Homemade Big Cluster Granola... with coconut, almonds and cranberries. Breakfast cereals aren't something I normally have in our home.... well, unless I have guests. Otherwise, I just won't buy cereal. Not that I don't like them, it's just that I didn't grow up eating cereal.... or oatmeal for that matter. Oh and pancakes or waffles?... I don't ever remember having seen them in our home. Crepes is a different story, though:). But I have to say, on occasion, my mom would buy cornflakes. I suppose cornflakes were OK because they weren't coated in sugar. Yet, even cornflakes were't something that we ate on a normal basis. I remember it being more of a treat during the weekend... as a snack really.
Our breakfasts were a bit different. Depending on the day, we would have anything from scrambled eggs, to some sort of deli meat on a slice of french bread, or maybe liverwurst spread on toast. Sometimes it could be a hard boiled egg with some type of cheese... at times we would have half a bagel and cream cheese. But eggs were limited to once or twice a week. And all our breakfasts were complemented with fresh vegetables, be it tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, or a combination. Most times, olives were added as well. Interestingly though, our drink was always tea with lemon and sugar. No milk or juices.... milk and juice didn't settle with our stomachs so well.
After I got married, things sort of changed when it came to breakfast... my mom wasn't there to set the breakfast table:). But I began to rely on eating fresh fruits for breakfast... I figured an apple and banana was much healthier than sugar laden cereals. It was easier this way, because my husband and I could munch on an apple on the way to work. That's when the apple and banana came in handy... and I suppose how the cereal never really made it as a regular staple in our home. Later on, I did start including oatmeal as part of our meals... though it wasn't necessarily for breakfast, but rather for dinner. Yet, at times, I would tire of the cooked down soft oatmeal, and would switch to making crunchy granola from time to time.
I particularly like chunky granola... don't care for the loose type very much. Oh, I'll eat it, but I much rather eat granola with big chunks of clusters. So when I first started making my own granola, I used to stir the granola every so often while it was baking, but that never gave me chunky granola. Then one day I baked the granola as usual, even stirred it, but in the end I left it to cool in the pan for some time as I was busy doing something else. When I returned, I noticed the granola had clumped up in areas... and I had clusters of granola! It was then I suddenly realized the need to allow the granola to cool completely before taking it off the pan... over time I learned other tricks and tips. Recently though, I came across America's Test Kitchen granola recipe... and noticed they used the same technique of allowing the granola to cool completely! Except they went one step further, and didn't stir... at all! Loved the idea of not stirring.
So I chose to make my own granola recipe with ingredients I like and stuck to the technique of not stirring and allowing the granola to cool completely in the pan. Well, it was simply amazing! The granola stuck together and you could literally pick it up as a full sheet... similar to a "bark". Just loved it. All I had to do was to break it up to whatever size I liked... big pieces or small pieces. You could even crush some to make the loose type. In any case, I'm excited to share with you my version of "crisp and clustery" granola. It's so much better... and so much cheaper than store bought. Hope you enjoy...
Note: While I chose to use coconut oil, you can use vegetable oil, if you like.
Dried fruit is optional, really... and you can substitute the cranberries for other dried fruit.
Opt to add some flax, chia, or other seeds for the coconut, or in addition to.
The almonds can be substituted with slivered almonds or other types of nuts and/or seeds.
You will need:
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (can use Gluten-Free)
1 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
2 cups raw almonds, chopped coarse
1 TBS cinnamon, or to taste
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 cups craisins or other dried fruit
- Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a sauce pan add maple syrup, coconut oil, brown sugar and salt. Heat on high, stirring until mixture comes to a boil. Allow mixture to boil for for 30 seconds to a minute or until mixture sort of thickens up a bit. Not too much. Add vanilla. Stir to combine.
3. Pour maple syrup mix over oat mixture. Mix until thoroughly coated.
4. Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread across sheet into thin, even layer (about 3/8 inch thick).
5. Using stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact.
6. Bake on top third rack for about 20 minutes. Change pan to lower third rack and bake for an additional 20 minutes or so... check at 18 minutes, as ovens vary. The granola should be golden brown, though. It's +/- 20 minutes.
7. Remove granola from oven and allow to cool at room temperature, for about 1 hour.
8. Break the cooled granola into pieces of whatever size you prefer. Stir in dried fruit if using. I like to store my granola in the fridge.