Crunchy, firm, soft yet decadent, fudgy. I am not sure which is better here, the various layers of texture or the various layers of flavor.
First you have a baked fudgy base, imagine if a brownie and a piece of fudge were to have a baby. Fudgy chocolate-ness by itself is delicious, but there are steps that can be taken to make it prime Christmas chow. Ginger and cinnamon add just a bit of spiced depth.
Next comes the soft pecan and cranberry layer. It is possibly the best layer of them all. Tart and sweet with just a bit of nuttiness. A perfect accompaniment to the spiced chocolate base.
On the top of that is a thin layer of chocolate. I don’t usually put straight melted chocolate on something like this. It gets hard enough that it cracks when you cut into the bar, but the “resistance then the squoosh” as my husband puts it is part of what gives this bar it’s intrigue.
Next comes some turbinado sugar, for a crunchy topping with just a touch of molasses flavor. A little goes a long way in adding yet another textural element, which is good as it is a rare treat around here! Those large crystals were just calling my name while I was at the store thinking “what Christmas goodies should I make for the blog?”
Let me tell you, those words are dangerous to think especially when you aren’t really armed with a plan. It took about 5 minutes in the store for me to think of enough Christmas treat recipes to last for about for years around here. Sweet potato chai cake with pecan praline, cranberry cinnamon rolls with a green chocolate drizzle, spiced drinking chocolates, healthy mint patties, gingerbread milkshake, gingerbread soft serve… you get the idea. My mind was swirling with gluten free flours, cranberries, spices, and more chocolate than I care to admit.
I looked down at my basket and was afraid I was going to go in a sugar coma. Thankfully I am getting better at testing out sweets as many times as I need to, without over doing it on the sugar (which doesn’t take much for me). This means I can post things like these decadent and extraordinarily Christmas-y bars.
Did I mention these were soy, gluten, dairy, and egg free? Hmmm?
Even my daughter who can’t have honey and coconut (two ingredients I previously used almost every time I baked) can have this. I do a happy dance every time I find something we can all have, but even if you aren’t dealing with gluten, dairy, egg, or soy food allergies this is a solid dessert everyone will love.
- Base Layer
- 3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (the real kind, not with coconut oil)
- 10 oz medjool dates (make sure they are nice and sticky)
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup coconut oil/ghee/palm shortening
- ⅜ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- 2 Tablespoons tapioca starch
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Cranberry Pecan Layer
- ½ cup turbinado or sucanat
- ½ cup pecans
- ¾ cup cranberries
- 1 Tablespoon oil/ghee/palm shortening
- 1 Tablespoon tapioca starch
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- A few good pinches turbinardo sugar (optional, but tasty)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and oil a 9 x 9 pan.
- Melt the baking chocolate in a double boiler.
- Blend together the melted chocolate, dates, water, fat/oil, salt, vanilla, spices, and tapioca starch in a food processor until smooth. Blend in the baking powder. Spread into the prepared pan.
- Working very quickly, turn on the food processor and add the cranberry pecan layer ingredients, blend until pretty spreadable (the cranberries will be in teeny tiny pieces). Put large dollops of the mix over the chocolate layer (you will use all of it) and then spread out evenly.
- Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, add the chocolate chips and bake an additional five or until the sides of the bars don't touch the pan anymore (like with brownies). Take from the oven and VERY GENTLY spread the chocolate. Sprinkle with turbinardo sugar if desired.
- Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. Serve cold. Cut into about 16 squares.