I am no baker. Despite being my gateway to the kitchen — which speaks more to my love of sugar than anything else — I have little patience for recipes and rules, both central to the delicate reactions that turn butter and flour into cookies and cakes. When I bake, I bake like a cook: impulsive and sloppy, eyeballing measurements and swapping ingredients at will. Baking is science, and I’m the bad kid who shows up on exam day and passes on sheer probability.
Mainly, I stick to utility baking: bread and granola. Both are fairly forgiving canvases that let me operate on taste and touch. There’s less sugar involved, but no less love of the process. And nothing like knowing I gave birth to the base of my basic-ass avocado toast.
What I miss is the generosity involved in conventional baking. Precious few can survive on cookies alone (though I seem to be following a disproportionate number of them on Instagram), so when we bake, we bake to feed. I think of the batches I used to churn out for classmates and coworkers: YOU GET A CARB! AND YOU GET A CARB! How natural and rewarding it felt to share. I miss that feeling. Granola, however fortifying, doesn’t carry the same allure. Cooking for one, however gratifying, can be a lonely gig.
I don’t always DIY. I get lazy and shell out for bougie artisanal granola. But even if some anonymous oat master nails the grain-to-nut-to-sweetener ratio, all those maple-glazed pecans eventually start to taste the same. And it starts to feel demeaning that all I contributed was $12 for the bag (oof).
So I bake. I mean, granola! One of the easiest things to make at home, and one where we stand to gain the most from doing so. If I’m going to call it dinner — as I have on more than one occasion — I can at least know that I gave birth to my bougie-ass bowl. And then I’ll tell you about it, in hopes you’ll agree that eating faintly spiced chocolate for breakfast (or dinner) is a commendable life choice. And I’ll know that, if only from a distance, I did my part.
Mexican Chocolate Granola
Warning: Your home will smell like a churro factory for a torturous length of time, and I will not apologize. Cooking it low and slow keeps the little bits from burning in the time it takes for the oats to crisp up. This makes a dainty batch for those who (ahem) cannot commit to a whole box of cereal and also cannot be trusted with granola. Feel free to double, triple, and send whatever you don’t finish to me.
1 1/2 cups oats (or buckwheat, pictured here because I Can’t Be Tamed)
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup cacao nibs
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Generous pinch of cayenne
1. Preheat oven to 225. Whisk together coconut oil, honey, cocoa, vanilla and spices in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in dry ingredients.
2. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about an hour, stirring and/or taste-testing every 20 minutes. Let cool completely. If it’s still chewy, pop it back in the oven and dry that sucker out.