vegan coconut caramel and dark chocolate slice

compolikeIf you’re an Australian child of the 90’s, you may remember the Cadbury Caramello Koala advert featuring a bastardized version of Donovan’s ‘Mellow Yellow‘ (you can watch the video here). I both loved and hated that song. It got stuck in my head for days, torturing me with a caramel-filled earworm that’s remained attached to my brain stem some sixteen years later.

But despite the lyrical annoyance, I still eat the darn things. Why? Well, they’re delicious little koala-shaped Dairy Milk chocolates filled with smooth, sticky golden caramel. They’re blissful enough to overcome the strongest of psychological aversions, particularly as chocolate-covered caramel is one of my all-time favourite vices.

cocktailmakingOver the past few years, I’ve probably eaten at least one Caramello Koala a week; definitely more at my last workplace, where Cadbury fundraising boxes were a permanent charitable fixture in the lunch room.

However, as of this week, I’ll no longer be reliant on Caramellos for my chocolate-covered caramel fix. I have a new favourite: Coconut Caramel and Dark Chocolate Slice, the delicious brainchild of my gorgeous friend Krystel (aka Zendarenn) who visited last Sunday for a cooking catch-up, complete with elderflower Mojitos, board games and a tasting panel of hungry men.

cocktail2Caramel slice is a popular treat in my homeland of Australia. It’s known as ‘Millionaire’s shortbread’ in Great Britain, possibly due to its obscene richness when made with lashings of butter and refined sugar. In terms of deliciousness, it’s got the trifecta: crisp, buttery shortbread topped with smooth, rich caramel and a layer of thick, melted dark chocolate. It’s like a Twix bar on steroids, and in my sweet-toothed brain, that’s definitely a good thing.

We ate these caramel slices in the cool of the evening after feasting on a pulled lamb shoulder, young courgettes with preserved lemon, goats cheese and olives, herbed roasted Royal Blue potatoes and homemade lemon aioli. After the first bite, six self-proclaimed ‘gluten-free and vegan intolerant’ carnivores were reduced to quiet murmurs of chocolate-coated caramel bliss. They swiftly went back for seconds, and for some, thirds. Complete success.

caramel2potatoes2In terms of food intolerances, Krystel’s recipe is an absolute dream-come-true. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free and wheat-free, and whilst it does contain refined sugar, it’s in significantly lower amounts to many other caramel slice recipes in the blogosphere. As the caramel is made with coconut milk, there’s also an additional rich, fragrant hint of coconut goodness in every bite.

If you’re allergic to nuts, you can easily substitute the nut meal in this recipe for oat flour or rice flour. I’d probably increase the melted fat (Nuttelex or Earth Balance) by 25g to compensate for the additional dryness, or until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

This is the perfect recipe for a portable lunch box treat, coffee accompaniment or dessert. However, despite the ‘healthier’ ingredients, it’s still rather rich. I’d recommend you start with a small piece and come back for seconds.

omglsVegan Coconut Caramel and Dark Chocolate Slice

Begin this recipe one day ahead. Makes about 20 small pieces

Biscuit Base:

  • 125g Nuttelex, Earth Balance or other vegan spread, melted
  • 1/2 cup (65g) almond meal, hazelnut meal or a mixture of the two
  • 1/2 cup (65g) rice flour
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut

Coconut Caramel:

  • 2 x 400g cans full-fat coconut milk (do not substitute coconut cream*)
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 30g Nuttelex
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup

Chocolate Layer:

  • 170g vegan dark chocolate (dairy-free, 70% cocoa solids or greater)
  • 2 tsp vegetable or canola oil

For the coconut caramel: Combine coconut milk and caster sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, then lower the temperature to a slow simmer.

coconutmilkmontCook, stirring occasionally, for around two hours or until thickened and halved in volume. Carefully stir in the Nuttelex and golden syrup (be aware: the mixture may splatter at this point).

syruprunContinue to cook the mixture over medium heat until it becomes golden brown, thick and glossy (about one hour). Set aside whilst you prepare your biscuit base.

For the biscuit base: Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm slice pan. In a medium bowl, mix together the rice flour, nut meal, coconut and melted Nuttelex until just moistened (the mixture should resemble coarse breadcrumbs). Tip the mixture into your prepared pan, then press down firmly in an even layer.

basemontBake for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly browned. Pour over your caramel filling and spread it into a smooth layer.

caramelpour2Bake for around 10 minutes or until the caramel is darkened and bubbling (it may resemble a moonscape at this point but don’t be overly concerned; the surface will smooth a little as it cools). Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before adding your chocolate layer.

For the chocolate: Using a double boiler or microwave, melt the dark chocolate and oil together.

chocomontMix well, ensuring that the oil is fully emulsified, then pour over the cold slice. Smooth gently with a knife to create an even surface.

caramelchocRefrigerate for at least two hours or preferably overnight before eating in small pieces with a hot cup of coffee. So, so good.

caramel3 caramelcuNotes:

  • The initial condensing of the coconut milk can be done the day before. Just store your thickened condensed milk in an airtight container or jar until ready to use.
  •  If you can resist temptation, make these bars one day ahead of serving to give the flavours some time to soften and meld together (all of us agreed that they were even better – with a crunchier base and tastier filling – the next day)
  • *Don’t be tempted to use coconut cream in place of the coconut milk. Though the cream thickens well during the condensing process, it tends to split into a layer of coconut solids and coconut oil (the latter of which rises to the top in an oily film during the baking process). If you do use cream, you may need to blot off a layer of coconut oil on the caramel after baking before adding the chocolate layer.
  • This slice gets ridiculously hard in the refrigerator so leave it out for 15-20 minutes prior to serving. Krystel and I would also recommend using a hot knife (dip your knife into boiled water, dry it then cut whilst still hot) to prevent the chocolate from cracking and splintering.
  • This slice can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks

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89 responses

    • Thanks Suz. We definitely had a great time. Krystel is a fantastic baker and it’s always a privilege to learn more baking tips from her (plus, we swapped a million stories as girl friends do!). Definitely try her slice recipe. It’s way better than any other chocolate caramel slice I’ve tried xx

  1. Although I don’t use a lot of sugar in my baking (attempts), and when I do it’s usually dark brown sugar that’s called molasses over here, when it comes to caramel it doesn’t faze me in the slightest to pour (loads of) that white poison into my heaviest saucepan! Making it is a new thing for me – it’s like a new toy! So I’m really curious about the use of coconut milk. Sounds heavenly!

    • I do love dark brown sugar. It has the most beautiful, dark caramel flavour. Actually, it’d be lovely in this coconut caramel… I’ve specified caster sugar as per Krystel’s recipe but I think a molasses version would be amazing! Definitely try the coconut milk. I think you’d like it as the coconut offsets the sweetness and creates this gorgeous depth of flavour. Oh, and pah! Your baking is incredible Johnny. No one can make a quick bread like you can!!

      • As yet I haven’t tried molasses dark brown sugar as a caramel. My latest was accidental in that I thought I was doing a butterscotch and couldn’t figure why it was turning out to be so blond – it was me being the proverbial blond as I was using caster, not brown!

    • Thanks sweet pea! I’m actually intending to make a pan of these for you — hopefully on the weekend. It’s probably the best dairy-free caramel I’ve ever eaten. So, so good! Love you! xx

    • Thanks beautiful. I was going to link it through to you on fb this morning but had to rush off to work. Was such a gorgeous way to spend a Sunday afternoon (thanks for sharing your amazing recipe!). Oh, and you know what? Manuel and Will came over on Monday night and we pretty much polished off the remainder of the slice (Will ate three pieces!). Tasted even better the next day. Hugs xx

  2. Laura you won’t believe what I ate about an hour ago, bought at my local petrol station – a Caramello koala! I laughed out loud when I read that first paragraph. I’m addicted to them too, and Golden roughs (I alternate between the two). This slice looks impossibly good. My sons have a little market at their school every Thurs where the parents sell their home-grown veggies and baked goods. I always make a beeline for the caramel slice, for the following day’s morning tea at work. I’m very keen to give this recipe a go – I’m in shock that a healthy version of this treat exists! Those close-up photos are delicious.

    • Hahaaa! Aw yay Sas, so glad I’m not the only one addicted. I like coconut rough also… I usually alternate between Caramellos, Golden Rough and Cherry Ripe when I need a chocolate fix! I was skeptical when Krys first mentioned her vegan and gf caramel slice recipe. I thought that a ‘healthied up’ version would be terrible but she completely and utterly proved me wrong. Definitely give the recipe a try, it’s delicious. We almost finished the batch in two days! xx

  3. I love Cadbury Caramello Koalas, im going to have that song stuck in my head all day.
    The slice looks so rich and mouthwatering… think i might have to make it tonight, im craving it now…
    Love MIM xx

    • Aw no! Sorry lovely. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve done it to myself also! I do hope you like the slice. It’s fast become one of my favourite sweet treats! It takes a little while to make though, with the condensing of the coconut milk. Totally worth every minute xx

    • Hahahaa, sorry love! And yes, I am too… completely my own fault. Definitely try these bars. They’re so freaking good. Better than the non-vegan version methinks! xx

    • My freaking gosh Jen. It’s so darn good. You need to try the condensed coconut milk at least… I could’ve eaten it with a spoon! And I love the name – dulce de coco leche. Using it!! xx

  4. Ok that’s it. I am coming over to your house to eat. It is on my bucket list. Y’all eat like royals. We are about to finish the last piece of banana caramel I made. I now has sad face. Btw, give me a twix, mounds, whatchamacallit, or a kit kat and I would be one happy girl any day of the week. We are big candy bar lovers over here. We bought a box of cookies, and K ate them all within three days. I had like two. Rawr.

    • Royals? Naaah. Only when we have people over for dinner (which is usually when I post!). But that said, you know you and the K-man are welcome at ours any time Whit. I’m waiting for you to turn up at my door (particularly if you’re bearing that amazing banana caramel cake. I was drooling over your photos!) xx

  5. Laura, I should be working right now, but all I can think about is your gorgeous coconut caramel chocolate slice!

    I’m going through a caramel phase at the moment, so may need to make some tonight…and go for a loooong walk on the weekend!

  6. Well, this was one big Australian culinary lesson. Although I’m familiar with Cadbury products, I’ve never seen their Caramello Koala, nor am I at all familiar with most of the other confections and a few ingredients that you mentioned. I was perfectly happy, too. Now, having gazed longingly upon your enticing photos of those slices, I realize that mine has been a life of deprivation. Any way you could ship me a piece or two, Laura, and end my misery? :)

    • I don’t think Cadbury actually ship their Caramello koalas outside of Australia. Weird, as they’re delicious (do you have a caramel freddo instead?).Regarding the unfamiliar products, is there anything I can help you with? I keep forgetting how things are known by all sorts of different names in other parts of the world. Oh, and John, I’d love to ship you a few pieces but I think the slice would be moldy by the time you get to eat it! :(

  7. Oh my goodness, this looks so incredibly good. I’m not vegan, but I love to cook and bake vegan every once in a while and I’m therefor thankful for wonderful recipes like this one. I would surely love it (how could I not, given the fact that caramel and chocolate is involved ;-)) and will give it a try, soon!

    • Hi Claudia! Aw, I’m not vegan either but I do love making vegan treats every now and then. Particularly as some very good friends of mine are practicing vegans. I do hope you like the slice… it’s fast become one of my favourites! xx

    • Thanks for the comment lovely. I’m in complete agreement about the chocolate and coconut… so, so good, particularly as coconut rough! I do think that you’ll love this coconut caramel slice though. The coconut caramel is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I could eat it by the spoonful ;) x

    • Hello there Dr Caligari! So, so nice to hear from you. You’re completely right, the coconut caramel is absolutely delicious, particularly with the dark chocolate. I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did. Now, it’s about time I check out more vegan foodie genius on your blog. It’s been too long! :)

      • Aw I’m glad that you’re settled in now. It’s hard to balance blogging with everything else in life at times. Thanks for the kind words, I am trying to improve my skills! A friend of mine just lent me his DSLR camera so I’m going to test it out on the weekend! :)

      • Haha, thanks so much. You were right, I’m actually borrowing my friend’s DSLR at the moment so I had lots of fun taking photos! I’m hoping to purchase my own DSLR in the next few weeks so watch out for the changing photography! Hope you had a great weekend too :)

    • Aw, thanks Azita! I do love me some macro photography (in fact, I’ve become a bit obsessed with it lately!). The slice was absolutely divine… I’m normally not a fan of gluten-free products but this one worked perfectly! xx

  8. I’m not sure that commercial played in the U.S. when I was a kid. No matter, this coconut, caramel and dark chocolate concoction is calling my name!

    • I think it was screened in Australia only… as Caramello koalas are an Aussie product as far as I know :) But yep, the coconut caramel was absolutely divine! I hope that you give it a try! xx

    • Haha, they’re definitely yummy (the koalas, I mean!). The slice ended up being even better than I imagined. The coconut caramel worked brilliantly. Definitely try the recipe if you enjoy coconut xx

  9. Oh my goodness!! These sound wonderful! The candy that inspired this lovely treat sounds wonderful too but my oh my, I need to make these! As you know, I love chocolate and caramel so this is really calling my name. Those elderflower mojitos sound divine too ;) I think we need the recipe!

    • Thanks so much Kate! I need to pinch the recipe for the mojitos from Krystel… will share! The St Germaine liqueur was absolutely divine though… so, so delicate and floral. Yum! I do hope you try this recipe. It’s absolute chocolate and caramel heaven, particularly if you like caramelised coconut! xx

  10. Yum, Laura: definitely decadent and delicious recipe (well, as you know by now, except the coconut part for me – sorry!) and great food imagery as always! :-)

    • Yes, I have way too many coconut recipes on here, don’t I Stefano! I didn’t even notice the trend until now (darn it. I need a new tack). You don’t really taste the coconut too much in this recipe though. It melds into the background, as the sweet caramel and nuts are quite dominant. I think it could possibly convert you… if you gave it a try. Would you and Francesca like to come around for dinner? Ah, I wish!!

  11. Looks deliciously decadent, what could be better than baking with friends while drinking Mojitos..
    Growing up in NZ it was Cadburys chocolate Fredo Frogs and yes I still eat them..even better they have started making a popping candy version. After reading your post I have it stuck in my head that I need to come up with some kind of popping candy cake hmmmmm :)

    • Oh, I loved Freddos also! I still eat both giant Freddos and the strawberry-filled ones (as they’re most often in the work fundraisers! Haha, all for a good cause right?!). Popping candy cake would be AMAZING. Actually, in recent months ‘pop rocks’ have become quite popular as a dessert element in fine dining restaurants in Perth. Not sure why (maybe it was Adriano Zumbo on Masterchef) but I’m loving it. Definitely suitable for grown ups ;) xx

  12. This is definitely a recipe to try Laura, but I’m having visions of pulled lamb shoulder, goat cheese, aioli…! What an amazing meal. I’ve been thinking about braised lamb for months now, you just made me hungry. Can’t wait to try the caramel with coconut milk!

    • Thanks so much Paula. Haha, yes it was a delicious meal! I’ve been doing a lot of slow cooking over the winter months. Lamb is a perpetual favourite, as we’re definitely meat lovers in our household. It turns out delicious every time! And the coconut milk caramel worked perfectly. It was so delicious; I’d go as far as to say that it rivals Argentinean dulce de leche, which is a very difficult thing to do! xx

  13. I love Millionaire’s shortbread bars a lot but I do prefer your vegan version way better! Thanks for making these tasty beauties! ;) I love reading it all, it is like a twix bar on steroids,….hahahahahahhahaha! ;) MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM! I loved the 1st picture the most!

    • Yep, it was a pretty vivid image for me too (though veganising a recipe is a much healthier way to ‘pump up’ the goodness than steroids are!). I love your comments, they always make me so darn happy Soph! Thanks. Wish I could send you some! xxx

  14. Oh man. This looks insanely delicious. You also write beautifully, which pairs well with your lovely, edible photographs. Hungry again. Must feed. Now.

    • Hello lovely! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate your encouragement. And yes, these slices were insanely good. Definitely make some, if you like coconut! The caramel is to die for! xx

    • Thanks so much Brandi! It was so, so good. Definitely one of my new favourite indulgences :) The coconut caramel is so adaptable too, I can see myself using it for all sorts of cakes and treats. Thanks for taking the time to write beautiful! xx

  15. Wow! This looks like quite the food fest! These bars look so amazing – and to think you can do that with coconut milk! Sure it takes time, but you can read food blogs while you are waiting! When the recipe calls for dessicated coconut, is it sweetened?

    • Thanks David! I know, I had no idea that coconut milk could make such a wonderful condensed milk caramel. It’s almost (but not quite!) as good as dulce de leche, which is one of my absolute favourite things. Re the coconut, it’s just plain, unsweetened dessicated coconut. I actually didn’t realise that you could get a sweetened version. I don’t think any of the stores over here sell it. Definitely try making this if you and Mark are coconut fans. It’s so good!

      • Thanks, Laura – we will give them a try! Here in the land of “more sugar is never enough,” it is getting harder and harder to find unsweetened coconut in regular grocery stores! You have to go to a natural foods store to find it… which isn’t a problem, just an extra step.

      • Such an interesting thought. It’s been a while since I was in the US but I definitely remember how sweet everything was. The plain cornflakes and raisin bran even taste sweeter than the flakes in our packets of Australian cereal! Thanks for letting me know that I need to specify.

  16. Well done on posting so many gorgeous gluten free recipes. I wish I had seen this before I made my cousins sons cupcakes, I had to use a box!!!! I NEVER use box mix :( I think I have said it before but your photographs are truly stunning x

    • Thanks so much hon. Argh, I know what you mean about box mix… NEVER AGAIN! They’re convenient but homemade mixed flour for gluten free definitely wins hands-down. Defintiely give this recipe a go, it’s awesome. So, so delicious! xx

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