Chocolate Hazelnut Bars (Vegan, GF)

Bars 2

There’s something really special about finding someone who has the same eating preferences and habits as you do. A person who indulges in the same types of foods, who likes to eat at the same restaurants. Someone you can trust to make you just the dinner you’re in the mood for when you get home from work.

Almonds

Coconut

I realize it sounds like I might be talking about my husband, but I’m actually talking about my dear cousin (you know who you are). Don’t get me wrong, it’s also dangerous to be in the same house for too long with someone who indulges in the same way you do–it means you might be letting your jeans out and racking up receipts, for one thing. And at least for those reasons, I’m glad my husband and I have varying tastes. Still, for someone who loves the arts of food and eating as much as I do, there is such a thing as a culinary soul-mate.

Soooo, that sounds creepy, cuz, and I’m sorry about that.

Crust

Crust texture

Chocolate layer

Anyway, when my cuz and I eat, we really go all-out. And we choose to spend our indulgence points on the same things. After all, you can only eat so much without being ill, and we carefully budget that. It means we go through a LOT of fruit, we eat all of the kale (even the stalks), there are a lot of grains and legumes involved, a fair bit of dark chocolate, and so. much. olive oil.

I thought of my cousin while I was making these bars, as she’s the one who first introduced me to delicious desserts based on dates. I wasn’t a believer. I thought they would taste too…date-y. These, much like the obsession-sparking Pecan Pie Date Bars, and the successful but overshadowed Chocolate Peanut Butter Date Bars, really don’t taste like dates at all, in my opinion. They don’t even taste that much like coconut, considering all the coconut flake and oil that goes into the mix. They just taste like salty-sweet deliciousness.

Oh, I almost forgot. The cuz and I can really, I mean REALLY, polish off some nut butter. A recent favorite was Justin’s hazelnut chocolate spread, but we never found a nut butter we didn’t like. Nutella lovers, unite.

I didn’t think the Pecan Pie Date Bars could be beaten, but these might top the ranks. Mixing the chocolate layer with chocolate-hazelnut spread makes these a bit gooier, and the hazelnuts are just unbeatable.

Topping

Bars 1

Chocolate Hazelnut Date Bars (Vegan, GF)
Fills 8 x 8 baking dish

I used almonds for most of the recipe because hazelnuts are much more expensive here, and I like the drier crunch of almonds. Feel free to substitute all the almonds for hazelnuts and see what happens. Hazelnuts have more oil/fat in them than almonds, so the texture might vary if you use hazelnuts throughout. You could also use pecans in place of the almonds, just like in the pecan pie bars.

2 cups dates, pitted
2 cups almonds (or pecans)
½ cup hazelnuts
1 cup dried, flaked, unsweetened coconut
2 Tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (not all of these spreads are GF/vegan–check.)
½ cup dark chocolate chips

1. Toast all nuts on sheetpans in a 375 F oven for 10 minutes. Set almonds aside to cool.

2. Skin hazelnuts by rolling them in your palms or on a pan. Blitz hazelnuts in a food processor for about 1 second for a very rough chop. Set aside.

[Crust Layer]

3. In a food processor, pulverize 1 cup almonds and coconut flakes until a grainy, sandy mixture forms. Add 1 cup dates, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1 Tablespoon coconut oil. Process until a smooth, sticky paste forms.

4. In a plastic-lined 8 x 8 dish, press mixture into an even layer. Place in freezer.

[Chocolate Layer]

5. Meanwhile, melt dark chocolate chips and chocolate-hazelnut spread in a microwave, cooking in 5 or 10 second increments and stirring frequently. Set aside until needed.

6. When crust is firm, remove from freezer and top with about 1 cup of the chocolate mixture, spreading into an even layer. Return to freezer.

[Filling Layer]

7. Meanwhile, in the food processor (no need to rinse), blitz remaining 1 cup dates, 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, 2 Tablespoons agave nectar (or honey), and blitz well, adding ¼ cup water slowly. Add remaining 1 cup almonds and process until smooth and gooey. Spread in an even layer over the chocolate layer.

[Topping]

8. Drizzle remaining chocolate hazelnut mixture over the top of the filling and sprinkle hazelnuts over the top, pressing down slightly so that they really stick. Return pan to freezer.

9. When set (at least 1 hour, but preferably up to 3), remove bars from freezer and lift plastic wrap from the baking dish. Slice. Store sliced bars in an airtight container and return to the fridge or freezer for storage.

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