The wind is blowing. The sun is shining amidst white puffy clouds, some with gray bottoms. In the background is the sound of Playschool and my toddler talking to himself, as well as the low hum of the washing machine. I’m peeking over my laptop screen at the palm trees and ferns swaying in the breeze outside. I know I’ll have to hang the washing outside soon. I know the floor needs vacuuming. But I’m sitting here, my hands perched over the keys of the laptop, and I’m trying to think of a way to start this post.
I thought about starting out by saying that I’m not a vegan. Or, maybe something about raw foods. Or, what about something from my childhood? Or even something that happened to me recently. Isn’t that what foodbloggers do a lot of – tell a story about something in between beautiful photos of food? But nothing I’ve thought of seems to be interesting enough to hold even my own attention.
Another idea I had was to start out by telling you about Donna Hay and how the vast majority of recipes I’ve made from her don’t turn out well. But I’ve told you about that in every other post I’ve written that includes one of Donna’s recipes. How many times could I possibly tell you the same thing over and over?
So I’m going to skip the introduction. I’m not going to tell you a story. I’m just going to show you a picture. You don’t have to be vegan, or gluten-free, or even know who Donna Hay is to enjoy this picture.
It’s probably not the best picture you’ve ever seen; it’s not even one of the best pictures I’ve ever seen. But what you’re looking at are slices of raw, vegan, gluten-free decadence. And it’s Donna’s recipe. Yes, Donna has converted. In her latest magazine, Fresh & Light, she gives us pages upon pages of fresh and lighter recipes. On the cover is a shadowy bunch of kale, covered in droplets of water. In this issue, you won’t find a melt & mix cake containing 250g grams of butter and a few cups of sugar + the icing to match the cake, which contains another 250g of butter and another few cups of sugar. Instead, you’ll find healthified recipes, such as banana-based ice creams, smoothies, delicious salads, and baked things.
This is a raw version of the classic caramel slice (similar to millionaire bars, if you’re in the US). Donna posted this recipe across her social media sites before the magazine was released, and it just took one look at the drop-dead gorgeous photo to entice me to make it immediately.
I was a little hesitant, however. Donna making raw food? Hmm… And my hit or miss experience with her recipes? Hmm… Not to mention the fact that I’ve avoided recipes with lots of coconut oil just because I don’t like the taste of it (I like coconut, just not recipes that use a lot of coconut oil). But I looked at the picture again. Decision made. I’d be making them immediately.
The recipe consists of 3 parts – the “shortbread” base, which is made from almonds, coconut, dates and coconut oil; the “caramel” middle, which is made from dates, almond butter, maple syrup, vanilla bean paste and sea salt; and finally, the “ganache” top, which is made from raw cacao, coconut oil and rice malt syrup.
It’s easy and quick to whip up. There is no baking involved, and the only cooking you’ll need to do is for mixing together the ingredients for the ganache (which, of course, is done at a very low temperature).
Does it taste like a caramel slice? Well, not exactly, because it’s not a real caramel slice. Is it delicious, though? Oh my goodness, yes! The date caramel is my favorite part, but each layer works together to create a magical moment in your mouth.
And does it taste like coconut oil? No, it doesn’t. I had nothing to fear, after all. Oh wait, admittedly, as the slices aged in the freezer for a week, the coconut oil flavor did become slightly stronger. But it’s still really delicious.
You don’t have to be on board with the healthy food craze to enjoy this recipe. Just make it and enjoy.
- For the base:
- ¾ cup (120g) almonds
- ⅓ cup (25g) dessicated coconut
- 6 fresh dates, pitted
- ¼ cup (60g) coconut oil, melted
- For the caramel filling:
- 12 fresh dates, pitted
- ⅓ cup (95g) almond butter
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- pinch sea salt flakes
- For the ganache:
- ⅓ cup (35g) raw cacao powder
- ¼ cup (60ml) coconut oil, melted
- ½ cup (180g) rice malt syrup
- Lightly grease a 20cm (8-inch) square pan and line with baking paper, leaving an overhang on the sides (helps to remove the slice from the pan later). Set aside.
- For the base: Place all ingredients for the base in a food processor and process for 1-2 minutes, or until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Press the base mixture into the prepared pan. Refrigerate as you prepare the filling.
- For the caramel filling: Place all ingredients for the filling in the food processor (you don't have to wash it after preparing the base, just wipe it out) and process for 1-2 minutes or until smooth. It will be quite thick. Spread over the base and return the pan to the refrigerator as you prepare the ganache.
- For the ganache: Place all ingredients for the ganache in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk for 2-3 minutes or until all ingredients are incorporated and smooth. Pour mixture over the caramel filling and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.
- Freeze for 30 minutes before slicing into 4cm x 10cm bars.
- Serve chilled. Store leftovers in the refrigerator; can be stored frozen as well. If frozen, allow to set at room temperature (about 10 minutes) to soften a bit.