Paleo Caramel Banana Blondies
Dairy-free, grain-free, gluten-free, cane sugar-free
It was a very gross, humid, rainy, thunderstorming weekend here in Boston, which means that my dog will not go outside and I don’t really want to either. Baking experiments are the only thing to do (definitely not the laundry…).
For awhile now I have wanted to make vegan caramel sauce. I have looked around at how other folks do it and I tried one from Bakerita aka Rachel aka amazing recipe creator that used coconut milk, coconut sugar and coconut oil. It is certainly delicious and I put it on my banana ice cream, but the flavor is predominately coconut. I don’t think that is a bad thing, but in a flavor content, coconut will win out always over a lot of other things.
Then I remembered that one time in elementary school when we made out own maple syrup. My teacher boiled down the sap to make the syrup and then showed us how to keep boiling it to the right temperature to make maple candy. So maple syrup must be good for a caramel, just need the right fat…
But, before we get to the deets of this recipe; we need to talk equipment.
If you have a kitchen scale, I highly recommend using it for this recipe. It just makes things easier and using volume measurements (cups, etc.) is not as exact. Not to mention it cuts down on the dishes, which is always a plus in my book.
My favorite kitchen scale is this one. Ok, let’s talk about the good stuff.
About that caramel
To make the paleo caramel, I combined tahini, maple syrup, coconut sugar, vanilla and coconut oil, doing several things to make sure it worked:
use a heavy bottomed saucepan (i used a Le Creuset small saucepan, which is cast iron)
Do not walk away from it. It can burn quickly and no one wants that.
Keep it moving; stir constantly with a whisk
Keep the heat medium; if it seems like it is getting too hot, remove it from the heat and keep stirring it.
Last note about the caramel, make sure that you use the best maple syrup that you can find. I like to use Grade A Dark Amber since it has a deeper flavor.
The same goes for the tahini. I like to use a runnier one; my favorite is from Soom Foods, but Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods also have a great tahini.
Now, those blondies.
I love a good blondie. And I love a banana. Oddly, I don’t really like to eat bananas the fruit, but I love banana baked goods. What can I say? I am weird. They lend a great sweetness and moisture to a baked good. They also help to take over from the dairy in this recipe.
Bananas are also perfectly matched with the savory, earthiness of the tahini. They balance each other out so that, even with the agave nectar added.
If you want to avoid these getting too sweet (the caramel is very sweet on its own btw), you can use half the amount of banana and replace it will more tahini. You can also just use tahini, but may need to add a tablespoon of warm water to it after you mix in the agave.
For the caramel-like goodness
7oz (about 1 cup) tahini
3 oz (1/3 cup) maple syrup
6tbsp (1/4 cup + 2tbsp) coconut sugar
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp refined organic coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt
For the Banana Blondies
1 small super ripe banana (3oz)
3oz (about 1/3 cup) tahini
3oz (about 1/3 cup) organic agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large free range, organic egg (2oz) — you can sub a flax egg, but see note below**.
1 cup (4.5oz) super fine blanched almond flour
1/4 cup (1/2oz) arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup crushed banana chips (optional, but adds a bit more banana flavor and texture)
Flaky sea salt for topping (Maldon is my favorite)
Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and line an 8inch baking dish.
First, whisk together the dry ingredients for the blondies in a small bowl, removing any lumps of almond flour. Set aside.
On a zeroed kitchen scale, measure out the wet ingredients for the blondies in a large bowl. Whisk them together and set aside. Keep the dry and wet ingredients separate until after you make the caramel.
For the caramel, set your saucepan on top of the zeroed kitchen scale, measure the tahini, maple syrup and coconut sugar. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Using a metal whisk, stir the tahini, syrup and coconut sugar together constantly. It will be stiff at first, but as it heats up it will loosen up.
Keep stirring over medium heat for 10 minutes. Do not walk away from the stove and do not stop stirring. After about 10 minutes, it will start to thicken up a bit. Remove it from the heat and add the coconut oil, vanilla and salt. Whisk together and then let it cool for 15 minutes. It will firm up a little bit, but still be runny enough to drizzle.
Now, back to the blondies. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to combine fully. Pour the blondie batter into the prepared pan. Using a large spoon (i used a soup spoon) to dollop/drizzle your caramel over the top of the blondie batter. With a butter knife, swirl the caramel throughout the batter.
Bake for 25 to 28 minutes. Right after you remove it from the oven, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and then let cool completely before slicing.
Slice these babies and serve with your favorite dairy-free ice cream. Or you can just drizzle more caramel all over it. You do you. They are best when warmed in a low oven (200F) for 5 minutes.
Keep these in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days; in the fridge for a week or freeze for up to a month.
** To make the blondies completely vegan, replace the egg with 1 tbsp flax meal added to the dry mixture and add 1/4 cup warm water to wet ingredients. I do not like to use a flax egg with tahini as it can get too gelatinous and cause the tahini to seize up.