I might be slightly obsessed with making the perfect low carb caramel sauce. Actually, “slightly” doesn’t even begin to describe the depth of my obsession. I have been working at this for a while now, and I’ve made quite a number of batches with the same ingredients in slightly different quantities each time. I vary the amount of the liquids, the proportions of the sweeteners, the cooking time. And I’ve made many improvements, to be sure, but I am not yet satisfied. Each batch is amazingly good, wickedly good, lick-the-spoon-and-then-go-back-for-another-spoonful good, but it’s not “perfect”. Because making caramel sauce without sugar is a pretty tricky business and although the flavour is spot-on, I can’t quite nail the texture.
I could probably get the texture perfect if I was willing to forego the erythritol and just make my caramel sauce entirely with xylitol. For the uninitiated in low carb sweeteners, both of these things are naturally-occurring sugar alcohols that are used in many sugar-free and low carb goodies. But they differ in some important ways, not the least of which is their effect on my blood glucose. I find that although xylitol is better than sugar, it still has a moderate effect on my glucose levels, whereas erythritol has virtually none. Xylitol is also known to cause some tummy upset, whereas again, erythritol has very little. So you can see why my preference for erythritol (Swerve) is so strong.
However, erythritol is a tricky little nut to crack when it comes to caramelization. It doesn’t like to stay in solution so although it will dissolve nicely and liquify and even caramelize when subjected to heat, it begins to harden and re-crystallize as it cools. So I’ve been trying to find just the right combination of erythritol, xylitol and a little xanthan gum to make a caramel sauce that stays liquid but doesn’t upset either my tummy or my blood glucose.
So far, I haven’t hit that perfect balance. Perhaps I never will. But I am having so much fun trying, I am not sure I even care all that much. I always seem to find a great way to use my slightly imperfect caramel sauces, and these low carb Salted Caramel Crumb Bars are no exception. The sauce was heavier on the erythritol this time and it hardened more quickly when it cooled so I knew I needed to find a way to incorporate it into some other recipe. Putting it in between layers of tender crumbs was somewhat inspired, if I do say so myself, since it seemed to get soft and chewy again when baked inside these bars. These are salty-sweet goodness!
Salted Caramel Crumb Bars – Low Carb and Gluten-Free
- 1 cup water
- ¾ cup Swerve Sweetener or other erythritol
- ¼ cup xylitol
- 2 tsp molasses or honey
- ½ cup whipping cream
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp xanthan gum
- 2½ cups almond flour
- 2 tbsp coconut flour
- ½ cup Swerve Sweetener or other erythritol
- ½ tsp salt
- 12 tbsp butter chilled and cut into ¼ inch pieces
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 20 drops stevia extract
- 1, 3.5- oz bar 85% cacao chocolate chopped into small pieces (or use 3.5 ounces of your favourite sugar-free chocolate chips).
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- For the caramel sauce, combine water, Swerve Sweetener and xylitol in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir until Swerve and xylitol dissolve.
- Bring to a boil and cook without stirring 7 to 9 minutes, until mixture begins to darken in colour. Mixture may smoke slightly. Stir in molasses or honey.
- Remove from heat and stir in whipping cream, butter and kosher salt. Mixture will bubble vigorously.
- Sprinkle with xanthan gum and whisk in quickly to combine (if you get any lumps, use a hand blender to smooth them out).
- Set caramel sauce aside.
- For the bars, preheat oven to 325F.
- Combine almond flour, coconut flour, Swerve Sweetener and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Sprinkle butter, vanilla and stevia over and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Spread half of crumb mixture in 9x13-inch pan and lightly press to bottom. Bake 8 minutes.
- Remove from oven and pour caramel sauce evenly over top (if your caramel has started to harden, heat gently to make it easier to pour).
- Sprinkle surface with chopped chocolate and kosher salt. Top with remaining crumb mixture, pressing lightly to adhere.
- Bake 12 minutes, until edges are just golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
- Cut into 25 squares.