Be the star of your very own vegan bake sale and watch these nutty squares sell like hotcakes. For an added salty boost, sprinkle a few tiny crystals of pink Himalayan salt on top of the chocolate before it firms up. You’ll see that it’s impossible to tell that a whole grain flour was used to make the short bread like crust. The nuts listed here are merely an example; use any coarsely chopped nuts that you love the most. You should aim for a generous 1¼ cups (weight will vary) of one, or a mix, of your favorite nuts.
- Yield: 16 squares
- 1¾ cups (210 g) barley flour
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 60 ml (1⁄4 cup) pure maple syrup or (84 g) raw agave nectar
- 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) melted coconut oil or neutral-flavored oil
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) vegan milk
- 1⁄2 cup (96 g) Sucanat or (80 g) coconut sugar
- 1⁄4 cup (84 g) brown rice syrup
- 1⁄2 cup (60 g) dry roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
- 1⁄2 cup (70 g) raw cashews or (60 g) hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1⁄4 cup (30 g) salted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Generous pinch of fine sea salt
- 1⁄2 cup (88 g) vegan semisweet chocolate chips, more if desired
To make the Crust
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4). For an easier time lifting the bars out of the pan, line an 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch (5 cm) overhang.
- Place the flour, salt, and maple syrup in a food processor. Add the oil, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) at a time, until moistened and the dough holds together when pinched. Press down evenly into the prepared pan, with moistened hands if needed. Prebake for 10 minutes, transfer to a wire rack, and leave the oven on. In the meantime, make the filling. To make the Filling
- Place the milk, Sucanat or coconut sugar, and brown rice syrup in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil, remove from the heat, and add the nuts, vanilla, and the salt, stirring to combine. Sprinkle the nut mixture on top of the crust and use an offset spatula to evenly spread them all over the crust. Bake for 15 minutes longer, or until the caramel is thick and mostly set. Keep a close eye on the nuts so they don’t burn.
- Remove the pan from the oven, turn the oven off, and place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly on top. Use more than the amount listed if desired for a thicker chocolate coating. Place the pan back into the oven, and let the residual heat melt the chips for a minute or two. Use an offset spatula to spread the melted chips over the nuts.
- Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the chocolate is set, before cutting into 2-inch (5 cm) squares. The squares will keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.