Caramel Nut Barley Squares





I’m not very wordy lately. Apologies. I bring you something caramelly though, does that make up for it? It’s the type of stuff that you cut into small squares and savor very, very, slowly.
Yeah. I knew you’d understand.

Caramel Nut Barley Squares:

For the crust:
210 g (1 3/4 cups) barley flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) melted coconut oil or light olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) pure maple syrup or raw agave nectar

For the filling:
2 tablespoons (30 ml) any vegan milk
1/2 cup (96 g) Sucanat or (80 g) coconut sugar
1/4 cup (84 g) brown rice syrup
Generous pinch of ground pink Himalayan sea salt
1 1/4 cups any coarsely chopped raw nuts
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (88 g) vegan semisweet chocolate chips, more if desired

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4). For an easier time lifting the bars out of the pan, line an 8-inch (20-cm) square pan with parchment paper, with a 2-inch (5-cm) overhang. I usually just lightly coat the pan with nonstick cooking spray, let the uncut squares cool in the pan, in the fridge, and pry them out rather easily, so it’s your call.
Place the flour, salt and maple syrup in a food processor. Add the oil, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) at a time, until the dough holds together when pinched. Press down evenly into the prepared pan, with moistened hands if needed. Pre-bake 10 minutes. In the meantime, make the filling.

To make the filling: Place the milk, Sucanat, and syrup in a small saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, remove from heat, and add all the nuts, the vanilla, and salt, stirring to combine.

To assemble: Remove the pre-baked crust from the oven with an oven mitt. Place the nuts on top and use an offset spatula to evenly spread them all over the crust. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the caramel is thick. Keep a close eye on the nuts so that they don’t burn.

Turn the oven off, remove the pan from the oven, and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top. Place the pan back into the oven, and let the residual heat melt the chips for a minute or two. Use an offset spatula to spread the melted chips over the nuts. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour, or until the chocolate is set, before cutting into squares. The squares will keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days, and freeze superbly when tightly wrapped as well.

Yield: 16 or more squares