14 November, 2011


Before the Christmas baking rush is upon us all I wanted to give my family, friends and followers a little pep talk.  I have found there is no better pep talk than personal experience.  I want everyone to know that every chef has days in the kitchen where things just don't "turn out" like they were meant to.  The other day I was making homemade dairy-free caramels.  I was going to dip them in chocolate, but I never got that far.  I forgot a rule about using soy and things backfired.  First I tried to fix the problem and maintain the goal....caramels.  But even after I attempted to recover the fumble, it just didn't score a touchdown with me.  The caramel wasn't solid enough, it was more like a thick caramel ice cream topping.  

After a couple hours of looking through books and thinking about what I like I decided bars could save this train wreck.  I grabbed my "go to" bar crust recipe and got to work.  The culmination of this bar is 2 different recipes I've used throughout the years and something I made up on the fly, in honor of this giant goober of a mistake I have dubbed these bars "Martha Graham Bars".  Martha Graham was the QUEEN of improvisational dance.  What I did to improvise was what sounded yummy to ME; you can really do anything you want with this recipe.  If you don't have pecans, use walnuts.  If you don't have coconut, skip it.  These weren't meant to be a crisis for me, don't make them one for you either.

Martha Graham Bars

2 c. flour
1 c. organic brown cane sugar
1 c. Earth Balance vegan buttery spread

Caramel filling
1 vanilla bean OR 2 T. vanilla extract
1 c. soy milk
5 T. Earth's Balance vegan buttery spread
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/3 c. organic cane sugar
1/4 c. organic brown rice syrup
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans (you can use any kind of nut you like or none at all)

Chocolate layer
1 bag Enjoy Life mega chunks, melted
1 c. Now dehydrated unsweetened coconut

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour and brown sugar, then use the mixer to beat the butter into the sugar mixture; it should look crumbly.  Press it all into the bottom of a 9 x 13 bar or cake pan and bake it for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.  When it is done, set aside on a cooling rack. 

For the caramel layer you'll need two separate pots.  The one that you mix the sugar, cornstarch and water in needs to be very large just for the boiling process.  First, if you are using a vanilla bean, cut your bean in half lengthwise. Using tip of paring knife, scrape out the seeds. Combine vanilla bean seeds OR vanilla extract, soy milk, vegan buttery spread, and sea salt in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, cover, remove from heat, and set aside to steep for 10 minutes. 

Next, combine sugar, brown rice syrup, and water in the larger pot over high heat. Bring to boil, frequently swirling pan using the handle (do not stir) until mixture is amber colored and registers 350 degrees on digital thermometer. Remove from heat and carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will foam up pretty high). Return mixture to burner, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, until caramel reaches 248 degrees on digital thermometer.  This might take 3 to 5 minutes.  When it hits 248 remove from heat and throw in your nuts if you are using them.  Pour directly onto your baked crust, pouring evenly from the edges in.  Spread it all the way to the edges of the pan with a rubber spatula; set aside to cool a bit.

In the microwave or on the stove melt down your whole 10 oz bag of Enjoy Life mega chunks.  If you use the microwave use 1 minute bursts and stir between each minute.  When the chocolate is smooth toss in your coconut and stir until the coconut is completely coated in chocolate.  Pour over the caramel layer, from the edges in like you did with the caramel.  Spread to the edges with rubber spatula.  

Allow to cool completely; about 3 hours.  Cut into 2 inch squares, chocolate should no longer be shiny.  Cut a very small square from a corner to test how cool they are.

These are SO rich, you don't really want to eat more than one at a time.  I can't...I've tried.  It is like eating a Nanaimo bar.  You of course won't need a fork when you eat one of these, but I'm just that way.  I hope you enjoy them...and remember that there is ALWAYS a way to save a fumble in the kitchen.  Sometimes the recover ends up being the touchdown that the original play may NEVER have been.  Good luck with your Christmas baking and cooking everyone....if you get stuck, don't be afraid to ask someone for help!  I'm here for ya!


  1. These look so yummy!

    Just found & followed you via the SITS post on Facebook.


  2. Thanks so much for stopping by Brooke! =) I hope you like them if you try them out! All of these dairy free recipes are easily converted back to dairy. Come on back starting December 1st for my "12 Days of Christmas Cookies" series. There will be bonus recipes interspersed for things like fruit barks, candy, etc. Tell all your friends! Thanks again! =)