A few years ago during a road trip, a mouse got into our trunk and made a home for a few nights. He slept in the instant oats, nibbled on the stump of a muffin, picked open a bag of corn chips but didn’t eat the chips themselves – and most interestingly, ate a whole Ziploc bag of popping corn kernels. On one hand I was annoyed at the unwelcome intrusion, but on the other I had serious respect for the mouse’s choice of probably the healthiest, least processed food in the car. No M&M’s, buddy? (It appeared he licked but didn’t eat them).
Sometimes I don’t feel so different from our rodent companion, though I feel more squirrel-y than mouse-y, mostly because I can relate to a squirrel’s penchant for hiding food in places for later (we have a very well-stocked pantry). And the bushy tail, I like the bushy tail. But anyway, I feel like these almond millet chocolate bars pay homage to the four legged companions that flit in and out of our lives. They are gluten-free, vegan, and made with recognizable things. The chocolate topping is made with unsweetened chocolate so that the sweetness can be adjusted according to taste with the addition of icing sugar, making for a more wholesome, mouse-worthy snack. Similarly, brown rice syrup has a relatively lower sweetness, so it can be exploited for its magical gooey powers of holding things together without going off the sweet charts – hence, these are the first snack bars I have ever made that didn’t crumble apart when I cut into them. Less crumbs on the floor mean more crumbs in my tummy, which I feel is a good thing.
Almond millet chocolate bars
makes one 9×12″ pan
4 tbsp coconut oil
11 soft dates (if hard, soak in hot water for 10 minutes to rehydrate and plump)
250 g / 1 cup raw almonds
80 g / 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
50 g / 2 cups puffed millet
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
100 g unsweetened chocolate
2 tbsp icing sugar
In a high-speed blender or food processor, blend the crap out of the coconut oil, softened dates and almonds. Scrape down occasionally to make sure everything gets obliterated by the blades. Scrape out this mixture into a large bowl and mix in the pumpkin seeds and puffed millet. Meanwhile, gently heat the brown rice syrup in a small saucepan until it becomes looser in consistency and the edges just start to bubble. Pour this over the mixture and fold together to evenly distribute the syrup. Scrape everything into a 9×12″ baking pan lined with parchment paper, and press down evenly and firmly. Chill the pan in the freezer while you make the topping: in a double boiler, gently melt the bittersweet chocolate. When it is completely melted, stir in the icing sugar until it melts as well. Pour the chocolate over the bar and smooth out with a spatula. Freeze for at least 30 minutes before attempting to slice. Only attempt to slice when you are feeling calm and collected, lest the bar crumbles under unabated emotions, in which case, add more brown syrup next time and all will be well.