Apricot & Cranberry Granola Crisps
The way I see it, there are few "bleh" situations in life that can't be remedied, or at least vastly improved, with a solid supply of snacks. Long wait at the doctor's office? Snack. Jury duty? Snack. The kind of horrifying, red-faced toddler tantrum that has said child doing some sort of exotic backbend in the shopping cart that would impress even the most accomplished cast member of Cirque de Soleil? Snack, preferably in cookie form. Especially in cases like that, snacks are the currency of my life. (Holler if you hear me.)
And let's not forget the most snack-necessary situation of all: the summer road trip. Yes, even the most desolate stretch of highway (or long-haul flight) can seem a little less daunting when there's some good munchies in your chariot. I'm not even that big fan of road trips, but my enthusiasm can be bought with a box of Cheez-Its, some Twizzlers, and a diet Coke. After a few hours of that menu, though, I'm bound to want something a little more virtuous. And is it just me, or do the crazy-making effects of junk food on an airplane seem to multiply even faster?
At any rate, lately I've been trying to plan ahead a little better and have some healthier options in my bag for traveling, to balance out some of the inevitable treat foods (when hour three of a cross-country flight hits, you will pry these Pringles from my cold, dead hands). This could be as simple as a protein bar, some nuts or string cheese and a piece of fruit, or it could be as crafty and Pinterest Mom as making my own travel snacks. I swear, this actually does happen! In fact, it happened just the other day. I'm SERIOUS.
These Granola Crisps are basically everything you could possibly want when stuck in a car or plane (or stuck anywhere, really, for that matter). Packed with oats, seeds, and dried fruit, crisp puffed rice keeps the whole scenario from feeling too leaden, and adds a crave-worthy texture. Speaking of crave-worthy, I'm sure you've learned by now that one of my favorite ways to add dimension to sweet recipes is to swap out one-note refined white sugar for something less-processed and infinitely more flavorful. In this case, I decided add interest to these crunchy, crispy shards of awesomeness with Wholesome!™ Organic Honey and their Organic Sucanat. I don't see how this could not go well.
For those of you who haven't heard of Sucanat, basically what we're dealing with here is a more wholesome, granulated sugar cane juice. For those of you who have heard of Sucanat, you probably think of hippie food co-ops. (Or at least hippie food co-ops came to mind when I thought about Sucanat, until I started working with it and then totally fell in love--and believe me and my gel manicure, I'm no hippie.)
Also known by the more general term "rapadura" in the pages of Real Sweet, "Sucanat" is actually a crafty brand name, a shortened version of sugar cane natural. Sucanat is essentially sugar cane juice that's been dried and then granulated, and not much else has been done to it. It's loaded with earthy notes of molasses, and is relatively nutrient-dense, as far as sugars go (I'm not suggesting you give up salad for Sucanat, but I think you figured as much).
The challenge of working with Sucanat is that the granules don't dissolve very easily, so it can be tricky to find a recipe that can use it without much fuss. The best scenarios are to choose a recipe where you can go with the flow of Sucanat's rustic texture (using it as a nubbly coating for spiced, candied nuts is a favorite of mine), or try it in a recipe where the sugar not being fully broken down won't be a problem (oatmeal cookies!). Or best of all, find a recipe where the Sucanat can fully dissolve with heat and a complementary liquid sweetener, like with candy making. Or, say, these fantastic Granola Crisps, which pair Sucanat's almost malty sweetness with a good hit of vibrant honey. The finished crisps come together in no time, store and pack like a dream, and satisfy your travel snacking tendencies like nobody's business. Even those of us with a Mid-Flight Pringle Problem will eventually come around. You can't eat just one, I'm telling you.
Granola Crisps Makes about 3 dozen 3-inch pieces
A couple tricks will yield the best results here. First, it's important to not let the syrup boil; the hotter you cook sugar, the harder it will set when it cools. So if it threatens to boil, immediately lower the heat--you are looking for just a slight simmer, if the syrup even bubbles at all. The goal is to heat the mixture enough to dissolve the Sucanat and allow the oil to absorb into the syrup.
Second, note that you'll bake the pan of granola crisps almost completely, but just before the final five minutes of baking, you'll press the mixture down once more before returning the pan to the oven. This helps the crisps stick together and ensures their pleasing crunch.
The addition of crisp rice cereal gives a crave-worthy lightness to the whole thing; I like to use crispy brown rice cereal because of its color and flavor, but that snappy, crackly, poppy kind we all know and love will work just as well.
2 cups (7 ounces/200 grams) old fashioned rolled oats 1 1/2 cups (1 7/8 ounces/53 grams) crisp brown rice cereal 1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces/42 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut (also sometimes labeled desiccated coconut) 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces/64 grams) pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) 1/3 cup (1 7/8 ounces/53 grams) unsweetened dried cranberries 1/3 cup (1 7/8 ounces/53 grams) chopped dried apricots 1/3 cup (4 ounces/112 grams) Wholesome!™ Organic Honey 1/3 cup (2 1/4 ounces/64 grams) Wholesome!™ Organic Sucanat 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces/42 grams) grapeseed, canola, or coconut oil 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 325°F. Lightly spray a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray, and line it with parchment paper, spraying the paper lightly as well.
In a large bowl, toss together the oats, crisp rice cereal, coconut, pepitas, cranberries, and apricot bits.
In a small saucepan, combine the honey, Sucanat, oil, and salt. Place the pan over medium-low heat, and bring the mixture just to a bare simmer, whisking constantly until the Sucanat has completely dissolved and the mixture is homogenous and a beautiful buttery caramel color. Let cool slightly for 5 minutes.
Pour the syrup over the dry ingredients and blend well. Spray your hands with cooking spray. Press the mixture into the prepared pan, using lightly greased palms to coax the mixture into a thin, even layer about 1/4 inch thick. It might not seem like you'll have enough to fill the pan, but you will. Bake until golden, rotating the pan 180° halfway through baking, about 20 minutes. Leaving the oven on, remove the pan from the oven and place a clean sheet of parchment over the pan. Use oven omitted hands to press down the mixture firmly. Return the pan to the oven to bake for 5 minutes more. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
This post is sponsored by the good people of Wholesome!™. Products and compensation provided by Wholesome!™; all opinions are my own. You can always trust that I'll only share information and products with you that I personally love and use in my own kitchen.