Chocolate-covered peanut & sesame caramel bars

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I guess I should just come out and admit it.  My name is Pim, and I just made a vegan an almost-vegan dessert – peanuts/sesame/rice puffs/palm sugar caramel bars, to be precise.  And I dipped them in chocolate – Valrhona Araguani 72%, because there’s nothing good that’s not made better by a dip in Valrhona Chocolate.  The results?  They are totally crack.  I tell you, they are.

Like many great discoveries in this world – Columbus discovering “India” par example – I came upon these morsels of unworldly deliciousness entirely by accident.  Last weekend being Chinese New Year and Valentines day all rolled into one, I was looking some kind of traditional, celebratory sweets to make for the parties I was attending.  For the New Year celebration in Thailand, we make a sort of caramel we learned from the Portuguese, probably in the 16th century.  We call it ga-la-mae, a telling bastardization of the word caramel.  Galamae was, however, not my favorite dessert, but it got me thinking about another celebratory sweets that is also a caramel base, but this one, called Grayasat in Thai, has added nuts, puffed rices, and sesame seeds.  Crisp, chewy, nutty, darkly sweet, and ever-so-slightly salty, all at the same time, now this would be the perfect dessert to celebrate with this weekend.

Well, I probably should admit that I’d never once made Grayasat.  I’ve never even seen it done.  It’s one of those things that we would always buy, and usually from merchants that make and sell them in giant quantities.  Recipes I’ve managed to find on the interwebs have the same problem, they’re mostly in massive quantities entirely infeasible in a modern kitchen.  Plus, being a traditional Thai recipe, an imprecise record at the best of times – Thai cooks are notorious for not writing things down – then haphazardly translated into English, the results, shall I say, are as precise as the recipe booklet that came with your EasyBakeOventm when you were a kid.

No matter, I found enough information to go by, and it’s basically nuts, puffed rice, and sesame, bind together by caramel made with palm sugar in place of white sugar, and coconut cream as the matériel gras instead of butter.  That sounds easy enough to do.  It also happens to be Vegan and rather “healthy” – with no refined sugar and not even dairy.  The recipes I found also called for glucose syrup, which, oddly enough, is more readily available in Thailand than it is here.  The glucose syrup, which we call Bae-sae, is there to prevent sugar crystals from forming just like in any other caramel.  Frankly, I didn’t like the sound of it.  I usually avoid corn syrup or glucose syrup in my recipes anyway, preferring to substitute with honey or other more palatable ingredients such as Lyle’s Golden Syrup.  In this case honey would do.

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In Thailand, the traditional Grayasat กระยาสารท is made for a Saat สารทไทย festival, which is best described as a harvest festival, celebrating the end of the rainy season and heralding the beginning of harvest.  The ingredient list is telling, two kinds of new rice (one green, not fully ripened rice grains that are flattened and removed from the husked, and the other freshly harvested whole grains of rice, roasted until popped out of the husks like popcorn), nuts, and honey, all signaling a successful and abundant harvest.

In the US, finding those two specific rice is challenging, Thai harvest being thousands of miles (and months) away.  I actually have one kind with me, the flat green rice called Khao Mao, I brought some back with me from the last trip home.  Finding the popped rice Khao Tok was a little more tricky.  I couldn’t skip it all together since it’s important to have two textures of rice: one slightly soft and
puffy, and the other crispy.  Experimenting with four different kinds of brown rice turned out spectacular failures – instead of puffed rice I got burning hot grains of rice so tiny they’re practically unseen by naked eyes but for the vapor trails they left as they went projectile in my kitchen.  Final solution?  That’d be a bag of organic puffed rice from the store, no sugar or anything, just plain, hippie puffed rice.  (If you couldn’t find the Khao Mao, I’d substitute with a crispy rice cereal, preferably not -or very lightly- sweetened.)

Once I made the first batch, I realized this recipe was infinitely adaptable.  Start with the accidentally-vegan caramel base, then you can add just about any nuts or cereal you feel like.  You can even coat it with good chocolate, I dipped mine in dark Valrhona Araguani chocolate and dusted with Valrhona cocoa powder.  Those are oh-so-good and instantly addictive they might as well be crack.  Really.

Grayasat – Thai nuts & sesame caramel bars
  • 1.5 cup (300g) palm sugar
  • 1 cup (250ml ) honey
  • 1 cup (250ml) coconut cream
  • 1 cup sesame seeds, roasted
  • 1 cup unsalted peanuts, roasted
  • 1.5 cups Khao Tok, or substitute organic rice puffs (I used this one.)
  • 1 cup Khao Mao, roasted in a dry pan until slightly puffed and crispy (substitute with an organic rice flakes)

First, take an 8×8 cake pan, cut two 8×12 pieces of parchments and line one horizontally and the other vertically so you completely cover the inner surface of the pan with parchment overhangs on all four sides.

Then you make the caramel, in a large 6-8qt pot over medium heat, add the palm sugar and the honey.  (Put out a bowl of cold or iced water near the pot to test the readiness of the caramel.)  Bring the sugar and honey mixture to a boil and reduce the heat a little bit, continue to cook, stirring to make sure you don’t have hot spots, until the mixture turns a deep, dark color and thick.  Drop a couple droplets of the mixture into the bowl of water to test, when it’s ready the caramel shouldn’t dissolve or spread in the water but should stay in a somewhat round ball.

Add the coconut milk (watch out for the splash), stir to mix, and let the mixture cooks down until thicken again.  Refresh the cold water in the bowl and test the caramel again, as soon as the drop in the water keeps in the round shape and not just splay out, turn the heat off and add the about 3/4 cup of the sesame (reserve the rest for a bit later) and all the peanuts, stir to blend well.  Add the puffed rice, stir again to distribute evenly.  If the mixture hardens too quickly, making it difficult to stir, just put the pot back over the heat to warm up the caramel and loosen up the mixture a bit.

Pour or spoon the mixture into the parchment-lined pan, pressing down and spreading evenly.  Let it cool down, uncovered, until room temperature.  When ready to cut, dip a knife into hot water, wipe it off, and then use the warm knife to cut the Grayasat into desired sizes.  I first cut mine into quarters, then each into 6-8 pieces.  Dip just the bottom part of each piece into the bowl of (the rest of your) sesame seeds, the seeds will prevent the bars from sticking to whatever they’re sitting on.  Serve or store in airtight container.  If you stack them, line each layer with a piece of parchment so they don’t stick.

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If you want to coat them in chocolate, melt about 350g of dark chocolate in a medium bowl, let cool a bit, then dip each piece into it until completely coated.  Place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper.  When all the pieces are coated, put the sheet pan in the freezer to quickly harden the chocolate, just a few minutes will do.  Meanwhile, put 4-5 tablespoons of cocoa powder in a bowl, when the chocolate hardens, toss each piece in the bowl until coated.  Shake off the excess cocoa powder and serve or store in and airtight container.

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  • http://sacramentospice.com Shankari

    Pim, You can find puffed rice and rice flakes in the Indian stores. Coated with chocolate makes it more divine :)

  • JRE

    Pim: I do believe that the inclusion of honey in your recipe means that the bars are not vegan. So it’s back to the glucose syrup if you are bringing them to a vegan potluck! Thanks for the fun and interesting reads. -J

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Wow, ignorant me had no idea. They don’t eat honey either? What’s left to eat for vegans, exactly?

  • http://sophisticatedgourmet.com kamran siddiqi

    Pim, can I just call you my aunt? I love that you made chocolate-covered peanut & sesame caramel crack. I think if I try this, making them will become an addiction. *trying to fight it*
    I know I’ll probably give in by tomorrow, so I’ll tell you how they come out for me. :)
    Great post!

  • http://www.foodioememoirs.com Marie L

    Pim, I am going to make these for a party I am attending this Friday. Would you say that they will keep well… like rice Krispie Treats? I think I want to make them ahead of time (tomorrow), just to be sure they come out the way they are supposed to.
    Cheers

  • Rona Y

    Glucose or corn syrup. :)
    Molasses or maple syrup might work, too.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p012875bdb08a970c Fuji Mama

    “Those are oh-so-good and instantly addictive they might as well be crack. Really.”–Based on your description, I believe you! These sound extremely dangerous. I’ve just been looking at puffed rice substitutes myself to try and make homemade hina arare (colored puffed rice treats: http://japanesefood.about.com/library/pictures/blhinaararepicture.htm) for Hinamatsuri (Japanese Girl’s Day) which is coming up on March 3rd. I’m hoping to be as lucky as you in finding workable options!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/thelacquerspoonblogspotcom the lacquer spoon

    Without the choc outfit, it reminds me of Japanese traditional sweets, “Kaminari-okoshi”, a bar made of popped rice and peanuts with a hint of ginger. Lovely!

  • http://riya-kitchen.blogspot.com riya

    I personally don’t like “Grayasat”. I find it too hard to handle” But you manage to turn it to something very fancy. Your Version of “Grayasat” look tempting!

  • http://www.electroniccigarettesinc.com e cigs

    what exactly is “Grayasat”?

  • http://www.shesimmers.com Leela

    I’ve made the same comment about the unreliability of most Thai cookbooks in one of the old posts on my blog as well. Frustrating, isn’t it?
    To mimic the properties of glucose syrup, you can also use agave nectar which is another form of inverted/invert sugar. That way you don’t have to say “almost” vegan.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    It keeps great. There are a couple stray ones left from the batch I made for the party on Saturday and they’re still great.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Still not a fan of glucose or corn syrup. Molasses are too intense for me, except for a few things. Maple syrup will work great. Thanks!

  • http://www.mudpiesandfroggytales.com Candice

    Yum! I have been looking for a recipe just like this, thank you!! My kids will love it too, I bet.

  • RG

    I’m no longer vegan, but I’ll take a stab at it: vegetables? like beets and sugarcane and agave and stevia?

  • Margaret Pilgrim

    Rice krispie squares grow up! I thought these couldn’t be improved on, but you did in spades! Thanks for these.

  • http://www.wildflourcakes.ca Marilou

    Pulling out my pots and pans right now to try this recipe immediately!
    Another possible substitute for the honey is brown rice syrup if these need to be vegan. It’s not quite as sweet as honey but may work just as well.

  • http://rotisseriechickenrecipe.info Rotisserie Chicken Recipe

    This recipe pic doesn`t look so great :(

  • http://kissmyspatula.com/ my spatula

    oh yes, the sesame caramel bars remind me of childhood. they look just amazing!! please, please send me some. :)

  • http://mylittleexpatkitchen.blogspot.com/ my little expat kitchen

    These look great. I love that you put honey in them.
    Magda

  • http://www.cookeaze.com/ cookeaze

    This looks new to me and iam interested to try this.Thanks for listing all the measurements, you’ve made it so easy for me to prepare this.

  • http://www.cookbookrecipedatabase.com/ Clive

    They look great, I’ll have to find some time to make them.

  • http://cafecampana.com Mark @ Cafe Campana

    What an interesting post. I haven’t ever had Thai sweets. I must remember this when in need of something neat and different.

  • http://www.the-glass-co.com glass dinnerware

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  • http://www.seesawdesigns.blogspot.com seesaw designs

    Ah. so yum.

  • http://www.whiskthepantry.blogspot.com whiskthepantry

    I like your modern version of Grayasat! I should try sometimes. I haven’t had it for ages. Thanks for the recipe!

  • http://www.goodfoodny.com Jamie

    Hi Pim!
    I’m reading your book and loving it! I made the roast chicken and smashed potatoes today, it was perfect and so easy! Here’s a link to my blog:http://goodfoodnyc.blogspot.com/2010/02/back-to-basics-comfort-food.html
    I’m looking forward to making the crack bars!
    Yours in foodie love,
    Jamie

  • http://www.xiaoyenrecipes.com xiaoyen

    Some concerned vegans don’t eat honey because they see that cruelty is forced upon the honeybees. I love pure, organic honey. Good alternatives are maple syrup, agave syrup, or cane sugar. When my daughter was under 2, I used maple syrup and cane sugar in my cooking rather than honey because of the danger honey posed for young toddlers.

  • http://www.mythaibeach-restaurant-santacruz.com thai restaurants in capitola

    Loving the book as well. We use your recipes at my thai food restaurant all the time !

  • http://profile.typepad.com/rtcaro rtcaro

    Oh, wow, do these look yummy! And with the nuts and sesame, I’d almost call them a homemade power bar, or maybe a kudos? YUM! They do look cracktastic!

  • http://vidboo.com/?sea=Chocolate+Mousse+Recipe John

    The other day I tried the Chocolate Mousse and it tasted so good I have started finding new dishes with chocolate .The one you have mentioned also sounds good will try this.
    If someone want to try Mousse you can get the steps at http://vidboo.com/?sea=Chocolate+Mousse+Recipe

  • http://vanillakitchen.blogspot.com dawn

    wow, now I must make these and fast!

  • Sylvia

    I think there are few things more addictable than the combination of nuts and chocolate :)
    These look amazing, I can almost taste them reading the recipe! I will definitely give them a try.

  • Marcus

    Wow, delicious!!!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    The hippie puffed rice worked well for me, perhaps you can try those?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    There are similar desserts done like this all over Asia, in Japan, in China, and many other places I’m sure. It’s essentially the same thing, different nuts and grains bind with a sugar caramel of some sort. I’d love to try Kaminari-okoshi. I’ll look for it next time I’m in Japan.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    These are not hard to handle at all. You really should try it.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    The whole post is about what it is. Can you read?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Yeah but agave nectar sometimes contains high fructose corn syrup, no? That’s one ingredient I try to avoid at any cost.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Have you tried it yet? Let me know what your kids think.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Thank you. Have you tried to make it yet?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Never heard of brown rice syrup. I’ll see if I can find it at my local hippie store. :-)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Looks just fine to me, thanks for your opinion.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    How about try the recipe yourself? ;-) It’s so easy and so good.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    I love honey, and love using honey in my recipes. I’m not a huge fan of molasses or other sugar syrup, so I often substitute all or parts of the amount called for in a recipe with honey. It’s been working fine most of the time.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    You’re welcome

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Doesn’t take that much time really. Make it, then go watch a movie or something, by the time you’re done it should be ready to cut.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Yeah, Thai desserts can be challenging especially texture-wise. We have a lot of slimy, sweet things that we love in our desserts. I’ve found that most Westerners find those challenging. These bars are easy to love though, nuts, rice, caramel, what not to love?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    You’re welcome.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    That looks great! Thanks for the sweet words about the book. I tried to comment on your blog but it didn’t recognize my profile somehow. Sorry.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Thanks.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    They’re definitely homemade power bars, and indeed they are cracktastic too. Thanks!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Yes, and please come back and let me know how it turns out for you.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    You and me sister. I totally agree.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/innerpickle innerpickle

    GOSH they look great Pim. Am bookmarking these to come back and make!!

  • http://www.wildflourcakes.ca Marilou

    Yes, it’s definitely a health food store ingredient! It has a mellow sweet taste. Let me know what you think if you find some.

  • http://lemonadeandorigami.wordpress.com/ lola

    Great Photos! I just came to your blog from ‘grow better veggies’ blog because I am really into your photos.
    I make italian-turnovers called Strombolies and I must say- they do not always make a pretty picture! I understand the art of photographing food and am impressed with your work!
    Keep shooting!
    Lola
    http://lemonadeandorigami.wordpress.com/

  • Andy

    I was all set to make these today as a lil’ road trip cookie snack, but couldn’t find sesame seeds weirdly? ANYWHERE. it was very frustrating. even though these would probably stand on their own without them, i love that sesame flavor too much. they look delicious

  • http://www.youcook.ca YouCook.ca

    Wow, these remind me of a Vietnamese peanut and sesame dessert which didn’t have rice in it to my knowledge. It looks really yummy and I’m going to to make it this weekend!

  • http://levinson-axelrod.com/ Levinson Axelrod

    Sounds like a great recipe. The photo is great as well.

  • http://www.allfoodmenu.com Food Menu

    The food choices of Australian looks a lot more healthier than those in Europe. I read from other blogs, and saw what they were talking about, it was full of sugar and fat. This one is different. Maybe its Australian.

  • http://www.agoodic.com agoodic

    Without the choc outfit, it reminds me of Japanese traditional sweets, “Kaminari-okoshi”, a bar made of popped rice and peanuts with a hint of ginger. Lovely!
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  • http://profile.typepad.com/marcusyoung Marcus

    That bratwurst looks so good!

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    Wow, these remind me of a Vietnamese peanut and sesame dessert which didn’t have rice in it to my knowledge. It looks really yummy and I’m going to to make it this weekend!
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  • http://www.toobling.com/ Tiffany

    Thanks for share,great article!^^
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  • juli

    hey Pim!
    So I made these and the caramel wouldn’t set after I added the coconut cream.
    I must have cooked it for 40 minutes and everything was measured exactly. I didn’t want to burn it so I stopped cooking it after I got a deep amber color. I went away and came back to cut it 5 hours later and it melted onto my cutting board.
    Did anyone have the same problem?
    I froze the blobs I could save & dipped them in chocolate. They reside in the freezer, though…
    Still cracktastic but what did I do wrong? The measurements were precise.
    ???
    Juli

  • http://www.kooziez.com/ beer koozies

    I usually don’t comment on blogs, but this recipe changed my opinion. I just write to say thank you

  • Allan

    My folks and I buy boxes of these from Siam Paragon on trips to BKK. We are just crazy about them. So you could just imagine how disappointed we were when all hell broke loose in Thailand and travel warnings were issued. =)
    Now I can make them at home! By the way, what’s a good substitute for palm sugar? Regular brown sugar?

  • http://www.businesseducators.com/ corporate training

    I don’t care for peanuts on their own, but add some caramel and chocolate and I’m in. I’ll give these a try on the weekend, and hope they will get good reviews.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/theculinaryalchemistblogspotcom Theculinaryalchemist.blogspot.com

    Brown rice syrup is also a good substitute. Great for making caramel, too.

  • Neschofer

    Coconut milk or coconut cream?  Ingredients say coconut cream but directions say coconut milk?

  • http://twitter.com/Emely333 Emely’s Recipes

    Sounds interesting i  will try it out …

  • Beatrice

    These sound delightfully interesting! I think my grandchildren would love them! I’m going to try them out! Great blog!

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