The YumUniverse Candy Bar: Toasted Almond & Caramel Crunch

Happy Halloween YU!

We all know how unhealthy candy bars can be, and we also know that today and for the next few months until January 1, 2012 they will be almost everywhere we turn. I thought it may be nice to come up with a gluten-free, dairy-free candy bar made with plant-based ingredients that you could get your sweet fix with. Now, this is still a candy bar—a treat—but one that you can feel better about serving to your friends and family since it is made without refined sugar, any dairy products, creepy fats or nutritionally-void flours. It is one of those recipes that has many steps and it takes time to prepare, but you can cut a few things out (I’ll let you know where/when) if you are intimidated.

I took a batch to my boxing gym last night and no one thought this candy bar was “vegan.” When I told them it was not only dairy-free, but gluten-free, I received some serious jack-o-lantern-like facial expressions.


Large glass bowl
Small glass bowl
2 forks
Unbleached parchment paper
Cookie sheet
Rolling pin or large sturdy glass
Chef’s knife
Large saucepan
Silicone scraper/spatula
Double boiler OR
2 saucepans, one slightly larger than the other, and maybe a metal screen with hooks OR
A heat safe glass bowl and one small saucepan
Squeeze bottle or plastic bag or piping bag or butter knife

Try to buy everything organic. Here’s why.
Cookie Layer
1 cup Almond flour (Benefit Your Life brand, or homemade, is best—if you use Bob’s Red Mill I can’t guarantee that it will turn out well)
1/4 tsp fine ground sea salt
1 tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla extract (be sure to use alcohol/gluten-free if you have a sensitivity)
2 tbsp sucanat
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp arrowroot powder

Almond Crunch Layer
1/4-1/2 cup Almond Butter (creamy or chunky, it’s your call)
1/2 cup almonds

Brown Rice Crispy Layer
6 cups gluten-free brown rice crisp cereal (not puffed)
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch fine ground sea salt

Gooey Caramel Layer
1 1/2 cup coconut milk (store-bought or make your own)
1 cup sucanat
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup pure water
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
2 tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract (be sure to use alcohol/gluten-free if you have a sensitivity)
Pinch fine ground sea salt

Chocolate Dip Option 1
6-8 bags vegan/gluten-free chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped cacao butter

Chocolate Dip Option 2
8-10 vegan/gluten-free chocolate bars

Chocolate Dip Option 3
8-10 vegan/gluten-free white chocolate bars

Now you can skip some of these filling layers above, or try other combos like:
Crispies, Caramel & Chocolate (maybe with almonds sprinkled on top of chocolate)
Cookie, Crispies & Chocolate
Cookie Crispies & Fresh Raspberry Jam & Chocolate

Just be sure that you have one layer that is hard enough to create the bar shape, either a cookie or the crispies. Let us know what you come up with and share pics.

To individually wrap them:
Any fun, thin paper like origami, recycled catalogs, newspaper, etc.
Unbleached parchment
Clear tape
String, ribbon, twine or embroidery floss


Let’s get started.
Preheat your oven to 350°F and put on your favorite tunes or a great audiobook.

Roughly chop up almonds and toast in the oven on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Make an arrowroot slurry by mixing 2 tbsp arrowroot and 2 tbsp water in a small bowl until arrowroot is thoroughly dissolved.

Now, in a large glass bowl…

…mix all of your cookie layer ingredients and your arrowroot slurry with a fork until a nice dough forms (bottom, right).

Lay out a cookie sheet-sized piece of parchment paper and set dough on top of it. Loosely shape it into a rectangle. Place another cookie sheet-sized piece of parchment on top of the dough. This is one of my favorite ways for working with gluten-free doughs. Nothing sticks to your rolling pin and you don’t make a frustrating mess.

Using the rolling pin, or a large sturdy glass, start rolling dough vertically and horizontally, working it into a flattened rectangle.

When dough is rolled about 1/8″ thick, peel back top layer of parchment and using a chef’s knife, trim off irregular edges—you are trying to make a nice, clean rectangle.

If you get 80% of a clean, straight edge with your knife, but there is a “hole” or “gap”, just plug it with extra dough and use your knife to reshape.

Hold your cookie sheet level with your counter top height and carefully slide the parchment with your purty cookie dough onto the sheet…

…and bake for 7-8 minutes, no longer. You don’t want your cookie to burn. Allow to cool a bit. Keeping the cookie on the sheet, spread a thin layer of almond butter onto the cookie.

Sprinkle your chopped almonds on top. If your almond butter is unsalted, sprinkle with a pinch of fine ground sea salt. Set aside.

In a large saucepan bring all of your crispy layer ingredients, except cereal, to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling (bottom, left), turn off heat and using a silicone kitchen scraper, stir in cereal until well mixed.

Layer crispies on top of cookie, starting to form an identical rectangle. Leave about 1/2 cup crispies in the saucepan and turn on the heat to low (this will keep them from hardening quite yet).

Place your second parchment sheet (you used when rolling cookie dough) on top of crispies and with your hands, or a rolling pin, press firmly. Through the parchment, start to shape edges and corners (bottom, right).

If you see any gaps where the crispies don’t go all the way to cookie edge, just plug it up with some of the crispies left in your pan.

keep shaping with parchment until you achieve a nice, tight rectangular layer. Set aside to cool.

Time to make the gooey caramel…

Make a slurry like you did for the cookie dough with 1/4 cup arrowroot powder and 1/4 cup pure water. In a large saucepan, mix all caramel ingredients and stir almost constantly with a whisk over medium-high heat. The mixture will start to boil, continue stirring vigorously and turn off heat. As it cools, the caramel will thicken.

Pour gooey caramel on top of the crispy layer and with your silicone scraper, make sure it spreads over the entire top without going over the edges too much.

Move the layered bar to the freezer (still on cookie sheet) and let it chill for at least 1 hour.

Remove from the freezer and using a chef’s knife, chop the bars into the size you want. Try small 2″ squares, or 1″ x 3″ skinnies and pop back in the freezer until your chocolate is ready. The colder the bars, the easier the final chocolate-dipping step will be.

Set up a double boiler (if you are familiar with one), or fill a saucepan halfway with water and either place a metal screen on top of the saucepan, and then place a smaller pan within the screen. You can also just fill a saucepan halfway with water and place a large glass bowl on top. Whether you are using a standard double boiler, or hacking one, chop the chocolate (for either Chocolate Dip 1, 2 or 3) into even pieces and warm in the top saucepan/bowl over high heat until you melt the chocolate. Do not get even one single drop of water into your chocolate—it could seize and be unusable. Read more about melting chocolate here.

When the chocolate is melted, get two forks ready. Remove your bars from the freezer.

Place a bar caramel side down into the chocolate and using the fork, carefully roll the bar until all sides are covered. Using your two forks under the cookie layer, gently lift out bar, tap it against the edge of the pan a few times to release extra chocolate and set bar cookie-layer-down onto cookie sheet-sized piece of parchment.

Repeat until all bars are covered. Chocolate should harden since the bars are cold, but if not, place bars in the fridge (not the freezer, the extreme temp could turn your chocolate ashy) until chocolate is hardened.

Using a squeeze bottle or a piping bag, a plastic bag or a butter knife, drizzle extra chocolate over your bars all zig-zaggy and fun. Try regular chocolate bars with a white chocolate drizzle and send me some pics! I was dying to try this but ran out of time.

Cool your creations in the fridge.

If you want to wrap your bars, I have two plastic-free solutions below.

You can cut squares of unbleached parchment big enough to exceed the bar at least 2″ on each side. Roll it up and tie both ends with string/twine.

Or using the same method for cutting parchment, roll up your bars like you would wrap a present (making sure about 2″ unfilled parchment are on each end like bottom, left). Trim a piece of decorative paper to be the exact width of the bar.

Fold and pinch edges of parchment like you would when wrapping a gift. Fold under both ends and set bar folded-ends-down so gravity hold the ends closed. You can’t use tape on parchment, it won’t hold.

Using your decorative paper, press one side down onto your folded parchment edges and roll until the other side of the decorate paper meets the first edge. Now, you can use tape to secure the decorative paper and the parchment will stay folded inside of it.

A lot of work, but totally worth it. Enjoy and have a fantastic Halloween my friends!


Store your candy bars in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to one week.


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  1. I was just making these yummy-looking candy bars and realize I do not have enough brown rice syrup, I realize you can skip this layer, but could you use anything else?

    • MiMi~ You can try agave, maple syrup, yacon syrup, even honey. Let us know if it works!

  2. MiMi McGee

    Thanks Heather! I went out today and bought some additional BRSyrup so I’m good to go!

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