Apologies for the title, I’ve watched a lot of Big Bang Theory episodes this week. Also apologies for disappearing for a month or so. Going to Turkey for the week before Christmas meant some serious pre-planning, organisation and socialising in early December followed by Christmas itself, the black hole that is now known as ‘twixmas’ and then rather than #NewYearNewMe, my body opted for #NewYearEpicMigraine. Good times. I usually use the festive period and time off work to do as much baking and cooking as I feasibly can. What actually happened was that I ended up doing sod all, so what should have been blogging material gold, turned into arid blogging desert.
To the experiment…..I’m ironically not that good at snacking. Its not that I can’t snack, I can put away a whole packet of Viscounts or French Fancies in a (clogged) heartbeat but I’ve never got ‘healthy snacking’ down. I had a brief foray a year or two ago when I discovered that I could manage some raw carrot sticks and hummus and I can eat the occasional fun-size banana but the whole ‘handful of almonds’ or ‘stick of celery and tablespoon of unsweetened peanut butter’ shtick – yak! I have however recently discovered that I actually quite like date based energy bars – the kind that include no added sugar but still genuinely taste sweet and don’t feel like health food. My particular favourite is the Cocoa Chocolate Orange Nakd variety but they’re 75p each or £2.50/£2.75 for a pack of 4. They’re 135 calories each which isn’t too bad when calorie counting (a banana is 90-120kcal depending on size) and I do actually feel like I’ve had a snack when finished, even though they’re only small. Nakd also handily provide its ingredients list with percentages so I decided that I’d try and recreate them at home….and here the experiment began…
Makes 10 – 148kcal each
140g Cashew Nuts
50g Seedless Raisins
20g Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Orange Essence
4 tsp Hot Water
My first step was to calculate the quantity of ingredients I would need to make 10 x 35g bars – 350g in total. The ingredients as listed on the Nakd bar I was trying to replicate are 40% dates, 40% cashews, 15% raisins, 4% cocoa and orange flavour – I assumed the missing 1% was made up of the flavouring and water. I measured the ingredients out per the above list and prepared my mini Kenwood chopper for some hard work.
As I don’t have a large processor, the Kenwood mini would have to do – as a result I had to grind the ingredients individually. I started with 140g Cashews:
This was as fine as I was able to grind them without adding some sort of abrasive such as salt so I hoped that this would be sufficient and moved onto the 140g Dates and 50g Raisins.
My mixer struggled a little with this – the mixture was very stiff and tended to clump above the mixer blades. I had to let down the mixture somehow so added 1 tsp Orange Essence and 1 tsp Hot Water which did help somewhat.
I emptied the mashed dates into 20g Cocoa Powder and the ground cashews and started mixing, initially with a spoon but latterly with my hands – some proper schmushing was required. The mixture was very dry so I added a further 3tbsp Hot Water which gave me the texture I was looking for.
I mushed the mixture into a flattish rectangle using a lined loaf tin to help me get an even shape – I spent a good few minutes on this to try and get the mix equally thick all the way to the ends and edges so each of my bars could be cut evenly.
I couldn’t see any reason to let the mixture sit or chill before cutting it so I went straight ahead and cut 10 bars with a sharp knife. The slab cut really easily with no tearing or splitting and the texture was very reminiscent of that of the Nakd bars.
I didn’t want the bars to dry out so I wrapped each individually in greaseproof paper and put the batch (minus the one I tried!) into a sealed sandwich bag. I have put them in the fridge but there is nothing realistically that needs to be kept chilled so I will be moving them to my desk drawer next week (if they last that long).
Overall I’m super pleased with how these turned out – the dates aren’t clumpy, the bars look, feel and taste almost identical to the original and I’m fairly sure they work out cheaper to make for fairly little effort. I’ve calculated this as follows:
Total – £3.78
Per Bar – £0.38
With Nakd bars costing a full price minimum of £0.62 when buying a pack of 4 at £2.50, this means that you can make a saving of 24p per bar which is going to add up rather fast.
My Final Thoughts
Next time I make these, I will be adding all 4 tsp of hot water to the dates and raisins when they are in the processor to help the chopping – if its needed, it may as well be added where it is most helpful.
I made an assumption when looking at the Nakd ingredients list that the percentages given related to weight of the ingredients. My calorie calculations (using My Fitness Pal) tell me that each of my bars (35g each) contain 148 Kcal compared to Nakd’s 136 Kcal. There does seem to be a lot of ground nut in these bars – not enough to affect the taste but I do wonder that if I revisited the percentages on a volume rather than weight basis, maybe that would be more true to the original recipe and would reduce the calorie count of each bar. I will try this at some point the future and I will also revisit the amount of water I used as I think less with be needed to counteract the dryness of the ground cashews.
There are obviously endless possibilities of flavour combinations to be tried here. Various other nuts could be substituted – pecans, walnuts or the ubiquitous almond and other dried fruits could be added/substituted – I have bought a bag of dried figs to try for example and a friend recently experimented with dried apricots.
Just in case you are concerned, I am not advocating any kind of sugar, gluten or dairy free or otherwise ‘clean’ diet – I just happen to like these bars and they just happen to have no added sugar or gluten in them. I guess they’re vegan too aren’t they! I hate myself for posting this and I will continue to eat them with a builders brew with 2 sugars and cows milk. And a slice of ham.