It all started with a typical weekend shopping trip to Costco where I discovered a delicious and highly ADDICTING snack called Granola Clusters. You can find them in the Bakery section where they are sitting innocently on a table just waiting for unsuspecting passersby to put them in their cart. Little do these people know what will become of them once they decide to let these little morsels into their lives! Suddenly they become like Gollum in Lord of the Rings with their “PRECIOUS” granola snack!
I admit, I succumbed to the lure of the clusters and became ensnared in its’ powerful allure! I became obsessed with the idea of replicating them in my own kitchen so I wouldn’t risk running out! (After all, Costco is a good 30 minute drive from my house! What if I ran out and I couldn’t get to Costco right away? I couldn’t take that chance!) So I spent a good deal of the afternoon and evening on Monday trying to create my own version of this evil concoction.
The fact that I couldn’t find any recipes online that were even remotely like this stuff should have been a warning….THIS STUFF SHOULD NOT BE REPLICATED! It’s MUCH too addicting and in the wrong hands (say a former addict perhaps??!!) it could be dangerous. But I ignored all the red flags and carelessly pressed on in my desperate pursuit to make my own “homemade” crack….errrr….CLUSTERS!
Eventually I found a recipe that claimed to result in “granola clusters”….but maybe I was too far gone in my addiction at this point, because the recipe did NOT turn out how I had hoped! I wasn’t looking for subtle clustering of the granola….I needed BIG, CHUNKY, CHEWY, SATISFYING clusters! Thankfully, I still had enough “presence of mind” to make some changes to the recipe that resulted in what *I* think is actually BETTER than the original! Boy oh boy…did I luck out on this one! ;-)
Of course it still should have a warning label…because it’s still as addicting as SIN….but at least it’s HOMEMADE! ;-) (And yes, I AM eating it like candy as I type this post! Don’t judge me!) ;-)
Adapted from The Traveler’s Lunchbox
- 1 lb quick oats (I used gluten-free)
- 3 cups coarsely chopped raw nuts and/or seeds (I used 2 cups whole, roasted almonds and 1 cup sunflower seeds)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups dried fruit (I used 1 cup raisins, 1 cup cranberries)
- 1 cup, packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, coffee grinder or blender, grind half the oats to a fine powder (this apparently is KEY when making clusters! Helps make the granola hold together better).
In a large bowl, combine the whole oats, ground oats, nuts, spices, and dried fruit.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, butter and water and heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Stir in the salt and vanilla.
Pour this over the oats and nuts, stirring well to coat.
It should be moist – stir in another tablespoon or two of water if it isn’t. Let stand for about ten minutes.
Spread the mixture out on a large baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and stir, gently breaking up the mixture into small-to-medium sized clumps.
THIS IS THE POINT IN THE RECIPE WHERE THINGS BEGAN TO GO VERY WRONG FOR ME!
Mine was not clumping at all. It was delicious REGULAR granola…but definitely not the CLUSTERS I was going for.
Time to put my thinking cap on! After a few minutes of painful brain racking, I came up with an idea….but I had to work fast!
I dumped the still warm granola back into the big bowl I had originally mixed it in and added three more ingredients. Honey, maple syrup and more butter. Don’t ask me why…I was operating purely on instinct at this point…but my instincts were telling me I needed more moisture and stickiness….(What’s stickier than honey and maple syrup!?!)….and more butter just sounded like a good idea….so, I threw that in too.
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup melted butter
Pour the maple syrup, honey, and melted butter all over the ingredients in the bowl and give it another good stir. It should be nice and sticky and moist!
Now grab your mini muffin pans (or regular-sized muffin tins would work too), FIRMLY PRESS the sticky mixture into each cup, then return the granola “muffins” to the oven and bake another 15-20.
When the granola came out of the oven the “muffins” were nice and golden brown, extra crunchy on the outside and just slightly soft and chewy on the inside. Before they cool and harden completely, break each muffin up with your hands into bite-sized chunks and allow to cool completely. Store in a covered container at room temperature.
I can’t tell you how happy I was with how this ULTIMATELY turned out. The process to GET THERE was a little challenging but well worth it! And now that I’ve figured it out, NEXT TIME will be a cinch!
If you like snacking on granola….you simply have to try these.
Oh, and don’t worry…..I can stop anytime I want to! ;-)