I don’t think I’ve ever met a handful of granola that I didn’t like.
The only thing I don’t like about granola is how expensive storebought granola can be. I don’t understand how manufacturers can get away with charging so much for so little. One little bag of granola can be $6.99 or more, and it’s so simple to make.
I also don’t like how addictive granola is but I can’t help you with that one since I couldn’t keep my hands off this stuff.
To make this batch of fall-flavored crunchy clusters, I simply combined the ingredients in one big bowl, stirred, and watched as the oats were drenched in a rich, amber-hued liquid.
The liquid coating that bathes the oats is a blend of pumpkin puree, peanut butter, coconut oil, molasses, agave (or honey) and is infused with the spices and flavors of fall, including cinnamon and brown sugar, nutmeg, cloves, and pumpkin pie spice. That’s some bath water, let me tell you.
I transferred it onto a baking sheet and baked it off. This is not rocket science. It’s granola.
The baking process is a two-stage one, with the dried fruit being added in the second half of baking so that it doesn’t char before the oats firm up and turn into granola.
When you’re ready to bake the granola, keep it light and airy on the baking sheet rather than packing it down. Air needs to be able to circulate to dry out the oats and create those crunchy little balls of granola glory.
After baking for about 20 to 25 minutes, the bottom of some of the oat pieces, especially around the edges of the baking sheet, will have begun to brown and crisp up. Give the oats a good tossing and stirring on the baking sheet, and add the dried fruit of your choice now.
I used a blend of raisins and dried cranberries. The golden raisins are sweet and the dried cranberries are a little bit tart. The dried cranberries puffed and plumped up while baking and I thought only fresh cranberries plumped up, but I was wrong.
If you want to add nuts or seeds, go for it. I like nuts and seeds, but never in baked goods or in sweets, including in my granola, so I kept them out.
You could also add coconut flakes, pretzel sticks, or just about anything that you have laying around that sounds like it could be good. It will probably work out just fine.
Bake it for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until it’s sufficiently crunchy and browned.
Watch the granola closely in the second round of baking because it won’t seem crunchy and done, especially in the middle section of the baking sheet, but it firms up quite dramatically as it cools.
You don’t want to end up with burnt little rocks, which can happen since the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, brown sugar, molasses, peanut butter and vanilla are all inherently dark, and get darker during the baking process. It can be hard to discern normal darkness from burnt, which is why you need to keep a watchful eye and use the sniff test.
Once your house is so ridiculously perfumed with the scents of fall and you just cannot stand one more second of it and you want to climb into the oven and camp out because the scent is just too delicious to resist, I’d say the granola is probably done. I also think this sniff test works well with banana bread or chocolate chip cookies and that once you intensely smell the scent of the food wafting through the house, it’s likely ready.
I love varied textures in food and between crunchy oat clusters, chewy dried fruit, and firm chocolate chips, I was in texture nirvana. I added the chocolate chips after the granola was baked and had cooled because I wanted whole chips to bite down into, but they can be added during the second half of baking for a melted chocolate-coated version.
If a pumpkin pie met a gingerbread house and stopped off for Thanksgiving dinner for cranberry sauce and a smidge of chocolate along the way, that’s what we’re working with in terms of flavors. Pumpkin dominates the profile, and it’s enhanced by the molasses, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
There’s a hint of both peanut butter and coconut from the coconut oil. Canola oil may be used you don’t have or like coconut oil; however, you may want to work on that coconut oil situation.
There’s no reason to ever pay five bucks again for a handful of storebought granola, which I find is frequently tasteless, burnt, or stale. Make your own and feel free to customize your blend. I provided some options and suggestions in the recipe section.
Now the only problem you’ll have now is reaching for one more handful, one more handful. One more handful.
Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Granola (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)
Makes about 5 cups granola
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup agave or honey (use agave to keep vegan)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup coconut oil, in liquid state or melted (canola or vegetable oil may be substituted)
1 tablespoon unsulphered molasses (blackstrap may be used, but it’s more pungent)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon+ cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon+ pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch salt, optional
3 1/2 cups old-fashioned whole rolled oats (not quick cook or instant; use certified gluten-free oats if necessary)
To be added halfway through baking
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used 3/4 cup Trader Joe’s raisin medley and 3/4 cup dried cranberries; try diced medjool dates, apricots, candied ginger or your favorite dried fruit)
1 cup nuts and/or seeds, optional (I used none)
To be added after baking
1 cup+ semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 300F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a Silpat liner, parchment paper, or spraying very well with cooking spray; set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine pumpkin puree, peanut butter, agave or honey, brown sugar, coconut oil, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and whisk until mixture is smooth and combined (If you don’t keep all of these spices on hand, that’s okay; use what you have. All spices should be added to taste, increasing the amounts if you prefer more intensely-flavored granola and noting that the intensity will fade a bit during baking so that even if the coating mixture tastes a bit bold prior to baking, it mellows out somewhat). Add the oats and stir to coat. Transfer mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread it uniformly and keep it piled loosely; don’t pack it down. It will take up the entire surface of a standard-sized large baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes.
Remove granola from the oven and stir and fluff it up. Add the dried fruit and optional nuts or seeds and stir to incorporate and disperse them. Keep the mixture piled loosely and and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until edge pieces of granola have browned and crisped, even if center pieces are less well done, which is okay because granola will harden up considerably more while it cools. If you prefer extra crunchy granola, you wish to bake for closer to 30 minutes on this second round but take care not to burn it, which becomes a bit tricky to judge well-done from burnt because the mixture is inherently brown and gets browner during baking.
Allow granola to cool on the baking sheet for at least 30 minutes before sprinkling with chocolate chips and stir to disperse them. If granola is not sufficiently cooled before adding the chocolate chips, they will melt, which is fine too; but I wanted whole chips in this batch. Transfer granola to a gallon-sized ziptop food storage bag or into an airtight container. Granola will keep for at least 2 weeks at room temperature in an airtight ziptop bag or container.
The recipe is highly adaptable and you can make substitutions:
From the type of nut butter used – try almond butter, cookie butter spread/Biscoff, Nutella (you may need to alter the quantity of oats used or baking time because many other nut butters and spreads tend to be runnier and thinner than peanut butter)
The quantity and types of spices used in the coating mixture – try cardamom, garam masala, or mix and match the various spices listed based on what you have on hand
The type of dried fruit used – try diced medjool dates, dried apricots, dried or candied ginger, or another favorite dried fruit
Add nuts or seeds – I don’t prefer nuts and rarely seeds in my granola but try honey roasted peanuts, salted peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
The baking chips used – try butterscotch, white, milk, or peanut butter chips; toffee bits, or diced candy bars such as Snickers, Butterfinger, or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Take care that all ingredients used are suitable for your dietary needs. As written, the recipe is vegan and gluten-free. See the end of this post for a discussion on oats and their gluten status. Use certified ingredients as necessary.
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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Bars (No-Bake, Vegan, GF)
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Do you like granola or have a favorite recipe?
Feel free to link up your favorite recipes.