Unsweetened Granola: YESSS!!!!
We can finally enjoy granola more often! I am a granola fiend, but I use my sugar allowance very judiciously, with all my baked goods. The way my batch came out, I am totally obsessed. And I gave the bug to several friends already.
There are often some problems with the store bought variety. This is true even with the varieties labeled low sugar granola or unsweetened granola. Too often we end up with caloric and otherwise unhealthy boobie traps. We zoom in, we read the labels, and pretty soon we realize that what they meant by unsweetened just means it was not sweetened with sugar: It’s sweetened with honey, maple syrup or agave: All of these are sweeteners, are they not? Nothing annoys me more than disingenuous marketing. It is easy to end up with granola that is closer to candy, because we think of it as healthy, and is marketed as such, which is certainly NOT the case if it is loaded with sugars and trans fats!
Unsweetened Granola poses a unique challenge:
We rely on the sweetening agent to get the granola to form its trademark crunchy clumps. When it comes to granola, Crunchy is the operative word, and the sugar or other sweetener is what gets the ingredients to stick and cluster together.
OK, I’m so glad we had this little talk!
Now let’s make healthy granola! Vegan and Gluten-Free too, so you’ll be happy!
Exploring with naturally sweet ingredients
I start with all-natural unsweetened date paste (ingredients: Dates. End of story), or apricot paste, or fig paste. Please do not mistake silan or date syrup or any syrup for the real pure simple fruit paste thing. And if you didn’t get your hands on fruit paste, just use plump dried fruit.
And here’s what I do:
I mix that paste, or the dried fruit, with boiling water, all-natural applesauce, coconut oil or olive oil marked “light” (mild tasting) in a blender or food processor. I end up with a beautiful, creamy, viscous liquid that mimics honey or maple syrup perfectly, and thoroughly coats the dry ingredients. This mixture is substantially less sweet and healthier than all its counterparts made with sugar, honey, maple syrup or agave. My lovely crunchy clusters are now fully in sight, right after my batch comes out of the oven! Pure bliss!
I will start with basic unsweetened granola.
As you can expect, the recipe is quite elastic, and allows for endless permutations and variations. Just as long as you leave the wet-to-dry ingredient ratio unchanged, you will get exciting results each time. Scroll down and get more ideas!
And just because it’s me tinkering, the recipe is ideally streamlined.
The baking temperature is key:
You want low and slow cooking, to avoid scorching, and secure a perfect crunch. And if you have a dehydrator (unbelievable investment) do not hesitate to leave it in 7-8 hours at 160*F. It works beautifully too, and no maintenance at all.
This includes even Passover Granola!
The Passover adaptation is painless, easy and delicious! This is good news when you think of how many mediocre commercial Passover baked goods and snacks we come across. A nice big jar of Passover Granola will last you all week, plus you can easily double it, and make Passover Energy Balls (Scroll down for the recipe!)
Take your unsweetened granola places!
Here are just some examples:
- Make granola cookies and granola bars
- Sprinkle it on salads for a delicious healthy crunch
- Sprinkle on baked apples
- Just take it on the road with you, and enjoy as is: It is THAT good, and THAT healthy!
- Mix it in yogurt, or as a topping in a parfait or ice cream, or cottage cheese (I love that with cantaloupe, and quite often call it lunch!)
- Be a pal and gift a jar to a friend or two. Talk about Healthy Mishloach Manot Gift!
- Make energy balls: Just mix with room temperature nut or seed butter, shape into balls and chill
Attention Gluten-Free Friends:
This is for you too: No nuts, all seeds!
- 1 cup pure date paste, or 1 cup plump pitted dates, figs, apricots or other dried fruit, packed
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup unsweetened all-natural applesauce, store-bought OK
- 2/3 cup coconut oil, or olive oil marked "light", or nut or seed butter
- 10 cups old fashioned oats (Passover: 10 cups crushed matzah, affectionately called farfel)
- 5 cups total, in any combination: chopped nuts (be sure to use chopped, so the nuts are well distributed in the mixture), pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, unsweetened shredded coconut, cacao nibs or bittersweet chocolate chips
- 2-3 tablespoons of your favorite ground spices: Cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cardamom, vanilla extract, maple extract, lemon zest, orange zest etc
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 250 *F.
Blend the wet mixture ingredients in a blender or food processor until perfectly smooth.
Transfer to a mixing bowl, and toss in the dry mixture ingredients. Mix thoroughly, using your hands, until perfectly combined.
Arrange the mixture on two cookie sheets sprayed with vegetable spray, in shallow layers (remember: Shallow! No piling!)
Bake about 1 1/2 hours, giving a good stir to the mixture in each sheet, and switching the sheets on the racks, mid-baking.
Turn off the oven, and leave the sheets inside to crisp. The mixture will crisp as it cools. Check the cooled mixture, and if it needs more crisping, return to the oven at 250*F a few more minutes.
Store the granola in glass jars at room temperature.
Yields about a gallon granola.
Throughly mix 4-5 cups unsweetened granola with 1 cup nut or seed butter by hand. Shape the mixture into balls, and refrigerate to firm up. Serve the energy balls as is, or roll each ball in cocoa powder, chopped nuts or seeds, shredded coconut etc....