Homemade Snickers and salted caramels (raw, vegan, gluten free)

date caramel healthy dessert

I love caramel.  Like, really love it.  My favorite candies used to include Snickers, Rolos, and Twix.  The gooey, toothsome texture and deep flavor of it are just so good.  Unfortunately traditional caramel is loaded with disgusting and unhealthy ingredients…cream, white sugar, butter, and other such gut bombs.  So what’s a girl to do when a hard candy craving hits?  The very term “healthy candy” seems like an oxymoron.

Enter…dates.  They’re super sweet, soft, and naturally caramelly-tasting.  They are also loaded with nutrients: fiber, potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium, vitamins B and K.  They have been found to be high in antioxidant phenols which protect the body from free radicals.  Basically, they are like little vitamins disguised as candies.  Kind of like those Flinstone chewable gummy vitamins weird pediatricians want you to give your kids.  Wait, what?  No thanks.

Anyways, when dates are blended with vanilla and almond butter…they taste like HEAVEN.  They form a thick, caramel paste that becomes chewy when frozen.  Yes please.

A word on varieties…there are A LOT of different types of dates.  I only have experience with two varieties because that’s what is readily available to me: Deglet Noor and Medjool.  I find Deglet Noors to be hard, tough, fibrous and generally undesirable compared to Medjools.  Medjools are soft, gooey, large, and delicious.  They are easy to blend in recipes.  They are also sold at Costco…8 dollars for 2 pounds, which is very reasonable.

*A note:  I find the combination of sweet and salty and chocolate especially irresistible.  If you don’t, feel free to omit the salt! (although I will be judging you from the background.  ha!)

Date Caramel

12 Medjool dates

1T peanut or almond butter

1/2t vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until a smooth, thick paste forms.  I just let mine run until it looks fully combined.  You might need to pause it to scrape down the sides a few times.  Scoop it into a bowl and place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes so that it is a little easier to handle.  Sometimes I make a double batch just so I can eat some straight, with a spoon.  YUM

Salted Caramel “Snickers”*

1 recipe date caramel, above

1c bittersweet vegan chocolate chips, melted

1/2c peanuts or almonds, roughly chopped

pinch of flaky sea salt for sprinkling

loaf pan

Line your loaf pan with parchment paper.  Pour half of your melted chocolate in the loaf pan and place in the freezer until fully hardened.  Take it out and place your date paste in the pan, squishing the paste over the layer of chocolate until you have an even layer.  If your hands get sticky, get a little water on them to make the paste easier to handle.  Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the caramel.  Pour the rest of chocolate over and sprinkle with sea salt. Return to freezer for 30 minutes to an hour, until fully set.  Cut into squares with a sharp knife and serve! *recipe adapted from the gorgeous One Hungry Mami who is amazing in every way.

IMG_3404

 Salted Caramels

1 recipe date caramel, above

1/2c bittersweet vegan chocolate chips, melted

pinch of flaky sea salt for sprinkling

wax or parchment paper

Shape date paste into small bite size balls and dip into chocolate, rolling to coat evenly.  Place balls on parchment and sprinkle each with a little salt.  Place bites in freezer at least 10 minutes.  They have the best texture straight from the freezer!

IMG_2503

See how thick and caramelly it is?  *Drools*  Craving satisfied.

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