I started investigating whether salted caramel could be made with a paleo-approved sweetener like honey or maple syrup. I found several maple caramel recipes that called for maple syrup AND sugar…and then finally stumbled across Bon Appetit’s recipe for salted maple caramel sauce, which was sweetened purely with granulated maple sugar. Luckily, I already had some granulated maple sugar in my kitchen cabinet. It’s not cheap, but I like to bake with it because you can substitute it cup for cup for the regular sugar called for in any recipe. Since honey and maple syrup are liquid, they tend to throw off the balance of wet and dry ingredients in many recipes, but maple sugar will act just like real sugar.
Ingredients (makes 9-12 bars):
For the peach bars (adapted from Tutti Dolci):
1 and 1/4 cups almond flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch/tapioca flour
1/4 cup granulated maple sugar*
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 peaches, sliced (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup (1 recipe) salted maple caramel sauce* (see below)
Preheat the oven to 350. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with foil and grease the foil.
To make the crust and topping, whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and vanilla and stir until well combined. The mixture will look very crumbly. Set aside 1/3 cup of crumbs for the topping, and press the remaining crumbs into an even layer in the bottom of the pan to form the crust.
Spread a thin layer of salted maple caramel sauce (about 1/4 cup) over the crust. Layer the sliced peaches on next. Use just enough peaches to cover the caramel in a single layer. Pour the remaining caramel sauce over the peaches, then crumble the reserved topping evenly over the caramel.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Let cool completely in the pan, use the foil to transfer to a cutting board, then use a sharp knife to slice into squares.
For the salted maple caramel sauce (adapted from Bon Appetit; makes about 3/4 cup):
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick or 4 tablespoons)
1/2 cup granulated maple sugar
3/4 cup coconut milk or heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When it’s melted, add the maple sugar and turn the heat up a tad. Start whisking. You’ll see the sugar and butter separate and then come back together as the sugar melts. Whisk until the sugar is totally melted and the mixture is boiling, 3-5 minutes.
Carefully whisk in the coconut milk or cream a little bit at a time. The mixture will bubble up vigorously, and the sugar may seize and form clumps. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until all clumps are gone and the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and salt. You may want to start with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, then taste and see if you would like more, depending on how salty you like your caramel.
*If you cannot find granulated maple sugar or don’t want to use it, you can use regular sugar instead. Instead of the salted maple caramel sauce, use this salted caramel sauce.
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