Do you know that it’s really easy to make your own candy bars? These are a wonderful and nostalgic sweet treat. Since we are in for a snowy weekend, at least here in Boulder, and Valentine’s Day is coming up next week, it seems like the perfect time to cozy up in the kitchen and get creative!
I started making these candy bars for my kids when they were little and then continued at the restaurant where we could barely keep them on the shelves. I’m not a chocolate-eater, so the recipe calls for carob which I highly recommend because it's naturally soothing and sweet and requires no added sweetener; if you prefer chocolate, there are instructions in the notes below the recipe. You can also use cacao butter (if you like the flavor) instead of coconut oil.
For reference, if you follow this recipe, you'll get a bar resembling a Snickers or Milky Way, depending on how chunky you keep the nuts. Or, you can choose a more simple 1-layer candy bar if you stop after the first step. Or skip the nutty filling and make a bar reminiscent of those gooey caramel-filled bars athletes used to sell at school as a fundraiser (I was obsessed with those). There are countless options in terms of flavors and textures; just think of your favorite conventional candy bar (or boxed candy) and I’m sure there is a way to make a healthier and more sustainable at-home version. I plan to include plenty of variations (nut butter cups, peppermint patties, Three Musketeers-style, Mounds/Almond Joy, and more) in the full cookbook.
You can make these in an unlined stainless loaf pan, silicone ice cube molds (pictured), lined mini muffin tins, or traditional candy molds. If you don’t have any of those, a parchment-lined cookie sheet will also work; they will be a little more free-form and equally as delicious.
These bars do need to be kept cool. Coconut oil melts around 70℉ so if they get warmer than that, they will lose their shape. I like to eat them straight out of the freezer to keep the snappy texture of the outside layer, but if you prefer them softer, they just need a few minutes at room temperature to soften a bit on the inside, or you can store them in the refrigerator.
FIRST LAYER (and top): Candy Base and Coating:
½ cup coconut oil
½ cup carob powder (note variation in measurement) (can sub cacao powder; would need to add sweetener)
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
2-3 drops good quality, food grade peppermint oil (or more if you want a minty flavor)
Put your loaf pan/tray in the freezer.
Warm a small saucepan over low heat.
Remove the pan from heat and add coconut oil to gently melt.
Stir in the remaining ingredients. The mixture should have a uniform, shiny, pourable consistency with the oil being “saturated” with the carob powder. If you see coconut oil pooling around the edges once the carob powder and coconut oil are completely combined, add a bit more carob powder.
Pour about half of the mixture into the cold pan/tray and return it to the freezer.
Set the remainder aside in a warm place.
Stop here for simple 1-layer candy bars - you can pour all of the mixture (as is, or with add-ins such as chopped nuts/seeds, 6-8 additional drops of peppermint oil, crunchy sprouted buckwheat, etc) into your pan/tray and freeze for 10 minutes or so until firm.
SECOND LAYER: Date Caramel
(This is enough for 2-3 batches of candy. Smaller quantities are harder to process in most machines, so I either make several batches of candy bars at once or freeze the remainder of the date caramel in tablespoon-sized portions for future candy bars, fillings, frostings, etc. It can also be stirred into porridge, blended into hot drinks as a sweetener, or spread on toast and topped with chopped nuts for a sweet treat. Each portion approximately equals one date.
32 medium-sized fresh/soft medjool dates, pitted
1 Tablespoon coconut oil (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
place all of the ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender and process until it’s as smooth as you can get it. This will depend on your machine, so don’t worry too much if it’s a little chunky.
Spread a thin layer of date caramel over the frozen first layer and return the pan to the freezer.
THIRD LAYER: Nutty Filling
1 cup nuts, preferably sprouted and dehydrated (can substitute seeds, or ½ cup tahini)
¼ cup of date caramel (recipe above)
¼ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
½ cup coconut, optional
½ teaspoon vanilla, optional
Place nuts in a food processor or blender and process to desired consistency, ranging form a rough chop (could do this by hand) to a coarse flour.
Combine with remaining ingredients, by machine or hand.
Spread a layer to your desired thickness over the caramel layer and press down to combine.
Drizzle remaining carob mixture on top. If a solid top is desired, spread evenly with a rubber spatula or spoon.
Place back in the freezer for 2-3 minutes, then remove to cut into squares, rectangles, or diamonds once it’s set enough to cut cleanly, but not so much it breaks when you cut it (though that won’t affect the flavor one bit).
Return to freezer or refrigerator until ready to eat.
To make chocolate candy coating, replace carob powder with cacao powder 1:1 and add ¼ cup maple syrup, or to taste. (Carob is naturally sweet whereas cacao is naturally bitter.)
Use can use cacao butter to replace the coconut oil, but you may need to play with the consistency by using a bit less carob powder and/or adding a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup.
You can omit the peppermint oil, but I highly recommend using it if you have it. It doesn’t add a minty flavor unless you use a larger quantity than what is listed in the recipe, but it does add a depth that brings the flavors together.