Sorry it’s been a bit quiet on the blog lately, most of my spare writing energy is channelled into thesis writing these days. I had a great time in the USA, although that feels like ages ago now. I enjoyed exploring San Francisco, the conference was excellent, and I spent a couple of days in Yosemite National Park, which was stunning! I did try one snickerdoodle in the States, but I have to say, mine were nicer. Perhaps it wasn’t so fresh.
Now, as I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I’m fairly skeptical of so-called ‘healthy baking recipes’ as they tend to be oversold by people who have forgotten what butter tastes like. But I’d seen this one extolled by people I trust (such as my friend Jess), and my curiosity was piqued. I finally got around to making it, and I have to say, I was impressed!
I wouldn’t say it tastes identical to a regular Chocolate Caramel Slice, but it’s pretty damned good, and so pleasing to know that it’s not totally bad for you. Even my husband thought it was delicious! It is easily made dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and depending on the dark chocolate you use, can have no refined sugar! Amazing!
For me, this was not an ‘out-of-the-pantry’ kind of recipe. I had to do a special trip to the supermarket, as I don’t usually have medjool dates or that quantity of cashew nuts lying around in my pantry, but it was worth it.
It’s not a technically challenging recipe, but it is a bit time-consuming and you really do need a food processor. Mine is not very powerful, but it valiantly managed to pull through. To make the base, you just blitz a whole bunch of stuff together and add coconut oil and bake it. When it came out of the oven it seemed a bit crumby, but the topping stuck it all together pretty nicely.
For the caramel, you combine soaked cashews with soaked dates plus a few other bits and pieces, and blitz that altogether. Spread it over the base and let it set in the fridge. The chocolate topping is just melted dark chocolate and a touch of oil. You can sprinkle over some nuts or coconut if you like. Whatever you do, don’t do what I did, which was to get annoyed at the bumps in the set chocolate and try and smooth it out with a hot spoon. You’ll only make it worse! Big regrets!
Healthier Chocolate Caramel Slice
Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, low refined sugar. Recipe adapted from Nadia Lim.
For the base:
- 3/4 cup (65g) rolled oats (or use ground almonds to make it gluten-free)
- 3/4 cup (60g) dessicated coconut
- 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
- 6 medjool dates, pitted
- 1/3 cup (20g) ground almonds
- pinch salt
- 6 -8 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
For the caramel:
- 400g dried pitted dates
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 2 cups softened cashew nuts (soak in water overnight, or boil in water for 15min)
- 1/4 cup real maple syrup (vegan option) or honey
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping:
- 200g good quality dark chocolate, chopped (use dairy-free, vegan or sugar-free chocolate if required)
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- Optional: chopped nuts or dessicated coconut
For the base:
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC, conventional bake. Line a 23cm square pan with baking paper.
- Place rolled oats, coconut, cocoa, dates, almonds and salt in a food processor. Blitz until crumby.
- Set the food processor to a medium speed and slowly add the melted coconut oil through the top. Mix until well combined, scraping down the sides occasionally with a spatula.
- Press the mix into the prepared tray and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until firm.
For the caramel:
- Place the dates and water into a saucepan and heat on a medium heat until the dates are mushy and all the water has evaporated. Be careful not to let it burn!
- Place the dates, softened cashews, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla in a food processor. Blitz until smooth (be patient, this can take a while). Scrape down the sides of the food processor every now and again to ensure everything gets mixed in.
- Spread over the cooled base and leave to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
For the chocolate:
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (set a metal bowl over a saucepan with a bit of water. Don’t put too much water in, you don’t want it to touch the bowl).
- Stir in the oil and spread over the cooled caramel.
- Top with chopped nuts or dessicated coconut if you like.
- Allow to set, then cut into squares. Store in the fridge.