Vanilla almond granola clusters

We've crept into the time of year when the mornings are cold, the sun is slow to come up and quick to disappear, and the leaves crunch underfoot. Fall is my favorite season, and it holds many memories for me of football games, new semesters, fresh starts, moving new places, and meeting new people. It's funny how our minds are able to connect memories to a particular sensation. The smell of crisp, autumn air transports me back to the days of cross-campus walks to the student union for study sessions. Walking through piles of crispy leaves reminds me of long weekend training runs. Smoky bonfires mean time spent with friends.

In this chapter of life where I work a full-time job and try to squeeze the rest of my life into my few free hours, I often feel like I'm missing out on all that fall has to offer. I'd love to enjoy every chilly, see-your-breath morning outside wrapped up in a blanket, enjoying a huge cup of French-pressed coffee and a steaming bowl of steel cut oats. I'm still trying to figure out how to work 40-hour weeks without sacrificing my interests or my sanity (if you know the secret, clue me in!), but for now, I'm trying to make the most of my busy mornings by slowing down and enjoying my French press on the comfort of my couch.

To me, this granola goes hand-in-hand with fall. It's sweet and subdued, crunchy and comforting. Feel free to adjust the sweetness to your liking. Replacing the honey with maple syrup would also be a delicious fall-ish touch. You can substitute sliced or slivered almonds here, but I think the big chunks of chopped almonds really make this granola shine. Enjoy it in yogurt or topped with milk, cereal-style.
I'm really loving this granola right now. I go through phases with my granola preferences: sometimes I want one with less sugar and more crunch, and other times I'm all about the sweet clusters. This is one of those cluster times, and these clusters are fantastic.
Make this and try to make it last longer than 2 hours. I dare you.
Vanilla almond granola clusters
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Makes about 4 cups
Note: This recipe makes great crunchy-soft granola. Oxymoronic, I know, but you know that great granola texture that's got great crunch but also has a little give? That's the result here. Yum!

1/3 cup almond flour (make your own - directions below)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons oil (I've been loving avocado oil lately)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. To make almond flour, put 1/3 cup almonds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with an S-blade and run the machine for about 30-45 seconds until the almonds are pulverized to a powder. Don't process too long or you'll end up with almond butter (delicious, but not what we're going for here. When almond butter is the goal, go here). If you end up with some small pieces mixed in with your flour, sift them out with a fine mesh strainer and process them further.
  2. Preheat oven to 300F. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper and set aside. 
  3. Combine the almond flour, oats, chopped almonds, and salt in a bowl. Drizzle the oil evenly over the mixture and stir.
  4. Heat the brown sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then remove from heat and add the vanilla. 
  5. Pour the sugar-vanilla mixture over the oat mixture. Stir to coat evenly, breaking up any clumps. Press the granola firmly into the prepared pan and use the back of a silicone spatula to flatten the top.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and allow the granola to cool for 15 minutes. Lift the granola out of the pan and break into desired size chunks with your hands. Scatter on a baking sheet and bake an additional 15 minutes. Don't be alarmed if the granola clusters are a bit soft when they come out of the oven - they will harden as they cool. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Labels: , , , ,