cherry chocolate granola


cherry and chocolate granola
Summer is the one time of the year that I get super excited and obsessed with every fresh and colorful ingredient that I can get my hands on. It goes without saying that cherries are never spared, they get devoured in this house and sometimes they don't make it home from the market. 


sweet red cherries

Granola is one of those things, I refuse to waste money on. For one, it is really easy to make and the ingredients are cheap, and secondly, I find the pre-made versions to be a bit too sweet and/or expensive. This granola recipe has a fresh cherry puree that's cooked into the oats with a heaving dosing of chocolate flavors. This granola is just like a black forest cake but with a tasty dose of toasted sliced almonds. There's a whole lotta crunch with every chocolatey bite you take combined with a hint of sweet and tart cherry flavor. Maybe I should have called this the "black forest granola" ?


cherry baked granola

I used a fresh cherry puree to flavor the granola versus actual cherry fruit bits because I wanted the cherry flavors to be absorbed by the oatmeal and coat every bit. I've used ghee here but you can also substitute coconut oil in the same amount. I've made it both ways and it works great, ghee gives it a much more aromatic and nutty flavor.




fresh chocolate cherry granola
cherry chocolate granola

cherry + chocolate granola

yields: about 3 cups

ingredients

2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil)  + 1 tablespoon to grease the baking pan
1 cup (2 3/4 ounces) raw sliced almonds
1/4 cup (1 1/8 ounces) cacao nibs
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1 cup pureed sweet red cherries, fresh (simply puree 2 cups of sweet red cherries and use as needed)

1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250F. In the mean time, toast the oats in medium saucepan with a thick bottom on a medium-high flame. Cook with constant stirring until the oats begin to brown. This will take about 4-5 minutes.  Reduce the flame  to low and stir in the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, cook for 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the stove.
2. Add the almonds, cacao nibs, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, sea salt and cherry puree to the toasted oats. 
3. Pour the oat mixture onto a baking pan that's been lightly greased with the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil. Spread the mixture in a flat layer with a silicone spatula and bake for about 45-50 minutes. Check occasionally during baking to make sure the granola does not burn. Once the granola is cooked, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container (I store mine in the refrigerator, it stays fresh for a longer time). 

spiced granola bars

molasses spiced oatmeal bars

I'm spoiled rotten when it comes to honey and molasses, we get several huge jars each year from the farm and they make everything more delicious. My honey obsession began early as a child, I'd wake up for breakfast and smear cold butter on warm slices of toast and then ladle a large spoon with honey to cover the bread. I'd make sure the toast was cool enough that the butter didn't melt and would be supple enough to bind the honey because I hated losing any honey that could drip off the slice. That still remains one of my favorite and probably the most simplest of things to eat for breakfast. I do it less often now and occasionally on weekends but each and every single time, I do indulge in my childhood fantasy, it is every bit as as wonderful as I can remember.

old fashioned oatmeal

At 5am, the three block walk to the gym is chilly and I realized today that I've moved on from wearing tee-shirts every morning to double layering and now triple layering. I'm a cold weather wimp and I doubt this year will be any exception. But one of the things, I really look forward to after my workouts are my homemade oatmeal bars. I've been making these bars for several years and I do something different with every batch I prepare. This is my autumn-themed version which uses delicious dark molasses, honey and a little brown sugar for sweetness and a sprinkling of cinnamon and ginger for warmth and flavor.

Molasses spiced granola bars

I've also added a handful of almonds and sunflower seeds for nuttiness and reduced the butter content. There is also a bit of ground flaxseed meal that gives a healthy yet delicious flavor to the bars. Can you imagine the aroma of warm toasting oatmeal with all these nutty and spicy ingredients baking in your oven. It is pure kitchen bliss! These bars make the perfect snack and are also a great treat for adults and kids alike. 

toasted oatmeal

I have an exciting new food photography project that I will reveal to you in a couple of days. It will be a fun new adventure for me that I know I will thoroughly enjoy and I think you will too, so stay tuned!

molasses oatmeal bars

spiced granola bars

yields:

approximately 27 bars

ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup flaxseed meal

1/2 mixed raisins

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground

1/2 cup dark molasses

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325F and line a square 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper. 

2. Melt the butter in a thick bottomed saucepan on medium high flame. Fold the oats into the melted butter with a silicone rubber spatula. Stir the oats every 3 minutes till they are evenly golden brown. Remove the oats from the stove and transfer to a large mixing bowl aside. 

3. Toss the sunflower seeds, almonds, flaxseed, raisins, ginger, and cinnamon into the bowl containing the oats. Mix the ingredients until evenly distributed. Leave aside.

4. In a small thick bottomed pot, bring the molasses, honey, and brown sugar to a boil on a medium high flame with constant stirring. Once the mixture begins to boil, immediately reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and cook for another 3 minutes, constantly scraping the sides of the pot. Pour the hot liquid over the oats in the mixing bowl. Fold the syrup and the dry ingredients until evenly distributed. 

5. Transfer the oatmeal mix to the center of the lined baking pan. Spray a little cooking oil (I used olive oil) on the palms of your hands and rub your hands against each other. Using your hands, press the oatmeal into a firm flat layer starting from the center and moving towards the outer edges. Once the layer is even, place the pan on the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the entire crust acquires a dark golden color. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack in the baking pan to room temperature.

6. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the sides of the granola and transfer onto a cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the granola sheet into 1" X 3" bars. Store in an airtight container.