuts, or add cocoa nibs, orange zest, espresso powder, shredded coconut, cinnamon or cardamom. If you add dried fruit or candied ginger, however, do so after baking, when you stir in the chocolate.
2 1/2 cups (8 oz.) old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (4 oz.) whole almonds
1/3 cup packed light brown or unrefined sugar (or use maple syrup or agave nectar)
1/4 cup unsalted butter (2 oz., or half a stick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 350º. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats and almonds. Melt together the sugar, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove, and stir in vanilla. Toss the butter mixture with the oat mixture to coat thoroughly. Spread evenly on the sheet pan. Bake for ten minutes, then take the granola out and stir it with a metal spatula. Repeat this process two or three times, for a total of 30-40 minutes of baking time, until the oats are golden and toasty. They will still be soft, but will crisp up when they cool. Set the pan on a cooling rack, and let the granola cool completely, about 1 hour. Place the granola in a medium bowl, and reserve the sheet pan and parchment.
Place the chocolate in a metal bowl and place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove the bowl from the pot, and let the chocolate cool, stirring frequently, to about 80º. It should feel cool when you touch it to your lip, but still be liquid enough to coat your granola. This tempers the chocolate. (You can skip this step if you're over it, and just melt and fold the chocolate into the granola, but the chocolate may "bloom" and look unattractively streaky.) If the chocolate cools down too much, just place over the pot of barely steaming water and stir constantly until re-melted. Fold the chocolate into the granola to coat thoroughly, and spread on the parchmented sheet pan to cool and set up, about 30 minutes.
Break up and store in a jar or airtight container at room temperature, up to a couple weeks. But I bet you anything it doesn't last that long...