I’m no longer surprised when, the night before were meant to leave Montana, we decide to stay an extra day. Because a ridiculous amount of snow fell and buried the car, because torrential rainstorms were tracked along our route, because there are more raspberries to pick and it would truly be a shame to leave them un-plucked, or because a very nice case of wine is being delivered and we should really stick around to taste it.
This trip, I recognize that I even packed a bit extra – extra recipes that is. For when we fit in another dinner, another day in the snow. How I pack in my suitcase for travel doesn’t change much (more on this in the month to come) regardless of the place, and this goes double for Montana – a destination where we live in jeans, t-shirts or whatever we wore to play in during the day. There’s no reason to pack “outfits,”; no one will notice. No, I packed a few extra recipes when crowds gather, we get snowed in, or work up a particularly good appetite we’ll want them on hand.
This and this are favorites to whip out while out here, because we always have some way of making an iteration with whatever fruits we have on the trees. But this week, I’d already made this with the rest of the apples from the trees in the front yard. So, early one morning I gave this sweet + salty spiced granola recipe I’ve been tweaking a try. I had a feeling that what I had on hand was a winner, but in just one morning this recipes went from the status of “pretty darn worthwhile” to superstar.
The original recipe came from the Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee Cookbook – a not so secret favorite of mine. The recipes in the book are all straight from the offerings at their cafes across the country, but they always make me think of San Francisco. (This cake is another favorite inspired by the same cookbook.) This isn’t the first (or probably, the last) recipe for granola on this site; this was my most recent favorite, (and this was before that) until I realized one morning that what the recipe was missing was satisfying, crave worthy chunks. I have big plans for this granola, but in the meantime it’s just too good not to share with you. The salty/sweet, crunchy clumps of toasty oats and nuts are completely addictive and delicious straight with milk, sprinkled over oatmeal, or even eaten straight from the hand on a long road trip.
So, I adapted the quantities of ingredients (the oil, and sugar specifically to make it a bit less like granola dessert!) I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s a good maple or honey or molasses version of this granola too. I love to use pecans, almonds and walnuts here but use whatever nuts you have on hand, and toss in some dried fruits if you like. The step where you warm the sugar with the water is crucial because you’re making a nice caramel that binds those clumps! If you have the option to bake the granola in a convection oven, this will cut your cooking time in half. Also, if you have a whole vanilla bean to scrape and add here that is excellent, but of course vanilla extract (or almond extract!) will do just fine. No matter what you do, memorize this one for future use. You won’t be sorry.
You’ll have to excuse the lack of photographs for this one; we just finished our journey along snowy, empty roads from Montana this morning (munching chunks of granola.) I’ll share some more photographs of this favorite place soon. In the meantime, I hope these granola chunks get your week off on the right foot. Stay warm out there and enjoy! xo-L
- 1 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup cacao nibs
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 3/4 tsp Maldon sea salt (or other flaky sea salt)
- 1/3 cup coconut oil, warmed to liquid
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or one vanilla bean split and scraped
- Preheat your oven to 250°F
- Next, in a small heavy saucepan (or in a heatproof bowl in the microwave,) combine the water and the coconut sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. (In the microwave, I suggest zapping the bowl in 30 second increments, stirring in between and watching for the mixture to boil.) Let cool.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, nibs, spices and salt and mix until combined. Add the oil and the vanilla extract to the brown sugar syrup and stir until combined then pour over the oat mixture. Mix well with your hands (I know this sounds messy, but it really is the best tool for the job) until the mixture is evenly combined and uniform in texture. Rinse your hands, then pat the oat mixture into the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet (13x18 inch) or two smaller baking sheets. Pat down the mixture in an even layer; it will be thick but shouldn't be higher than the rim of the pan.
- Bake the mixture until golden brown, roughly 60 minutes in a convection oven, and 75 minutes in a standard oven. Use a large metal spatula to flip the granola, keeping as many of the large clumps intact as possible. Return the granola to the oven and bake until its golden brown on this side as well, is completely dry and is no longer soft to the bite. If you're baking in convection, you might not need more than just 10 minutes or so to achieve this. But, in a standard oven, the granola may need another 60 minutes.
- Store the granola in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to two weeks.