Saturday, 17 March 2012

Healthier Caramel Squares with Almonds and Sea Salt

Oaty, almond butter shortbread. A layer of thick maple caramel. Sprinkles of crunchy almonds. Luscious, silky, dark chocolate. A scatter of salty crystals.

You know you want it.

This little brainchild was born after spending an evening at the dublin food co-op. I was recently promoted from shelf stacking grunt to assistant chef for a day. Woop woop. :D I've missed kitchen work. The happy pear was one of my best experiences this year. I love the busy atmosphere, the creativity and the satisfaction; not to mention the free food!

Anyway, the unbelievable chef (Caryna), who runs the cafe pretty much on her own had baked some caramel squares. It was pretty much torture watching my mom munch her way through one. I'm not even a big caramel square fan, too sweet for me, but Caryna's just looked so incredibly beautiful with big swirls of white chocolate onto.

I was a woman on a mission, I was going to create a healthier vegan caramel square. End of story. I googled a couple of recipes to get a general idea of what goes into the original. A lot of white flour, condensed milk, golden syrup, butter and other such gunk. This was gonna require a lot of substitution. Out went the butter. In swooped the almond butter. I gave the golden syrup the boot in exchange for some lovely maple syrup. White flour was swapped for some homemade oat flour.

I wouldn't call these squares healthy. They are still incredibly sweet but they're a far cry better than the original. If I was making them for myself I'd probably removed most of the sugar from the base and remove half the sugar from the caramel but this had to pass the taste test for my mom and Jenna's sweet tooth.
Without further ado…. I present…. Healthier Caramel Squares.

Makes: 9 squares


-1 cup oats
-1/4 cup almond butter
-1/8 cup brown sugar

-1/4 cup maple syrup
-1/4 cup soya milk
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-3 tablespoons cornstarch
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
-teaspoon coconut oil

-125g dark chocolate (I used 81%)
-teaspoon coconut oil
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
-2 handfuls of almonds

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2. Blend oats, almond butter and sugar til combined.

3. Press mixture firmly into tin so its 1cm thick. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

4. Meanwhile bring the maple syrup, soya milk and sugar to boil. Add the cornstarch and whisk till thickened. It will thicken more as it cools. Stir through the vanilla and coconut oil. Allow to cool. Pour over the base. Sprinkle over almonds and allow to set.

5. Melt the dark chocolate in a glass bowl over boiling water and then stir through the coconut oil. Pour on top of the caramel and then sprinkle on the sea salt. Allow it to set and then carefully cut into nine pieces.

6. Yum, yum… sticky fingered glory…

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