Vegan 7-Layer Bars (gluten-free)

Recipe inspiration is a trick thing to come by. I’ve found that my best/most fun ideas tend to arise very organically, without a strict brainstorming session. Recipe blogs are really a dime a dozen; nearly any food has a step-by-step tutorial somewhere in cyberspace (most recently, banana peel pulled pork?).

So what do I consider best place to get recipe ideas?

The real world, of course!

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The idea for these overloaded 7-layer bars originated from a trip Dan and I took to an indoor farm market near his parent’s home. While I did not buy one of these bars (pictured below), I remembered the idea and was determined to recreate once back in my own kitchen.

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If you’ve never had a seven layer bar, you’re in for a real (and decadent) treat. It’s essentially a candy-bar inspired confection with a layers of shortbread, chocolate, caramel, coconut, and various nuts and nut butters. For a slightly healthier spin, the seven layers we’re working with today include:

  • an oatmeal-almond base
  • one-ingredient date caramel
  • almond butter
  • chopped walnuts
  • coconut whipped cream
  • coconut shavings
  • chocolate chunks

Whew!

The nice things about these treats is that they are SO rich, you really don’t need more than a small piece to feel satisfied.

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I recognize that the ingredient list does look like this recipe would take ages, but believe it or not it comes together in less than an hour! As a bonus, the food processor does most heavy lifting and only a quick bake is needed to firm up ingredients. The hardest part for me was waiting the 30 minutes of required cooling time, but this can be sped up slightly in the fridge.

These bars would be a great party dish (they are messy, so bring napkins), and they feel a little more special than usual brownies.

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This recipe was inspired by (a true blogging queen) Minimalist Baker. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! Using an 8 x 8 pan, these can be cut into eight large pieces or 16 smaller. As I mentioned, I do recommend smaller pieces as there are a LOT of flavors happening.

Happy Eating!

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Ingredients:

For crust:

  • 1 TBS flax seed + 3 TBS water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 TBS maple syrup
  • 4 TBS melted coconut oil

For caramel:

  • 1 cup pitted dates, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and drained
  • 4 TBS water
  • Pinch salt

For toppings:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup drippy almond butter
  • 3/4 cup coconut whipped cream (I purchase mine from Whole Foods)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Combine your flax seeds and water in a small cup and set aside. Using your food processor, pulse oats and nuts until mealy. Add flax mixture, salt, maple syrup, and coconut oil and blend until combined and sticky. Transport mixture to a parchment-lined 8 x 8 pan and press down evenly until a complete crust is formed. Bake for 13 minutes and set aside.
  2. While crust is baking, add your soaked dates back into the food processor and blend with a little bit of water. They should form a smooth paste; add more water if necessary. Throw in a pinch of salt and blend once more.
  3. The most fun part — layering! Spread first a layer of date caramel over your entire crust. Sprinkle walnuts and then drizzle nut butter evenly across top (it does not need to be perfectly even). Using a big spoon, plop some globs of whipped cream and spread around. Finish with equal sprinklings of coconut flakes and chocolate chips. Reduce the heat in your oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 13 minutes more, taking care that your coconut does not burn.  Remove from oven and let cool completely for 30 minutes. Slice into bar size of choice and dig in!

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