soul satisfying granola...Chocked full of all good things, I've always been a fan of granola. Growing up, I remember the Nature Valley Oats 'N Honey cereal box was always my go-to when we got to take our pick of cereals during our Sunday trip to the market. Back then, granola was something you bought, you certainly didn't think to make it yourself.
At least, that was what I thought until a trip to an English village changed my mind. My mother and I stayed at an inn in Stratford-upon-Avon for a few days and each morning we feasted on big bowls of homemade muesli. I'd never heard of muesli before that trip, but basically interpreted it as loose granola in that all the ingredients were not in jaw-breaker-like clumps, but rather a mixture of individual ingredients. It was incredible, and so pleasingly simple.
Over the years, I've dabbled in a few different granola recipes. All with pretty okay success...honestly, it's fairly impossible to make a bad batch of granola. But, I think I may have stumbled across my favorite granola recipe ever. I had to wing in a few ingredient substitutions, but I think that may have serendipitously been the secret to my success.
This recipe's texture is much more on the muesli side, but you can control how much clumping you'd like by adding in more or less honey and being a little gentler when you toss the granola around during cooking...I did not flip my batch around with kid-gloves.
Feel free to make substitutions where you'd like. I just suggest that you substitute like items for like items (ie. almonds for walnuts, sunflower or flax seed for chia seed, oat bran for wheat germ, raisins for cranberries). One of the ingredients is a little harder to find in some stores...cacao nibs are basically raw cacao beans (the bean that is at the heart of quality chocolate). They are high in antioxidants and magnesium. Some folks say they are good right out of the bag, but frankly, I don't quite agree and recommend using them in baked items. They can be easily omitted in this recipe, though I do think they might have been the touch that made this batch so yummy, especially when paired with the cranberries.
Cranberry and Cacao Granola
4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup oat bran
1/3 cup cacao nibs
2/3 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds or flax meal
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 T maple syrup
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp ceylon cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line baking sheet with foil or parchment.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, cacao nibs, chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts and set aside.
In a small saucepan on medium heat, combine salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla and bring mixture to a boil. Pour mixture over the dry ingredients and stir well. Spread the mixture out evenly on baking sheet.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until mixture is light golden brown and crispy. Make sure to stir mixture two times during cooking.
Cool on a wire rack until room temperature. Add in dried cranberries and mix. Store in an airtight container.