In fulfillment of my ONE new year’s resolution, I’m finally posting my recipe for Vegan Gluten-Free 7 Layer Bars. I’ve intended to bring these toothsome delights to you for TWO successive Januaries now, and missed the mark each time. Forgive me. We’re going to fix that today.
The trouble is, every time I go to make these Vegan Gluten-Free 7 Layer Bars, technology either fails me or I fail at technology.
There was that time I shot some decent photos of these bars and then decided to edit on my iPad…which was cool until I realized it was a functional black hole when it came to exporting the edited shots. Sigh.
Then, I flat-out deleted the recipe draft. Bye, measurements. Blergh. Thank goodness I make these all the time, so that wasn’t too hard to recreate.
Finally, I re-made and re-shot these just before Christmas this year, and wouldn’t you know it? Our Photoshop subscription expired before I got around to editing anything. Also, we have a new You-Get-What-You-Pay-For monitor whose color settings have resisted my best efforts at adjustment. Insert hair tearing.
Nonetheless, in the spirit of “F%@# it, done is better than perfect,” I hacked my way through the unsavory process of monitor calibration, editing photos with Windows, and cleaning up my measurements because these bars are utterly worth every minute and you shouldn’t have to endure another second without them.
Let us proceed to a discussion of their many virtues…
In their usual incarnation, 7 Layer Bars are incredibly easy to create. Open a couple of boxes, bags, and cans, smush it all into a parchment-lined pan and bake. Voila! Sweet, chewy, chocolate-coconut-walnut goodness awaits. Without them, holiday cookie assortments are incomplete. Year-round, most people will be your friend forever if you bring these to a party.
But what if you’re gluten-free? What if you’re (gasp) vegan? No 7 Layer Bars for you, my friend. Sorry you didn’t read the fine print about your dietary regime, but these are definitely out of the question.
…or are they? We mastered homemade gluten-free graham crackers, so now we have the base for Vegan Gluten-Free 7 Layer Bars. All that remains is to replicate that sticky sweetened condensed milk, and we’re in business!
As it turns out, making vegan sweetened condensed milk is a breeze. Sweeten coconut milk. Condense via simmering for a minute, then thicken with cornstarch. Done!
I love the end result in these bars. Normally they’re achingly sweet and one bite is enough. The revamped recipe is still quite rich with all those nuts, chocolate, and coconut, but now they’re two-bite bars. And I put flaky salt on top. Score.
I’m convinced that however 2017 has you feeling (and personally, I’ve been vacillating between apoplexy and malaise), these Vegan Gluten-Free 7 Layer Bars will help. Share them with your neighbors, console your co-workers, fortify yourself with one or two before diving into your news feed. Treats = self-care.
- 210g (1 ¾ cups) gluten-free graham cracker crumbs*
- 1/3 cup vegan buttery sticks**, melted
- 1 15.5-oz.o can full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream
- 65g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
- 65g (1/3 cup) brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 Tablespoon water
- 85g (1 1/3 cups) unsweetened flaked coconut
- 225g (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
- 110g (1 cup) chopped walnuts
- flaky salt, for the top
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9”x13” baking pan with parchment, being sure to leave some overhang so you can remove the bars easily.
- Mix melted vegan butter & graham cracker crumbs in a bowl. Pour the mixture onto the parchment-lined pan. Using the back of a rubber spatula or your palm, flatten “crust” into an even layer in the pan. Press it down firmly. Set the pan aside while you make the coconut layer.
- Whisk together coconut milk and sugars in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and then turn heat down to low (maintaining that simmering action) for about 10 minutes, allowing the mixture to reduce slightly to 2 cups. It will want to boil over, so keep an eye on it and whisk occasionally. Once reduced, pour in cornstarch slurry and whisk until mixture thickens noticeably. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and flaked coconut.
- Pour coconut mixture over your graham crust, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle chocolate chips over coconut mixture. Do the same with the nuts. Using your palm or the back of a rubber spatula, pat chips & nuts gently into surface of coconut mixture.
- Bake bars for 30-35 minutes, or until they get a little golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little flaky salt. Cool 10 minutes, then use parchment "handles" to transfer bars from pan to a cooling rack. Once they reach room temp, refrigerate or freeze 1-2 hrs. until no longer gooey.
- When it's time to dive in, slice into small bars with a large knife. These bars are happiest kept in the fridge.
- *Use my recipe for gluten-free grahams! Palm shortening or vegan buttery sticks can be substituted in the recipe to make them vegan. Store-bought grahams are fine but not as tasty.
- **Earth Balance is the gold standard for vegan baking.