When I was little I used to love accompanying my mom to the grocery store. She was a gentle shopper, rarely in a hurry and always willing to search around for good deals to save us a little extra money. I’d be lying if I said this is why I loved trips to the store, besides the fact that I just loved being with her. But I most looked forward to the end of our trip when we’d finally lassoed our goods and meandered over to the check out line. That was where the Snickers bars were, right at eye level with 3-foot me. And my mom always let me have one, not necessarily because she was a softie (though she was), but because I always asked and I was quite persistent. I hope any future mini-me’s are a little less aggressive.
Either way, my sweet tooth was always rewarded with a big hunk of chewy, peanut-y caramel-y goodness and my chocolate-loving palate couldn’t have been more pleased. Things haven’t changed much since then, only my palate is a touch more refined.
These days I’m into healthier treats, for the sake of my teeth and my adversity to processed goods. So when considering how to veganize my all-time favorite candy bar and keep it simple, I had to get a little creative. So I started with the “nougat.”
At first glance this seems like a overly-simplified way to make a nougat for a candy bar, but trust me, it works. The real stars of this bar are the vegan caramel, peanuts and chocolate anyway – this simply adds a healthier, not-too-sweet base for all of the goods to cling to. It just happens to only require 2 ingredients. Hello simplicity.
The vegan caramel sauce came next, and after three trials I got it right. I simply modified my 4-ingredient bourbon caramel sauce to utilize full fat coconut milk in place of whipping cream. And the result was perfection: creamy, rich caramel sauce with no dairy and just 4 ingredients.
The rest was easy.
Layer the nougat with caramel sauce and peanuts.
Dip the bars in dark chocolate and brush to coat.
How close are these bars to the real thing? Pretty darn close. The only real difference is the denser texture than the original, but other than that all of the flavors are spot on! I was so pleased, and so were my friends, who gladly helped me polish them off in a matter of 24 hours.
Stick around ’til Thursday (the day after my TWENTY SEVENTH BIRTHDAY – oh my) to see what else I put these beauties into. I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with shmyce dream, my favorite food group.
- 18-20 pitted dates (~1 cup)
- 1 cup raw walnuts (or sub cashews or almonds)
- 1/4 cup vegan caramel sauce, (subbing coconut milk for cream)
- 1/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
- 8 ounces (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (non-dairy)
- Pulse dates in a food processor until only small bits remain.
- Add walnuts and pulse until thoroughly mixed and a “dough” is formed.
- Transfer dough to a small loaf pan lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap and press into a square about 1/4 inch thick. Once sliced, the dough should yield 8 small snickers bars - I only used half the space in my loaf pan to achieve the proper thickness.
- Pop dough in the freezer to set for 5 minutes.
- Remove from freezer and transfer to a cookie sheet. Carefully slice into 8 even rectangles.
- Top with caramel sauce and add peanuts. Pop back in freezer for 15 minutes to harden.
- Ten minutes into freezing, melt the chocolate in a shallow bowl. When set, remove bars from freezer and carefully dip each one into the chocolate and scrape off excess with a rubber spatula. Then using a spoon, drizzle a generous amount of chocolate on top of each bar and use your finger or a small pastry brush to coat the bars with chocolate. You will likely have leftover chocolate.
- Place bars on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap or parchment and place back in freezer to set for at least 10 minutes. Store in the freezer or fridge to keep fresh until serving.
*nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1 of 8 bars.