I was approached by a representative of Nuts.com to enter their healthy summer snack contest! Woo! People are finding my blog and I get an excuse to play with cool ingredients and make a healthy snack.
I knew I wanted to do some kind of bar, but I am not enough of a baker to create a recipe on my own, so I turned to the best baker I know - Melissa from Smells like Brownies. Together, we came up with a granola bar recipe that included cacao butter, cacao nibs, dates, hazelnuts, unsweetened coconut, almond flour, chia seeds, and oats. Sweetened only with honey, these bars are a powerhouse of energy (they also have great texture and flavor).
To get the most flavor, roast the hazelnuts at 350 for 15-20 minutes, shaking the pan at 10 and 15 minutes to ensure that they roast evenly. You can then rub most of the skins off with a towel. If you really want to get rid of all of the skins, you will have to blanch them and the skins before roasting.
You will need a food processor for this recipe, but it comes together very easily. Then you just press into a pan and bake. The bars are a little crumbly, so if you aren't a fan of that - try soaking the chia seeds in a bit of water before adding them.
The real MVP of this recipe is the cacao butter. My goodness, does it smell and taste delicious. It's like vegetable oil (or more like coconut oil in terms of healthiness and uses) that tastes like chocolate - I might be a little obsessed now. You can wrap these individually to travel or to freeze. You can also sub in whatever nuts you like, add more dried fruit - whatever you want!
Oh, yeah - if you make sure to use GF oats, this is totally Gluten Free! And if you replace the honey with something like maple syrup, it's also vegan! Enjoy!
I'm about to get all raw food, vegan, and healthy on you. If those words make you cringe, don't worry - these things are addictively delicious no matter what diet you follow! Let's talk about dates - they are naturally super sweet and packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are also low calorie compared to processed sweets. In other words, they are nature's guilt-free candy. Now let's talk about Barhi dates. Oh. My. Gosh. These dates have a really short season and can be hard to find (I order them from here), but they are totally worth the hunt. They taste like butterscotch candy or caramel, just on their own! There is seriously a world of difference between Barhi and other dates, believe me. And in this recipe? Killer.
Now that we've established that you should totally use Barhi dates because they are way more delicious than any other kind, what else do you need to make these caramels? Tahini, coconut oil, cardamom, and that's it! Blend it all up in a food processor and press into a lined pan. I had trouble getting all the coconut oil to incorporate, which didn't make any difference taste-wise, but made them less pretty. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and freeze until firm.
Once they are firm, cut them into little squares and that's it! You have to keep them in the freezer so that they stay firm, but that's not so much to ask, is it? They are rich, sweet, and complex with the flavors of caramel, tahini, cardamom, and coconut coming together, and the sea salt just takes it over the top. Good for you, delicious, fits any diet, and makes great gifts - why are you not making these yet? Get on it!
Raw Tahini Date Salted Caramels
adapted from The Kitchn
*I made double
1 cup pitted dates (Barhi highly recommended)
1/2 cup tahini
2 tbsp coconut oil (room temperature)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1/8 tsp fleur de sel or other finishing salt
Combine the dates, tahini, coconut oil, and cardamom in a blender or food processor. You should have a very smooth, creamy, and thick paste.
Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined loaf pan (or another equivalent container) and use a spatula to press it down evenly. Sprinkle with salt.
Freeze until firm. Remove from the pan and cut into bite-size pieces.
Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a month.