If I'm not eating something delicious, I'm usually thinking about making something delicious. Case in point, my life so far. Similarly to last week's cookie craving, this week has been all about granola. I happen to be a huge fan of these golden, nutty clusters. From the time I wake up in the morning, through my mid-day snack slump to right before dinner, I can be found sneaking a handful of granola. I love keeping it around the house, but store-bought granola can be so expensive, so I started making my own. For my cranberry maple nut granola, I toss rolled oats, sliced almonds and raw cashews in a honey-maple brown sugar sauce. I heat light brown sugar, white sugar, dark maple syrup and honey over the stovetop, which makes the sauce easier to toss with the granola and gives all those wonderful flavors plenty of time to get to know each other. Surprisingly delicate and mild, the flavors in the honey-maple sauce all balance one another beautifully.
As far as my preferences go, I like my granola lightly browned with a bit of crunch. I place my baking sheets in the lower third of the oven and bake them over low heat for approximately 2 hours or until they are lightly browned and dry. It takes a little extra time, but all that love and patience will make the results well worth the wait.
Cranberry Maple Nut Granola
4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup ( I use the darker-colored maple syrup, which has a richer flavor)
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup light extra virgin olive oil or other neutral tasting oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews, roughly chopped
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup slivered almonds
1 1/3 cup dried cranberries
In a large saucepan, bring the brown sugar, white sugar, maple syrup, honey, and water to a boil. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the oats, cashews, almonds, coconut and salt. Stir oil and vanilla into sugar mixture; pour over oat mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to two 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pans coated with cooking spray. Adjust the oven racks to the lower third of the oven and bake at 250° for approximately 2 hours or until dry and lightly browned, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks. Toss in the dried cranberries. Store in an airtight container.