I’ve said it before: I’m not a big fan of resolving things in the new year (just because it’s the new year). However, toward the end of December, I made a long list of 2016 goals with one thing in mind: no goal is too small or insignificant. Sending out wedding thank you cards is #2 on that list. I know you get an entire year but, honestly? I’m embarrassed about the fact that they’ve been sitting (half written) in our dresser for the past three months. #3 is to finally start editing the four-month old (YIKES) photos from our honeymoon and throw together some travel pieces to be shared while we’re working on #4.. which is to finish the damn kitchen. I’ve been wanting to gut it since we moved in, in May 2014, but I’ve been putting it off because I’m terrible at making decisions when there are 13284 of them to be made. Like, SMEG or no SMEG? Cream SMEG? Pastel green SMEG? Soapstone countertops or quartz countertops? OR BUTCHER BLOCK COUNTERTOPS? Subway tile backsplash or square tile backsplash? (Thom’s team subway, I’m team square.) White cabinets or gray cabinets? And don’t even get me started on the kitchen sink. Or the faucet. Or the fact that we’re probably going to find things behind the lath and plaster that I’d rather not know exist.
Anyway. Because you’re probably wondering: #1 on that list is to be nicer to my body. Last year I was pretty awful to it. I repeatedly pushed myself beyond my limits because I’m, apparently, one of those sick people who uses exercise as a means of torture. And one day I finally woke up and was like WHY THE FUCK AM I TORTURING MY BODY? So I made a promise to myself (shortly after we got back from India) that I’d take it easy; I’d stop ignoring the signals (ahem, aches and pains) and start giving my body as much recovery time as it needed – whether that was a day or three. Or an entire week. I quit long distance running, cold turkey. And I’m actually thrilled to say I can’t remember the last time I woke up at 4AM and went on a 12 miler through the city. Even better? My thighs didn’t grow three sizes when I suddenly stopped putting in 50+ miles a week. IMAGINE THAT.
Funny enough, around the same time I decided to take a more mellow approach to my workout routine, I also started eating the way a 4 year old would eat if his parents weren’t around to force-feed him the good stuff. I’d skip lunch. Snack on an assortment of salty things (ANY salty thing) I could find in the cupboards. Eat a bag of frozen potato wedges for dinner (one time, five nights in a row). And then I’d end my day consuming more chocolate than any person should consume in one sitting.
Which is kind of disgusting, and brings me to this caramel slice.
In the new year, I promised myself I’d eat better. That – no matter what – I’d try my hardest to eat with intention instead of eating to fill a void. So far it’s going well, but I’m not gonna lie: I’m only one week in and the urge to walk down the street to get a plate of greasy French fries (because it’s too dangerous to keep a bag of them in the freezer) is getting harder and harder to resist. The good thing is I’ve planned for missteps. So when the time comes and I succumb to the greasy diner fry dinner? My course of action will be to wake up the next day, shake it off, and start over new. Because, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we all need to be a little better about cutting ourselves some slack. And recognize that our ability to resolve things isn’t diminished because we wanted some goddamn french fries. Or, you know, because we chose to binge watch Making a Murderer until 1AM and sleep in instead of wake up early to go to the gym.
So this slice. It was originally going to be super decadent and not even remotely healthy (it involved a coconut oil version of my chocolate dipped vanilla bean shortbread) (aaaaaand maple-tahini caramel), but when I realized I’d be trying to eat a bit better in the new year (along with every other person in the world), I figured it’d serve us all if the first recipe of 2016 was comprised of things we can feel good about eating. Like oats! And almonds! And natural sweeteners! Which, coincidentally, are also things you can get away with eating for breakfast (if you know what I mean).
Happy 2016, you guys. I have no idea what’s in store for OLC but I can guarantee you one thing: it’s gonna be delicious. And perhaps a little less vulgar because #14 on my list of 2016 goals is to attempt to remove the word fuck from my vocabulary. Though, admittedly, that’s probably not going to happen.
Notes: Feel free to use your favorite nut/seed in place of the almonds; pecans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, etc. If your dates are pre-pitted, you’ll need about 210g of ’em. Although I’ve only tested medjool dates, I suspect any other date variety will work in this recipe (though make sure you’re measuring them by weight). I prefer to use the lower coconut oil measurement when making the crust, but if you want a dough that’s a bit on the soft side, throw in that third tablespoon.. but I’d wait until after you add the maple syrup, just to see where the consistency stands. If you want to make the slice extra crunchy, cover the bottom of the base with raw almonds (chopped or whole) before layering with the caramel cream.
ALMOST RAW CRUNCHY CARAMEL SLICE
Crunchy almond base
1/2 cup (46g) thick rolled oats
1 cup (148g) raw almonds, divided
Pinch of fine sea salt
2-3 tablespoons (22-33g) unrefined coconut oil, melted (but not hot)
2 tablespoons (32g) pure maple syrup
Raw caramel cream
3/4 cup (102g) raw cashew pieces, soaked 4+ hours
12-14 (228g) medjool dates, pitted and soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
1/2 cup (112g) raw almond milk, room temperature
2 tablespoons (32g) pure maple syrup
1/4 cup (44g) unrefined coconut oil, melted
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup (25g) cacao powder
2 tablespoons (22g) unrefined coconut oil, melted (but not hot)
1 tablespoon (16g) pure maple syrup
Pinch of fine sea salt
Cacao nibs, roughly crushed
Raw almonds (whole, chopped, sliced, slivered, etc.)
Pinch of sea salt flakes
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and top with a 6″ cake ring. Line with a strip of acetate; set aside. If you don’t have a cake ring (or acetate strips), use a spring form pan lined with parchment paper. Either will work, though the former produces a cleaner looking slice.
In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the rolled oats into a fine flour. Add the almonds and sea salt and pulse until the almonds are roughly chopped. While the processor is running, slowly drizzle in the coconut oil – followed by the maple syrup – and blend just until the mixture turns into large crumbles. Firmly press the mixture into the prepared cake ring then set aside while preparing the other components. If necessary, the crust will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days and in the freezer for up to four weeks (wrapped in three layers of plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn).
In a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix, blend the cashews (drained), dates (drained), almond milk, and maple syrup on high speed until smooth and creamy; about 1-2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the coconut oil, followed by the sea salt, then increase the speed to high and blend for 30-45 seconds. Once you’re finished blending, the caramel cream will likely be full of air bubbles, so pulse the mixture 30-40 times to ensure most of those get removed. Pour the cream over the base layer, tap the pan on the counter a few times, decorate with finely chopped almonds (if desired), then pop the pan in the freezer for at least 8 hours, to set.
Once the slice has set and you’re ready to cut it, prepare the chocolate drizzle by adding the cacao powder to a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the coconut oil, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is smooth, then stir in the maple syrup and sea salt. You can pour the chocolate topping over the caramel layer and put it in the freezer to harden, or you can transfer it to an icing bottle (or plastic bag with the corned snipped) and drizzle it over each slice, like I did. Top with cacao nibs, almonds, and flaky salt, if desired. Tart will keep frozen for up to one month (though I doubt it will last that long). Cut immediately upon removing from freezer, then let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 10-12 slices
For a caffeine kick – Use 1 tablespoon of dark roast coffee beans in the crust and 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso powder in the chocolate drizzle.
To incorporate peanuts – Replace the almonds with peanuts and the cashews with 1/2 cup of natural peanut butter (you may also need to use a touch more almond milk).