I don't tend to visit the past unless something jogs my memory. When I bit into one of these raw caramel squares a vivid memory appeared:
It's early university years. I'm hosting a small impromptu dinner gathering at the place I'm renting. For desert I serve a frozen Mars bar. It's the only sweet thing I have around.
It's frozen because all day it's been sitting on the dashboard of my father's car in frigid winter temperatures. His car is in my driveway because he's in town for a meeting or convention and he bought the chocolate bar for the car ride. He was always loaning me his car. He was very generous about that.
I remember noticing the Mars bar earlier in the day. I run out and get it, bring it inside, cut it into thin slices with a heated butcher knife, arrange the pieces on a plate and serve.
Which brings me to this recipe.
Like that Mars bar I served for desert all those years ago, these squares are served straight out of the freezer, too.
What makes these squares special is the combined three layers, especially the caramel layer.
Unlike traditional caramel, which is delicious and made with sugar, water and cream, this one is made with dates, almond butter, maple syrup and a pinch of sea salt. Great if you want a caramel experience without the dairy.
You will need a food processor or blender to make this recipe.
Raw Caramel Squares
3/4 CUP (120G) ALMONDS
1/3 CUP (25G) DESICCATED COCONUT
6 FRESH DATES, PITTED
1/4 CUP (60G) COCONUT OIL, MELTED
Place the almonds, coconut, dates and oil in a food processor and process for 1 - 2 minutes or until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Press the mixture into the base of a 20cm x 20cm pan lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate until set.
12 FRESH DATES, PITTED
1/3 CUP (95G) ALMOND BUTTER
2 TABLESPOONS MAPLE SYRUP
2 TEASPOONS VANILLA BEAN PASTE. I used vanilla extract and it worked fine.
PINCH SEA SALT FLAKES
Place the dates, almond butter, maple syrup, vanilla and salt in a food processor and process for 1 - 2 minutes or until smooth. Spread over the base and return to the fridge.
1/3 CUP (35G) CACAO POWDER
1/4 CUP (60ML) COCONUT OIL, MELTED
1/2 CUP (180G) RICE MALT SYRUP. Honey works as a substitute but makes it much sweeter.
Place the cacao, oil and rice malt syrup in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir for 2 - 3 minutes or until smooth. Pour the mixture over the date caramel and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.
Freeze for 30 minutes before slicing into bars to serve. This recipe needs to be served chilled. You can also keep them in the freezer until ready to serve if you prefer a harder set.