Thursday, February 6, 2014

Crispy Granola with Clusters

     I have been practicing the art of fine granola making…playing with ingredients and textures, spices and sweeteners, nuts and fruits, grains and flours, temperatures and time… and I have found that there are many ways to make a great granola and perhaps different ideas on what is the best kind of granola.

     I know for me, I was looking for a granola that was lightly crispy- not a painful hard crunch nor a moist chewy texture but that delightful delicate crispy crunch. I love the texture of this recipe, which is created by the ratios and the temperature. Adding the fruit later means it will not harden into little pebbles.

     I like my granola to be sweet, although this recipe can be easily adapted to have less sweeteners and fruit. I want mine to be full of nuts with an impressive protein and nutrient ratio, which will mean there are more calories, so the calorie conscious may want to reduce the nuts in this.

   I really like having clusters of granola that can be eaten like a snack but I also like the bits that can go on top of yogurt, fruit or cereal. This recipe gives both because about half can be broken into clusters while the rest will naturally break into smaller spoon-able bits.

      I realize this recipe has many ingredients but it can be simplified. Let me explain some of the whys, as I understand them.

      I begin with grinding up some oats, almonds and flax seeds. Grinding them into a flour like consistency helps to cement the granola together a bit for clusters. You could skip the flax, but it is very nutritious so I hope you won’t. Almond meal adds both a binder and a bit of oil. If you do not have a blender or food processor you could buy flax seed meal, almond meal and substitute  1/3  whole wheat flour for the ground oats.

      Next I add two kinds of oats, and sometimes other things like buck wheat. Old fashion oats look nice and have a great texture; they can get crisp or add a little chew. Quick oats, not instant, are broken down so they help to bind and keep things from being too crunchy. In a pinch you could use just one or the other.   A little flour of some kind also helps with cluster making but can be omitted.  

    Next…spice in granola? Yes, I love cardamom in it best of all. Get it fresh and just let the fragrance of it in your baking granola drive the house crazy. Originally I was trying different mixes with various combos of spice and flavored oils along with fruits and nuts. Cardamom was added to a pistachio cherry blend but I liked it so well I began adding it to every batch and now I am hooked!

    For sweeteners, the maple and brown sugar really are kind of crucial. I think you can add honey instead of the maple syrup but I love the flavor of maple. Find a pure maple syrup and enjoy! You could use less sugar for sure, but again. I have a sweet tooth or two as does my family.

     For oils, you could use a half cup of anything but I really love the combo of coconut and olive oil. I think they are good for you and tasty, giving the granola its wonderful texture. I tried using a few TBSP of blood orange infused olive oil from We Olive in the mix and I have to say it was awesome!

   Extracts can be substituted or left out altogether, but I love the flavor!

   Using a pan liner is a very good idea. Pressing it all done as well as you can is great for cluster making. You could skip cutting and putting the pan back into the oven but again, it really does help.

   If you prefer big clusters, don’t add any fruit later. Just leave it in the oven for a bit longer, then let it cool for a longer time before cutting or breaking. If you want fruity granola, adding fruit later is best so it does not get overdone.

   All this to say, feel free to play with this recipe to find your own sweet granola! I am sure you will find willing test subjects to help you sample each batch and find the very best for you!

Crispy Granola with Clusters

For the blender or food processor:

½ cup oats, either old fashioned or quick cook

¼ cup flax seeds (or use premade ground flax seed meal)

1/3 cup almond slices or almond meal

Into the mixing bowl:

1 ½ cups old fashioned oats

1 ½ cups quick oats

¼ cup whole wheat flour or gluten free flour

¾ tsp. cardamom (If you don’t want cardamom, use cinnamon or other)

½-1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (Or cinnamon and ginger)

½ tsp. salt

½ cup sliced almonds

 ½-3/4  cup seeds, pumpkin or sunflower

1- 1 ½  cup other nuts—mix ½ cup each  2-3 of these or choose—pecans, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, brazil nuts, etc.

Optional nuts and seeds--½ cup shredded coconut, optional 1/4 cup sesame seeds optional

For the pan:
1/2 cup maple syrup

½ cup+ brown sugar (you can add a bit more if you like it sweeter)

¼-1/3  cup mild oil, olive oil is great, esp. orange infused olive

¼ cup coconut oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract ( You may use half vanilla and half maple or other extract)

¾ cup chopped dates

OTHER OPTIONAL FRUIT TO ADD IN –1/2 cup of any-- dried cherries, cranberries, coconut chips or raisins

Line 9 x 15 ish pan with parchment paper or heavy duty foil

Heat oven to 300F

Using a blender or food processor, finely chop the ½ cup of oats, flax seeds, if using, and ¼ almonds until very finely chopped.

In large bowl mix together the oats, flax seeds, and almonds you just ground up along with the quick and old fashioned oats, flour, spices, nuts, seeds, optional coconut  but DO NOT ADD IN dried fruit, syrup, sugar, oils and extracts.

In small pan, heat syrup, sugar until smooth and bubbly. Lower heat and add oils. Mix well and cook for a minute. Add chopped dates and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and add extracts, if you are using them.

Pour over oat mixture and stir very well.

Turn out into  foil or  parchment paper lined pan and press into pan smoothly with the spoon.

Bake in 300F oven for 35-40 minutes or so, turning pan half way through if needed.

Note: If you are adding dried fruit Remove granola from oven after 20 minutes and after and press any dried fruit you are using into granola. Return to oven and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes until starting to crisp.

After granola has baked 35-40 minutes and is starting to get crisp and firm, remove from oven and let cool. Cut it up a bit or break up into clusters and leave them in pan or place them back in the pan and bake for another 5-10 minutes.

Let cool uncovered for a couple hours until completely cooled.

Maple Almond Granola Clusters

For those of you who love the clusters!


  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (I made my own. See below for easy instructions.)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/3 vegetable oil (or melted coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark, but light brown sugar will work too)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 300F. Line 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In large bowl, toss together oats, almond flour, whole wheat flour, slivered almonds and salt. Pour canola oil evenly over the mixture and stir.  Set aside.

Combine maple syrup and dark brown sugar in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.  Pour sugar/maple mixture over oat mixture and stir until everything begins to come together. Break up any lumps and make sure the wet ingredients are evenly coating the dry. The granola will be VERY sticky.

Press into prepared baking pan, flattening the top so it is perfectly even. I used the bottom of a spatula (sprayed with nonstick spray) to flatten down the top.

Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pan every 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for a couple minutes. Cut into squares and break up into smaller cluster pieces - the granola will be hot so be careful! Throw the clusters back into the baking pan and bake the clusters for 10 more minutes at 300F.

Remove from oven and let the clusters cool completely - make sure they are cooling uncovered because the air will help give them a nice crunch. Enjoy!

Homemade Almond Flour

  1. Pour 1/2 cup almonds into a food processor or blender. Pulse a few times until they are finely ground. Do not let it grind for too long or the nuts will release too much of their oils and get pasty (which is what you would want if you were making almond butter.)
  2. Once the nuts are ground, pass them through a sifter.  Any larger pieces that didn't make it through can be ground up again.

*1/2 cup of almonds = a little more than 1/2 cup almond flour.  Any leftover flour can be eaten - I threw mine into a smoothie!

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  1. Fabulous looking granola!! :) Hope you are keeping well.

  2. A great-looking granola, Denise! Thanks for sharing.