Chocolate granola is the best idea I’ve ever regretted.
It goes like this, see. Jason used to have an expensive addiction to breakfast cereals. That boy was eating us out of house and home, one $5 box of fancy-pants cereal at a time. I felt bad chastising him (breakfast IS the most important meal of the day, after all) but I couldn’t help but dream about all the other expensive things we could be buying if he kicked his pricey cereal habit.
So I began buying giant economy-sized boxes of boring old cornflakes, and making homemade granola to go with it. He’d pour a big bowl of cornflakes, sprinkle on a generous heap of granola, and mix ‘em together—voila! Semi-homemade gourmet cereal.
Now you might THINK that is the end of my genius, but I’m actually just getting started.
My usual granola recipe is pretty darn good. It has lots of cinnamon, and vanilla, and orange zest, and an ever-revolving cast of nuts and grains. I wouldn’t kick it off the breakfast table, if you know what I mean.
But one day, I started fantasizing about chocolate granola. Not regular granola with a few chocolate chunks sprinkled on top, but deep dark chocolate-flavored cereal, with lots of rich cocoa taste. So I tweaked my regular recipe, took out a few things, and added my favorite Valrhona cocoa powder.
I DID say the word “genius,” right?
The cocoa completely changed the texture of the granola for the better. I’ve found with many homemade granolas, it’s hard to get large clumps of cereal—they often separate into individual grains and nuts instead of holding together like commercial granolas. Stickiness, too, is a problem–too many homemade granolas get stale or sticky a day or two after they’re made.
This chocolate granola stays in nice, satisfying clumps, perfect for grabbing by the handful. It’s much crunchier, too, and keeps its crisp texture through multiple freezings and defrostings. (We keep our granola in the freezer to keep it “fresher”—but the way we bounce it from freezer to counter and back, I’m not sure that does much good.)
I decided not to increase the amount of sweeteners in the recipe when I added the cocoa, so while this chocolate granola has a hint of sweetness, it’s definitely not in Cocoa Puffs territory. I think of it as “chocolate for grown-ups,” but if you have a strong sweet tooth, you’re free to increase the honey or add a bit of brown sugar.
So after all of this praise, why do I regret my chocolate granola epiphany?
Friends, I cannot TELL you how much chocolate granola I’ve been making since I stumbled on this recipe! Our granola consumption has gone through the roof–I feel like all I do these days is replenish our supply. In addition to Jason’s extra-generous cereal bowls, we’ve both been caught sneaking handfuls of it as a snack. I’ve rediscovered my love of yogurt-granola parfaits. We’re one step away from sprinkling it atop soups and salads. It’s a problem.
Send help. And more granola.
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1-1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbps cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup best-quality cocoa powder
4-1/2 cups oats (or can use a mix of oats, bran, flax, etc)
1 cup unsweetened coconut (I like the extra-large flakes)
1 cup chopped, toasted nuts of your choice (I like hazelnuts and almonds)
1 cup dried cranberries or sour cherries (optional)
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and cover two baking sheets with foil. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the oats and other optional grains, unsweetened coconut, and chopped, toasted nuts. Toss them briefly with your hands to combine.
In a medium saucepan, combine the vegetable oil, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and cocoa powder. Heat this mixture, stirring, over medium heat, until you have a smooth, flowing liquid without any cocoa lumps.
Carefully pour the hot cocoa syrup over the oats in the bowl. Stir until the oats are completely coated with the chocolate. Divide the granola evenly between the two baking sheets, and spread it out into a thin, even layer on each sheet.
Bake the granola in the 300 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Gently stir every 10-15 minutes, and rotate the trays between racks and front to back to make sure the granola doesn’t burn in spots. It’s difficult to gauge when it’s finished based on color, because the color won’t really change. The best way is to check it after 45 minutes– let it sit out at room temperature for about 10 minutes, and if it gets hard and crispy, it’s finished. If it’s still not crunchy after this time, continue to bake it in 10-15 minute increments until it’s done.
Once it’s out of the oven, let it cool undisturbed, without stirring—if you stir it too much, you’ll break up the clumps! Once it’s cool, add the dried fruit, if you’re using it. Transfer the granola to a large airtight container or plastic storage bags. Store at room temperature or in the freezer.