This week, I have corrupted Millionaire’s Shortbread with mantras and health foods. Yes mantras (caramel is spiritual, right?) Whistle-inducing excitement, for these extraordinarily knotty times you’ll agree.
The secret, I think, lies with odourless coconut oil which you can find in health food stores for half the cost of organic extra virgin coconut oil (horrah!).
Odourless coconut oil is the snazzlejazzle. After a first pressing (extra virgin), the oil is gently steamed to remove its strong coconutty perfume and taste. It’s no longer a raw product at this point, but is still a superb source of MCTs (the medium chain triglycerides that sporting folk become disproportionately affectionate about). Turns out, that all saturated fats are not equal. Each saturated fat has its own structure, and their individual differences influence the way they work in your body. (Scientists, deep breaths while I mutilate your language). MCTs seem to be metabolized more like carbohydrates than fats, and quickly used for energy. Butter will deliver 1-2g of MCTs per tablespoon, ghee around 4g, and coconut oil a whopping 8g. Store this little nugget for later, to impress that hot tri-athlete in your office or that achingly fit barista. You’re welcome.
But coconut oil’s real deal lies with its reputed immune-loving compounds like lauric and caprylic acid. The predominant MCT in coconut oil is lauric acid, known for some serious Ninjago moves. Much of the research on lauric and caprylic acids (also found in breast milk) have shown that many pathogens do not like these particular MCTs (take that, you pesky firestarters!) But given that this week’s recipe is so damned delicious, I’m happy to horse into it while scientists do more research.
Also, if you cut into squares and store in the freezer, they will taste closer to Snicker’s ice cream bars than caramel squares. Don’t thank me – thank my pal Helen James for coming up with the peanut butter brilliance.
100g ground almonds
50g rolled oats
3 tablespoons (odourless) coconut oil, melted
Pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons of maple syrup or rice malt syrup or honey
30g peanut butter
2 tablespoons (odourless) coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons maple syrup (no other sweetener works as well for consistency)
110g light tahini
70g dark chocolate, melted
Smattering of flaky sea salt e.g. Maldon
You’ll need to line a large bread tin (25cm) with non-stick baking parchment. Shoot up the oven to 170 Celsius (150 fan-assisted).
In a food processor, blitz the whole oats with your ground almonds until uniform. With the motor still running, pour in the oil, salt and maple syrup. Scoop out into your prelined tin. It will seem tricky to manipulate the base, so I recommend using clean hands to flatten the mixture into every corner.
Bake for 12 minutes at 170C before it colours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, get partying with your wholefood caramel. Whisk the listed ingredients together with a fork. Cover your cooled base with this gloriously yummy caramel. Chill briefly.
Now is a good time to pour over the melted chocolate. If the caramel is too cold/chilled, the chocolate will set immediately and make it impossible to spread. You can move the tin around, redirecting the melted chocolate to the bits that need covering. Sprinkle the top with flaky sea salt. Chill until set. We eat it straight from the fridge, but it can also be eaten straight from the freezer (a very good hiding place, FYI).