This recipe is a combination of this and this. Two decadent desserts coming together to create a fusion between the best of both sweets. The flavors and look of these bars miiight just remind you of a certain cookie that comes in a purple box and is sold by enthusiastic little ladies donned in green.
Crispy shortbread is thickly-slathered with coconut-caramel and drizzled with a glossy homemade chocolate. The result is a bar with a shortbread snap, sink-your-teeth-in gooey caramel and coconut layer, and just enough chocolate to keep things balanced.
To make these bars, you’ll start by making the gluten-free shortbread dough by combining ground oats, coconut flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Grease a tart pan, smooth out the dough, and bake for 12-15 minutes. While the shortbread is baking, you’ll toast a pan of shredded coconut alongside it in the oven. The coconut should be crisp and a rich golden-brown color to maximize its flavor potential.
To make the caramel, you’ll add pitted dates, coconut oil, almond butter (or sunflower butter), vanilla, and sea salt to a food processor. Process for a few minutes or until you have a thick, sticky caramel. Stir in the toasted coconut and spread on top of the shortbread layer.
The last step is making a quick homemade chocolate from raw cacao butter. Raw cacao butter, also known as “cocoa butter”, is the cold-pressed oil from cacao beans, and it’s a necessary part of making true homemade chocolate. You’ll melt and whisk together cacao butter, cacao powder and pure maple syrup over a double-boiler until a rich, glossy chocolate develops. However, if you can’t find cacao butter or want to cut down on time, simply melt together dark chocolate and a little bit of coconut oil. I like to transfer the chocolate into a heat-safe pastry bag and pipe it over the bars, but it can also be drizzled on top with a spoon.
Toasted Coconut, Caramel & Chocolate Shortbread Bars
For the Shortbread Crust
- 2 cups rolled oats
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- ½ cup melted coconut oil (measured after being melted)
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Toasted Coconut and Caramel Layer
- 2 cups shredded coconut (I use unsweetened)
- 2 cups pitted and packed medjool dates (about 22 dates -- soft and wet)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tbsp creamy almond butter*
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp sea salt
For the Chocolate Drizzle
- 1 ounce raw cacao/cocoa butter (about 1 1/2 tabespoons)**
- 3 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
To Make the Shortbread Crust
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add the rolled oats to a food processor and process for 3-4 minutes or until a fine flour is formed.
- Add the oat flour, coconut flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract to a large mixing bowl. Gently mix with a spatula until incorporated.
- Grease a 9x13 rectangular tart pan with coconut oil. Transfer the crust mixture to the pan. Using your hands, press the mixture evenly into the pan. Use a fork to poke 8-10 holes in the crust to allow it to vent as it bakes. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
For the Toasted Coconut and Caramel Layer
- Spread the shredded coconut out over a baking pan. Bake, alongside the shortbread crust, at 350F for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown, stirring every few minutes.
- While the coconut and shortbread are baking, add the pitted medjool dates, coconut oil, almond butter, vanilla, and sea salt to a food processor. Process for 3-4 minutes or until a thick caramel develops.
- Transfer the caramel to a mixing bowl, and stir in the toasted coconut until incorporated. This isn't the easiest thing to stir, so bring your muscles and patience to the table.
- Once the shortbread is completely cool, carefully spread the coconut-caramel over the top. I find it's easiest to use my hands to press the caramel into place.
- Slice into bars of desired size.
To Make the Chocolate Drizzle
- Add cacao butter, cacao powder, and maple syrup to a double boiler and heat over medium-low. Whisk together until melted and a smooth, creamy chocolate comes together. Let cool slightly.
- If you have a heat-safe pastry bag, transfer the chocolate into the bag with a fine piping tip attached. Pipe the chocolate over each bar. If you don't have a heat-safe pastry bag, simply use a spoon to drizzle the chocolate over top. Let cool or refrigerate to set chocolate.
*For a nut-free version, use sunflower seed butter.
**If you prefer to skip the trouble of making a homemade chocolate, simply melt 1/2 cup dark chocolate along with a teaspoon or two of coconut oil, and drizzle the mixture over top.