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Air fryer granola with chocolate and chile is our crunchy ideal

By Justine Lee Special to the Washington Post

I find granola a truly inspired concept. It’s oats at their best, not mushy nor lost in an anemic energy bar. I can eat it sitting down, standing up, on-the-go or whenever the craving beckons (read: all the time).

But as much I love granola, it has never been as easy as ABC to get the ideal crunch I was after. Then I discovered the key to low-fuss granola: Make it in the air fryer, which turns out morsels that exceed even my crunchiest dreams.

Adding egg whites into the equation – a technique popularized by Liz Prueitt in “Tartine All Day” – transforms the pieces into fun-size boulders. Each chunk will vary in size, but I think that adds to the appeal.

A simple granola is fine and good, but toss in rich chocolate cut with tingly aromatics, such as chile oil, ginger and cinnamon, and you get a sweet heat I liken to a cup of Mexican hot chocolate. Why stop there? For more texture, I add whole almonds and big, unsweetened coconut flakes, too. Go ahead and experiment with myriad dried goods occupying your pantry.

Once you’ve designed your granola, line the basket of your air fryer with parchment paper with enough overhang to use it as a sling for easy removal. Bake it for 20 minutes, then let it cool inside the appliance for an additional 30 minutes for audibly crunchy clusters that quicken the heartbeat of any granola lover.

Decidedly not too sweet, and mildly savory, this air fryer granola is glorious in many applications. Pile clusters atop your morning yogurt with fruit such as bananas, berries or pomegranate seeds. Finish a salad or soup as you would with croutons.

For dessert, crumble on vanilla ice cream. Gift it by the jarful, or eat it by the fistful. Whichever path you choose, know this: There’s no wrong way to air fry granola.

Air Fryer Chocolate Chile Crisp Granola

⅓ cup whole unsalted and roasted almonds

⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

¼ cup candied ginger, finely diced if in large chunks

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola oil

2 teaspoons chili crisp

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon fine salt

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 large egg white (see variations below)

In a medium bowl, toss the almonds, chocolate, coconut flakes and candied ginger to combine. Line the basket of your air fryer with parchment paper with enough overhang to use it as a sling.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, maple syrup, sugar, oil, chili crisp, cinnamon and salt until well combined. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in the oats until fully coated.

Add the egg white and stir until well combined. Add the almond mixture and stir until well combined. Spread the granola mixture onto the lined air fryer basket in a thin, even layer. Set the air fryer to 300 degrees and bake for 20 minutes, or until the granola is deep brown and feels dry to the touch.

Turn off the air fryer and let the granola sit in the closed basket for about 30 minutes, or until slightly cooled and hardened. Carefully lift the granola using the parchment overhang and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Then, break into big chunks. Serve, or transfer to an airtight container.

Variations

Oven version: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Spread the granola mixture in a thin even layer on the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, gently stirring halfway and spreading evenly again, until the granola is a deep brown and feels dry to the touch.

Turn off the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes in the oven. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack until completely cooled, then break into big chunks. Serve, or transfer an airtight container.

Vegan version: Replace the egg white with 30 grams of aquafaba from a can or home-cooked beans, such as chickpeas, and swap vegan chocolate chips for the semisweet chocolate.

Yield: 16 servings (makes 4 cups)

Storage notes: Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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