I actually wasn't planning on doing a blog post tonight. I was baking up a fresh batch of my homemade granola (a recipe which I am still perfecting) and ended up having a lot of oats left over. I remembered that I found a granola recipe that included caramel and chocolate and, after wondering if I was overdoing it on the granola, decided to give it a try. I found the recipe in The New Whole Grain Cookbook by Robin Absell. This book is a beautiful collection of unique recipes for all kinds of whole grains - from the everyday (like oats) to the very unique (like teff). While granola is hardly something unique to my repertoire, this particular recipe caught my eye. The buttery smooth caramel mixture combined with the oats and walnuts smells like oatmeal cookie dough prior to baking. I did not have chocolate chunks around, but instead chopped up a Dagoba 74% cacao chocolate bar. While chunks would have been tasty, I enjoyed the delicious randomness of the hand-chopped chocolate.
This recipe makes the perfect addition to a special brunch or breakfast, or is equally delicious with cold milk as a late night snack (and much better for you than the ice cream you may have had otherwise).
Caramel Walnut Chocolate Chunk Granola
Makes 9 cups
4 c rolled oats (not quick)
1 c walnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c water
1 c sugar
1/4 c butter, sliced
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c (about 4 oz) dark chocolate, chopped (or dark chocolate chunks)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Line one large or two small rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, and spray the parchment paper with vegetable oil spray (a non-stick baking mat works well here, no spray needed).
In a large bowl, combine the first three ingredients. In a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the water and sugar. Over high heat, bring mixture to a boil, moving the pan to keep it mixed rather than stirring. Cook until the syrup turns a medium amber color; remove from heat. Add the butter carefully (it will foam and bubble). Stir the butter, then add the vanilla and stir to combine. Pour the caramel into the oat mixture and stir immediately. The caramel mixture will start to harden and clump up, but it will melt while baking.
Spread the oat-caramel mixture onto the prepared pan(s). Bake for 15 minutes, then stir and bake for 15 minutes more.
Cool granola completely, then break into chunks and mix with chocolate (don't be impatient here; if the granola is not completely cooled the chocolate will melt). Store in an airtight container.
Adapted from The New Whole Grain Cookbook by Robin Absell, page 31.