As much as I love a great cookie or bar recipe, they’re not recipes I use everyday. Definitely good to have in your back pocket, especially as a pastry chef, but not the kind of thing I want sitting around my apartment all the time. Mainly because I have no self control when it comes to devouring sweets. Granola, on the other hand, is a mainstay in my home. I treat it like popcorn or candy and snack on it relentlessly. I eat it for breakfast with yogurt. I top muffins with it. I even use it in plated desserts at work. Needless to say, I like granola. A lot.
Given the amount of granola I go through on a weekly basis, I’ve gone through quite few different recipes as time has gone by. Years ago, at a restaurant I was working in at the time, the Executive Chef asked me to create a savory granola that incorporated some dehydrated green olives he had made. Approaching that challenge I wanted to make sure that the end product had very distinct flavor profiles, and wrestled with how to incorporate them. Most granola carries a heavy brown sugar flavor, with any other flavors being brought in with added nuts and fruits. But I wanted the background flavor of the oats to really sing. So in looking over my basic recipe I realized I had been missing a huge opportunity to incorporate new flavors in the liquid component used to bind the granola into those lovely clumps and give it its telltale crispness. Most granola recipes rely heavily on oil and inverted sugars (maple syrup, honey, etc.) to achieve this. To get the results I wanted, I decided to replace most of the oil content with fruit purée, which is packed with sugars and flavor. For an added kick, the oil I would keep in the recipe (a little is necessary to crisp everything up perfectly) I would replace with coconut oil.
Long story short (I know, too late), I stumbled into the best granola recipe ever. Since then, I’ve used every fruit purée I could get my hands on to make different versions of this granola. For a while I was really into a passion fruit purée version with dehydrated blueberries. Then it was a black cherry purée and pecan iteration. My current version is definitely the best yet though. I love the combination of banana and coconut, and, let’s face it, it just plain easy to mash up a banana or two! For this recipe, I like to use the finest shredded coconut I can get my hands on. I prefer it texturally, but if you’re more a flaked coconut kind of gal or gent, feel free to switch it up! For that matter, if you’re not a coconut, or banana, or coconut and banana lover, use what you love or what you have on hand. The banana purée can be substituted out 1:1 for any fruit purée you prefer, and any cooking oil will do for the oil component.
Coconut Banana Granola (Yield: ~8 cups)
450g rolled oats
125g finely shredded, unsweetened coconut
120g dark brown sugar
2 tsp. Kosher salt
180g banana purée (from ~2 very ripe bananas)
100g honey ( I like darker wildflower honey, but any kind will work just fine)
2 tbsp. coconut oil
TT banana chips (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 350F and line two sheet trays with SilPats. Alternately, you can line your pans with parchment and very lightly spray with cooking spray.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the banana purée, honey and coconut oil. Place over low flame and heat, stirring often, just until coconut oil is melted and the mixture is fully combined. 3. In the meantime, chop the banana chips, if using, into medium-sized pieces.4. In a large bowl, combine the oats, shredded coconut, dark brown sugar, salt and chopped banana chips. Mix well to distribute everything evenly, breaking up any large chunks of brown sugar with your fingers as you go.5. Pour the warm liquid ingredients over the dry mixture and mix thoroughly with a rubber spatula until all the dry ingredients are evenly saturated. 6. Spread the granola onto your prepared pans. You want to give the granola enough space to cook evenly, but not so much that no clumps will form during baking. 7. Bake in the center of the oven for ~15-20 minutes, flipping and stirring the granola with a spatula every few minutes. The granola will brown quickly around the edges, so keep rotating the edges to the center, and vice versa. The granola is done when it is golden brown. It will crisp as it cools once it is out of the oven.
Now you’re free to enjoy your creation however you please! Aside from the obvious taste factor, another bonus of this recipe is that, due to the lesser amount of oil needed, this is a much healthier granola than you’ll find at the supermarket. Plus, anytime you can control the quality of the ingredients in your food, you’re way better off. I know I’m way over-advocating for this granola recipe, but, trust me, if you try it you’ll understand why!