Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Vegan Magic Bars

October officially marks the start of the holiday season with celebrations lined up one after the other....Diwali, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Its not just that, it's the best part of the year because it gives you more reasons to enjoy sweet treats (who needs one anyway, right??). Holiday season always reminds me of time spent with family. Every year during Thanksgiving or Christmas, we get together with my aunt's family and she bakes a bunch of goodies, one of which, is the magic bars!!

Not sure, how it got its name but it is a piece of sweet goodness. When you taste a magic bar, you wonder if you are eating some sort of chocolate with nuts and coconut?? But, it tastes more like a decadent cookie with a nice graham cracker crust. It does get your taste buds thinking but can totally satisfy your sweet cravings with a bit of everything in it. Originally, loaded with a whole lot of calories and sugar, this is a bit toned down but can be prepared much lighter too. As I was making these bars, I couldn't stop thinking about how a pumpkin pie bar (topped with coconut and pecans) would taste with some ginger snap cookie crust...perfect treat for the fall season. Gotta get me some pumpkin pureé!! These bars store well for a week (i.e., if they last that long). Two batches of these bars and four days in the drafts, its about time this recipe hits the post!!!


For coconut caramel sauce:

3/4 cup light coconut milk
1/3 cup raw sugar

For the bar:

8 - 9 vegan graham cracker crust (approx. 1 1/2 cups crumbs)
3 tbsp vegan butter, like earth balance, melted
1 1/2 tsp raw sugar (optional)
1/2 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tbsp dried cranberries, finely chopped (optional)


For the crust, use graham crackers or any vegan cookies (my personal favorite is the vegan digestive biscuit crumbs) and pulse in a food processor or crush it with a rolling pin or your fingers.

Preheat oven to 350° FIn a 9 x 9-inch baking pan, brush or spray little cooking oil (optional) and line with a parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, add the graham cracker or cookie crumbs, melted butter (or organic coconut oil, melted) and sugar, if using (I didn't use any). Stir the mixture until moist. Layer the mixture in the bottom of the baking pan and press until even.

In a saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar and coconut milk and stir until sugar is melted. Reduce to low heat and cook until the mixture turns from light to medium-dark amber color (takes about 10-12 mins). For a variation, you can prepare a butterscotch sauce by melting 1/3 cup sugar with 1 1/2 tbsp water. After the sugar is melted and the caramel thickens, remove from heat and stir in the butter. Flavorful and irresistible butterscotch sauce is ready!!

Pour the coconut caramel sauce (or butterscotch sauce) evenly over the graham cracker crust. 

Sprinkle with chocolate chips and walnuts evenly over the caramel sauce. 

Sprinkle the unsweetened coconut flakes and cranberries. Press the top mixture slightly with a rubber spatula.

If using butterscotch sauce, pour 1/4 cup of vegan condensed milk (1/2 cup vegan evaporated milk and 1/4 cup sugar simmered over medium heat until sugar is melted) or whisk 1/4 cup coconut milk  and cornstarch paste(mix 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch with 1 tsp coconut milk/water to a paste) and pour evenly over the toppings and bake for 25-30 mins until the edges are browned. 

Cool completely before cutting into squares. Slowly lift the entire piece using the parchment paper on the sides and cut into squares. For perfect squares, refrigerate for 2-3 hours (the hardest part is keeping your hands off of these) before cutting. Keep at room temperature for 10-15 mins and then cut into squares. Enjoy!!

Makes 16 bars.

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