Caramel Apple Granola

The leaves are beginning to change colors on the trees. I noticed this today in the thirty second dash from my apartment building to the car. The air felt cooler than usual and the light from the sun was golden. I wondered where the time has gone. While my life continues to be in a state of imbalance, these thirty second intervals from the door of my car to the door of another building have become my only real experience with the world outside of my immediate reality. In the last few weeks, consumed with an unusual amount of work and responsibilities, I feel lucky to get an hour to myself to eat a late dinner and catch up with an episode of Modern Family.

I wish I could stop and enjoy the weather, breathe it in and savor it for the long hours of work ahead of me, but the second hand on the clock keeps ticking, reminding me that I'm already late.

Caramel Apples continue to be a one of my favorite fall desserts. Every year I make it a point to make a batch. I'll usually leave a few apples with a simple caramel coating, but the rest end up rolled in crushed candy bars and pretzels until the apples seem to disappear under the chocolate pieces. Each year the caramel refuses to cooperate as I struggle to keep it on the apple, but in the end it doesn't matter. The caramel apples are for myself. They don't need to be pretty or dolled up; they don't need to impress anyone else.

The apples just need to be enjoyed beneath a tree under the autumn sky by someone who isn't afraid to get a little chocolate and caramel on her face.

It may be awhile before I can sit down and make myself a batch of caramel apples this year. The routine of the thirty second dash is a bittersweet reminder that the days keep passing by, even if I don't have the time to appreciate them. When the responsibilities of my life lessen and I have an afternoon to myself, you'll be able to spot me in the aisles of the local market, with a red basket full of candy bars and Honeycrisp apples in hand.

Until that day arrives, this Caramel Apple Granola fills the void beautifully.

Caramel Apple Granola is sweet treat transformed into a hearty breakfast. The granola consists of almonds and dried apples spiced with the flavors of fall. Most granola recipes hold the oats together with oil, but this granola is held together with a light layer of caramel. The caramel, combined with the dried apples, creates a granola with a fantastic texture and taste you won't find in a cereal box.

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Caramel Apple Granola

Yields about 4 cups

2 cups (160 grams) old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup (64 grams) sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt
1 cup (about 100 grams) dried apples, cut into small pieces and lightly packed
3/4 cup (169 grams) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oats, almonds, spices, salt, and dried apples. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Scrape down sides of pan and let sugar boil over medium high heat, without stirring, until sugar reaches a golden amber color (if using a candy thermometer, this happens somewhere between 325F to 350F). If the sugar becomes too dark, it may turn the caramel bitter. Remove from heat and immediately add the butter, stirring until melted and smooth.

Pour the caramel over the oat mixture and quickly stir to coat evenly. Spread granola evenly onto a baking pan and bake for 15-18 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the granola is golden in color (if the caramel begins to darken too quickly, remove the granola from the oven to prevent further darkening). Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before serving or storing.