One of Caelan and Ethan’s favourite treats in their lunchboxes is the Cocoa Crunch Bars by Freedom Foods, which are around $4.40 for a box of 6. They also cover off all the boy’s dietary requirements, as they’re free from gluten, wheat, dairy and nuts. So while the boys were on school holidays, I decided to have ago and make them myself. I didn’t realise how quick and easy they were to make, not to mention very economical. I used rice malt syrup to bind everything together, as its fructose free and mild in sweetness, and they have a wonderful crispy and chewy texture, with a lovely smooth chocolate flavour.
It’s up to you if you choose to drizzle the bars with chocolate, as they taste great either way. The first time I made them, I used a bar of dark chocolate for the drizzle. However, I found it discoloured the next day, so I did a little research to find out why. My research told me the discolouration of the chocolate was caused by ‘sugar bloom’, which is when the moisture evaporates and sugar crystals remain on the surface. Two different things can cause this issue, either surface moisture or the chocolate being kept in overly humid storage. Now it’s been very humid here in Perth, Australia this summer, which is quite unusual as we normally experience dry heat. So I put the discolouration down that. However, apart from the chocolate being a little grainy, it still tasted good. The next time I make them, I’ll store the bars in the refrigerator, to see if that will make any difference in the discolouration.
The next couple of times of making the bars, I decided to use raw chocolate for the drizzle. I’m very much an amateur when it comes to working with raw chocolate. I’ve only been making/experimenting with it for a few weeks now and I know I still have a lot to learn. Using raw chocolate is a little trickier than regular chocolate, so I used one of the bars as a tester. To check if the chocolate is ready to use, drizzle a very small amount on the edge of the bar. If the chocolate has no structure and just pools on the bar, the chocolate will need to thicken up some more. The chocolate is ready when it is still runny enough to drizzle, but can hold its shape. It’s a bit fiddly at first, but it won’t take you long to get the hang of it. If I can do it, then anyone can!
I hope you enjoy these as much as our family.
Recipe Update: I increased the raw cacao powder in the chocolate from 1 tablespoon to 2 tablespoons, this made the chocolate thicker and richer.
Makes 15 bars
250ml (1 cup) rice malt syrup or brown rice syrup (I use this brand)
20g (0.7 ounces or 4 tablespoons) raw cacao powder
2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon (0.625ml) salt
1 box (which is approx. 6 cups) Freedom Foods Rice Puffs, crispy rice cereal
Chocolate Drizzle (optional)
2 tablespoons (30ml) raw cacao butter, melted
10g (0.3 ounces or 2 tablespoon) raw cacao powder, sifted
1 tablespoon (15ml) pure maple syrup
Line a 30cm (length) 20cm (width) 2½ cm (depth) pan with baking paper or parchment, leaving enough over hanging so you can lift out the slice once it’s chilled.
Add all the wet ingredients to a very large saucepan or pot. I used my stockpot to make sure I had plenty of room to easily stir through the cereal. Using a silicone spatula, stir over a low heat to combine the cacao powder with the syrup. Once thoroughly mixed through, turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to the boil. Once it has come to the boil, immediately take the pan off the heat and stir in the cereal. Keep stirring until all the cereal is well coated in the chocolate syrup. The mixture will now be very sticky, so you will need to work quickly with it.
Next, spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared tin. Then place a piece of baking paper/parchment over the top and use the back of a spoon to even out the mixture and to compact it further. Very carefully peel away the baking paper/parchment, then allow your mixture to cool back down to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator for about an hour or so to firm up. This makes cutting the slice into bars a lot easier, as if it is too soft it will just fall apart when slicing.
Once out of the tin, cut the slice lengthways into thirds and then cut into 5 bar sized pieces.
To make the chocolate drizzle (see notes above), add all the ingredients to a small bowl and whisk everything together. I like to use a small whisk to do this, as it helps disperse any small lumps in the cacao powder. When the chocolate is first combined, it has a very thin, syrupy consistency. So set it aside and allow the chocolate to thicken up, stirring it from time to time. Use a teaspoon and take a small amount of the chocolate and drizzle over each bar. Then allow to chocolate to set before eating. You can store these in the pantry, but if you need to store in the refrigerator you can. Just remove them and let them come back to room temperature before eating.
Storage Tip – The bottom of the bars are a little on the sticky side, so I line the base of a large airtight container with baking paper/parchment. I put the first layer of bars on the bottom and then add another piece of baking paper over the top before adding another layer of bars and so on.