Oatmeal "Caramel" Layer Bars (gluten free, refined sugar free)
For holidays my mom would often make 7 layer bars. They were my favorite treat out of all the holiday baked goods. I've made a few versions over the years but they usually included an almond flour crust which I can't have anymore due to my almond allergy. Although this version isn't grain free, it's gluten free and low in refined sugars (unless you really load up on toppings!). The date caramel sends it over the top. I could seriously eat the stuff with a spoon. I won't judge if you decide to just eat the caramel and ditch the bars. I'm fantasizing about all the things I'm going to make with it...pecan pie, butter tarts (it's a Canadian thing), salted "caramel" frosting...yum!
Vegans and dairy free people, I tried really hard to make these bars with coconut oil instead of butter. Each time it was an epic fail. If I used enough oil to result in a crumbly dough, the cookie layer turned out mushy and oily. If you don't want to use real butter, a vegan butter would be a better option than coconut oil. If you are a baking genius and you figure out the perfect ratio of coconut oil to dry ingredients let me know!
The greatest thing about this recipe is you can mix and match the toppings based on your preferences or food allergies.
Oatmeal "Caramel" Layer Bars
Oatmeal Cookie Crust:
3/4 cup of Sugar Bunny Flour Blend or other gluten free blend
3/4 cup of gf oat flour
1 3/4 cups of gluten free quick or rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup of coconut sugar (or monk fruit sweetener if you don't want any sugar)
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of sea salt
12 Tbs of unsalted butter, chilled (preferably grassfed. I love Kerrygold Irish Butter)
16 ounces of Medjool dates, cut in half and pits removed
1/2 cup + 2 Tbs of non-dairy milk (I used coconut)
1/4 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp of vanilla
1/2 cup of raw pecans or walnuts (omit if you have nut allergies)
1/2 cup of unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate (Lily's brand is sweetened with stevia if you are avoiding all sugar)
1/4 cup of Guittard Butterscotch Chips (Most butterscotch chips are not gluten free. If you use another brand be sure to read the label.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine flours, oats, coconut sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir until combined. Cut the chilled butter into pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles peas. This will take a few minutes and a little elbow grease!
Scoop the crust mixture into a greased 9X9 or 9X13 inch pan. The smaller your pan, the thicker the crust will be. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool completely. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F.
In a blender or food processor, add the non-dairy milk, vanilla extract, sea salt and pitted dates. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
Add the nuts and unsweetened coconut to a large cookie sheet. Place in the oven at 325 degrees for approximately 7-8 minutes. Check every few minutes to make sure nothing is burning. It happens fast! When the coconut looks just barely golden brown take the pan out of the oven to cool.
When the oatmeal cookie crust, nuts and coconut are completely cooled, assemble the bars. Spread the date caramel on top of the crust. Add the toppings and press lightly with your palm to set. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 30-60 minutes. Take the bars out of the refridgerator about 15 minutes before you want to serve them. Slice into small squares and relish every bite!