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.
Notes: 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 have simplified the method and added 3 tablespoons of melted cacao butter and increased the raw cacao powder from 20g to 27g in the wet ingredients for a deeper chocolate flavour.
For accurate cup measurements, I sift the raw cacao powder before measuring, so that there are no lumps/clumps. All cup measurements are firmly packed.
Makes 15 bars
320g (11.3 ounces or 1 cup) rice malt syrup or brown rice syrup (I use this brand)
27g (1.0 ounces or ⅓ cup) raw cacao powder (I use this brand)
3 tablespoons (45ml) of melted raw cacao butter (I use this brand)
2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon (0.625ml) salt
1 box (which is approx. 6 cups) crispy rice cereal (I use this brand)
Chocolate Drizzle (optional)
2 tablespoons (30ml) raw cacao butter, melted (I use this brand)
10g (0.3 ounces or 2 tablespoon) raw cacao powder, sifted (I use this brand)
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.
Pour the rice puffs into a large bowl, and then set aside.
Add the wet ingredients to a small saucepan, warm through over a low heat until well combined and then pour this into the bowl with rice puffs. Stir this well to combine, the mixture is very sticky.
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 a couple of hours 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.
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 thin, syrupy consistency. So set it aside and allow the chocolate to thicken up, stirring it from time to time.
Once the slice has set, remove it from the pan. Use a sharp knife to cut the slice lengthways into thirds and then cut into 5 bar sized pieces. Depending on how sticky the bottom of the bars are, you may need to use a large palette knife to loosen the bars from the baking paper. Next, transfer the bars to a chopping board or large tray lined with baking paper/parchment.
For the chocolate drizzle to go on top of the bars, I first make a paper cone from baking paper/parchment, for piping the chocolate. However, you could also just use a teaspoon to drizzle the chocolate over instead. If you want step-by-step instructions for making a paper cone, click here. Pour the chocolate into the paper cone, remembering to make sure that you hold the notch, so that the cone doesn’t unravel. With a pair of scissors, snip the tip off the end of the cone and pipe the chocolate in a zigzag motion over the top of each bar. Just remember that you won’t need to to use a lot of pressure to squeeze the paper cone. Then allow to chocolate to set before eating.
Store the bars in the refrigerator.
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.