When I was little, we had a scratch-and-sniff Christmas book. The main character (a bear) gets an orange in his stocking, and to this day, the smell of orange zest gives me all the feels of the most magical childhood holiday season. Thus, by adding orange zest to this granola, I unintentionally filled my house with Christmas, and I couldn’t have been happier about it.
Another confession: I recognize that granola is really just crumbled cookies disguised as “health food”, but I love granola so much that given the choice, I would often choose it over cookies. It’s a texture thing maybe? And that it’s not overly sweet?
So now I’m certain that the recipe for a perfect day is to combine a favorite food with Christmas magic, then add brown butter, a touch of sweetness, cherries, figs, and sea salt. It took all the self control I could muster to keep myself from licking the mixing bowl clean, and I found myself returning to the kitchen every 60 seconds or so for “just one more bite” of the finished product.
Even better news? This granola can be packaged up in cute weck jars and gifted for the holidays.
*A note on sugar: I don’t like granola to be too sweet, so I intentionally used less sugar than most other recipes call for. If you do like a sweet granola, I’d recommend bumping up the brown sugar significantly – probably up to about ½ or ¾ cup would be fine. More sugar will also help the granola form clusters, so if this is important to you, amp up the sweetness. With the amount of sugar I used, clusters were formed, but they were pretty weak.
- 1/3-1/2 cup dried cherries
- 1/3-1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
- 1 cup gluten-free whole rolled oats, 2/3 cup ground oats (use a blender or food processor)
- 3 cups pecans, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (up to 1 tsp if you are a big salt fan, like me!)
- Zest from 1 orange
- 3/4 cup butter
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar (see note on sugar above)
- About 3 tablespoons water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Soak the dried cherries and figs in hot water for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, brown the butter in a pot over medium heat. The butter will froth, and crackle, and eventually the milk solids will begin to brown. As soon as the butter has changed color, IMMEDIATELY remove from heat to prevent burning. Stir in the brown sugar and water. Return the buttery mixture to the heat until it reaches a boil. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the strained dried fruit, oats, pecans, salt, and orange zest. Stir until evenly dispersed, then pour in the butter mixture, and continue to stir until well combined. (If the mixture seems a bit dry, add more water. If it seems wet, add more oats.)
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and pour on the granola mixture, dispersing so that it is about 1/2 inch thick throughout. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the granola from the oven. With a fork, break the layer of granola into small clusters. Return to the oven for another ~15-20 minutes. (Check the granola every 10 minutes to make sure the nuts don’t burn.) Let the granola cool on the sheet pan, then package in airtight containers. Enjoy on yogurt, with your milk of choice, or simply eaten by the handful!