I can't wait to share these heavenly clusters with you! This idea came to me as I have tried to come up with various ways to make my family healthier versions of their favorite treats. My husband was my main focus with these caramel delights.
If you are familiar with See's candy, you know how delicious it is! Being that cane sugar is a no-no for my man, he no longer gets to splurge on some of his favorite pieces of See's candy. Their polar bear paws were at the top of his list! So I really wanted to create something for him to fill that void. And I'm happy to report, these clusters have done the trick!
If you have ever tried a polar bear paw, you know they are peanut and caramel clusters surrounded by white chocolate. So I used those same principles, but switched things up a bit. You can totally use peanuts here, but we opted for cashews. The irresistible caramel is made from dates, coconut milk, a touch of maple syrup, vanilla, and coconut oil. So no need to worry about those refined sugars.
The white chocolate is fantastic as well. Unlike processed white chocolate, this white chocolate comes from raw cacao butter, coconut butter, a touch of maple, and some vanilla. It really tastes like chocolate too! You may have run across a recipe of mine in the past for homemade white chocolates. It's the same recipe using different measurements. So if you are generally not a white chocolate fan, give this a shot. If you prefer using dark chocolate, that is completely acceptable. I've included a simple recipe below for that option.
I want to share with you some helpful hints regarding the white chocolate. Make sure your clusters are cold before dipping them into the white chocolate. This will allow the white chocolate to harden faster. When I form the caramel part of the cluster, I place them on a small, rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I find the smaller size fits in the freezer nicely, keeps the clusters stable while cooling, and keeps them cold during the dipping process which allows the chocolate to harden faster. The white chocolate should be somewhat cooled off before you begin the dipping process, however, not completely cooled. This chocolate is a bit thinner than the dark chocolate so for best results, I dip my clusters 3 different time. This of course means doing the first dip, placing the clusters in the refrigerator or freezer to harden, then take them out and repeat the process two more times. With the first dip, you may feel as if the white chocolate is not coating the clusters well. You will see once it is refrigerated, the chocolate becomes more visible. Another important tip is to keep the white chocolate in the small saucepan you melted it in. The reason for this is there is a chance your white chocolate may start to cool too much. You can tell if it becomes too thick to coat the clusters easily. The remedy for this is to put the saucepan over low heat for 10-15 seconds. It quickly warms and thins the chocolate out which helps with the dipping process. The darker chocolate will only need two coats.
These clusters have all of the delicious components you could ever want in a piece of candy. Chocolate...got that. A little bit of sweet, got that. A hint of salty...check. And the two best parts are they are made using wholesome ingredients and taste phenomenal!
1 & 1/4 cup cashews (raw or roasted)
1 & 1/2 cups pitted dates
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs coconut oil, melted
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 oz raw cacao butter
4 oz coconut butter
2 Tbs maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
OR Dark Chocolate:
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (100% cacao)
1/4 cup maple syrup
5 Tbs coconut oil
1. If you want to roast your cashews, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment and roast the cashews for 5-7 minutes, turning them halfway through.
2. In your food processor, add the dates, coconut milk, vanilla, coconut oil, maple syrup, and salt. Process until a smooth, thick paste has formed.
3. In a medium bowl, add the caramel with the cashews and mix until combined. On a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place walnut sized mounds of the caramel cashew mixture. You should end up with 18-20 clusters depending on the size. Put them in the freezer for about an hour to harden up a bit.
4. For the white chocolate, melt the cacao butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the white chocolate ingredients. Let the white chocolate cool slightly because if you dip the caramel clusters while the chocolate is still hot, it will be tougher to coat them. As soon as you coat the clusters once, place them either in your freezer or refrigerator. Once the chocolate has hardened, repeat the dipping process two more times, depending on your preference. Read my post above for helpful tips regarding the white chocolate.
5. For dark chocolate, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat.Stir frequently to avoid and burning. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Follow the same steps for the dipping process as you would for the white chocolate.
6. Store these clusters in your refrigerator or freezer. Enjoy!