ABOUT THIS RECIPE
After posting a ridiculously yummy, but ridiculously bad-for-you recipe for caramel chocolate slice that my husband loves (and occasionally bakes for his mates when they go on their hunting or fishing trips), I thought “right! I’m going to see if I can make one that’s just as delicious, but is full of nutritious ingredients!” Creating a healthy version seemed like mission impossible at first, but after four attempts I have made a caramel slice that mimics the flavour, texture and all round deliciousness of the original. I’ve fed it to many guinea pigs now, and people are just gob-smacked when I tell them there’s no refined-sugar, dairy-free or gluten in it! Note: there is a lot of confusion around oats and whether they are gluten free or not, please refer to the asterisk note at the bottom of the page for more info. Enjoy! Watch my video from ‘The Good Food Neighbourhood’ for how to create this recipe.
fine rolled oats* ¾ cup (you can also use ground almonds as a GF alternative)
coconut thread ¾ cup (shredded coconut)
good quality dark cocoa powder 1 tablespoon (I used Equagold’s Dutch cocoa powder)
medjool dates 6, pitted
raw almonds ½ cup
salt one pinch
coconut oil 6-8 tablespoons melted (or butter)
Date and cashew caramel filling
dried pitted dates 400g
boiling water ¾ cup
cashew nuts 2 cups softened**
pure maple syrup ¼ cup (not the stuff that’s artificially flavoured with sugar!)
coconut oil ½ cup melted (or butter)
vanilla essence or extract 1 teaspoon
Chocolate and walnut topping
good quality (dairy-free) dark eating chocolate 150-200g (I used Green and Black’s Organic cocoa chocolate – which has hardly any sugar. Check your dark chocolate is dairy-free if you need-to)
neutral flavoured oil 1 teaspoon (e.g. grape seed, walnut, hazelnut, canola, soy (optional – all this does is softens the chocolate a little, so it doesn’t set too hard. DO NOT use coconut oil or butter as this will make the chocolate set harder!)
walnuts 1/3 cup chopped (optional)
coconut thread 1-2 tablespoons (optional)
Preheat oven to 180 degC/355 Fahrenheit. Lightly grease and line the bottom and sides of a square baking tin (20cm x 20cm) with baking paper.
1. Place oats/ground almonds, coconut thread, cocoa powder, medjool dates, almonds and salt in a food processor and blitz until a fine, crumbly texture. Drizzle in melted coconut oil/butter and pulse until well combined and the mixture holds together when you pinch it between your fingers.
2. Press mixture into the prepared baking tin, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon or spatula. Bake for 15 minutes, then set aside in the fridge to cool while you make the caramel.
3. To make the caramel, place dates and water in a medium-size pot and boil, stirring frequently, until the dates are very soft and mushed up, and all the water has evaporated. Place dates in the food processor along with the softened cashew nuts, maple syrup, coconut oil/butter and vanilla. Blitz until nice and smooth – this will take at least a few minutes. scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times to make sure everything has been blended.
4. Spread caramel all over the base in the baking tin. Set aside in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours or the freezer for at least 2 hours, or until the filling is firm.
5. Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a glass bowl set above a small pot of simmering water. Mix in oil if using. Pour melted chocolate all over the filling and spread it over evenly. Return to the fridge for about 20 minutes, or until set. If it still seems a bit soft, return to the fridge/freezer for a bit longer.
Cut into about 25 pieces (a long, sharp serrated knife dipped in hot water will help a lot!). The slice will keep for up to a week in the fridge.
*While oats are naturally gluten free, they contain a protein similar to gluten (Avenin) that some people still react to, and they are often contaminated with gluten when processed and packaged where other gluten-containing products are. Some people on a gluten free diet can tolerate oats, but others cannot. If you are worried about traces of gluten, use ground almonds as an alternative. If you are coeliac, Coeliac NZ recommends avoiding oats altogether.
**To make softened cashew nuts, either soak in water overnight, or boil cashew nuts in a pot of water for about 15 minutes or until soft. Drain.