This dessert is comparable to classic pecan pie, but Fresh is Real’s version is also free of gluten, eggs & dairy! And, in the Maple Cream Bars, you can use whatever filling mix-ins you want. Of course, leave out the pecans if allergic to nuts. Alternatively, add seeds, GF oats, unsweetened shredded coconut, dry fruit, dark chocolate or a combo of a few.
If 16 bars is too many, consider preparing a half batch. You can bake half the recipe in a rectangular tart tin, an 8-in to 9-in square baking dish or even a pie plate.
Must have kitchen tools for the recipe: medium saucepan, digital candy thermometer, soft spatula, unbleached parchment paper, wooden spoon, baking dish (approx. 13 x 9 inches), oven mitts and a small blender/spice grinder.
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (20 g)
- 1/2 cup boiling water (118 g/118 ml)
- 40 ml maple syrup (almost 3 tablespoons)
- 2 cups GF flour (240 g), sifted with a whisk; See Recipe Notes
- 1 cup sunflower seed flour (84 g), grind 84 g organic raw sunflower seeds
- 1 teaspoon GF baking powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (4 g)
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter, softened
Filling (All-In Option A):
- 2 cups pure maple syrup (320 g/500 ml)
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal (10 g)
- 1/2 cup organic coconut cream (120 g)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
- 2 cups one mix-in or combination mix-ins; See Recipe Notes
See the Notes below and the recipe post for Basic Option B details.
Mix-Ins Examples: 2 cups whole and chopped pecans OR 1/2 cup of raw (or roasted) sunflower seeds, 1/2 GF oats. 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/4 cup hemp seeds with 1/4 cup dark chopped dark chocolate (total 2 cups).
- Pecans (whole and/or chopped) *Avoid pecans if allergic to nuts.
- Sunflower seeds (whole and/or chopped)
- Pumpkin seeds (whole and/or chopped)
- Hemp seeds
- GF oats (quick or large oats)
- Unsweetened shredded coconut
- Dry fruit, chopped
- Dark chocolate, chopped or chips
Before you begin, take a moment to watch the helpful Sweet Treat Maple Cream Bars recipe video and have a look at the process photos in the recipe post.
Step 1: Gather all your ingredients and baking tools and preheat your oven to 350°F. Line your baking dish (13 x 9 inches) with unbleached parchment paper. Ideally, 2 sheets, one in each direction covering your whole dish with a little extra on each side, folded over. The extra paper will facilitate removing the cooled bars from the baking dish. Start boiling some water for the base crust.
Step 2: Prepare the sunflower seed flour by grinding 84 g of organic raw sunflower seeds (a little less than 1 cup) in a small blender or spice grinder. Don’t blend too long, as you might create seed butter. No need to sift the flour. Set aside.
Step 3: Measure all your dry ingredients for the base crust and prepare all your mix-ins. Pan-roasting the mix-in seeds or nuts is optional, but if you have a few extra minutes, toasting them in a dry pan for a few minutes on low to medium heat is wonderful. Let them cool before chopping. You can even toast the unsweetened shredded coconut.
Step 4: To make the base crust, combine the hot water and flaxseed meal in a medium bowl and whisk. Add the remaining base crust ingredients and mix well until combined into a smooth, softer dough. Transfer the crust mixture to the parchment-lined baking dish. Press down with a spoon or soft spatula until the mixture is evenly spread in the dish. Bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack. Once ready, remove the baking dish from the oven and set it aside to cool for a few minutes. Do not remove the crust from the pan.
Step 5: While the crust is baking, find a larger pot or stainless steel bowl and fill the bottom with ice cubes and set it aside. Start boiling the 2 cups of maple syrup in a medium saucepan on medium to low heat. Have your digital thermometer close by and stay beside the stove while your maple syrup is boiling, do not mix it. If the syrup rises and is too close to the top edge of your pot, reduce the heat, as you don’t want it to boil over. After 5 minutes, check the temperature. Turn off the heat as soon as it reaches 235°F. In total, the boiling process might take around 10 minutes. Once ready, place the pot with maple syrup into the bowl with ice cubes. This will help the syrup to cool faster. Once it reaches 95-90°F, give the syrup a few quick stirs with the wooden spoon. Doing so will lighten up the colour of the thick syrup to a golden caramel colour. Add the filling ingredients (flaxseed meal, coconut cream, vanilla extract) with the mix-ins of your choice. Start with 2 cups of mix-ins and only add more if necessary to create the right consistency. Your mixture might be thicker, and that’s ok. But if it is too thin, consider adding more mix-ins. More of the same or different mix-ins.
Step 6: Transfer the filling mixture to the base crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle some unsweetened shredded coconut or more seeds to decorate the top if you wish, and bake on the center rack for 30 minutes (up to 35 to 40 minutes). TIP: place a baking sheet under your baking dish or on the bottom rack to catch potential drippage. The edges will start to bubble and get darker when it’s time to consider removing the bars from the oven. If the center of the filling is too wobbly and doesn’t look set, leave it for longer but consider covering the side edges to prevent overbaking. Or loosely place a sheet of parchment paper on the top of the whole dish to encourage the center to bake faster. Try not to bake for more than 40 minutes, as the sweet syrup on the edges will transform into a dryer, crumblier maple sugar.
Step 7: Cool the bars completely in the baking dish, then refrigerate. You can refrigerate the bars (unsliced) directly in the baking dish, covered. Best served cooled and even refrigerated. Slice the bars before serving, especially if your filling is still a bit gooey. Once at room temperature, the filling will be softer if your bars have fewer mix-ins. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Slice and freeze leftover bars for up to 2 months in a deep freezer stored in an air-tight container. TIP: layer sliced bars between sheets of parchment paper to prevent sticking. Enjoy!
Depending on the thickness of your boiled maple syrup and coconut cream, more mix-ins might be necessary to create the right filling mixture consistency. Add more than 2 cups in increments, if needed. And, if your filling is still too thin and liquid, consider mixing in even more flaxseed meal or ground sunflower seeds. The extra ingredients you add to the filling must be easy to incorporate.
TROUBLESHOOTING: If your bars are still too soft (more than just nice and gooey) and not set after the baking and cooling time, it’s possible that the maple syrup was not boiled to the correct temperature. Test your thermometer in hot water.
Read the recipe post for the Basic Option B filling details. That option includes only maple syrup and the mix-ins. That version does not include flax, coconut cream or vanilla.
Gluten-Free Flour Blend: You can make a custom blend with light GF flours and starches OR use a store-bought all-purpose gluten-free flour blend without xanthan gum. The store-bought version I occasionally use (Anita’s Organic Mill) includes brown rice flour, GF oat flour, coconut flour, potato starch, tapioca starch and arrowroot starch.
Chantal’s Custom GF Flour Blend Example (3 cups/324 g): Flour Combo: 1/2 cup GF oat flour (60 g), 1/2 cup light buckwheat flour (60 g), and 1/2 cup sorghum flour (60 g). Starch Combo: 1/4 cup tapioca starch (30 g), a little less than 1/4 cup potato starch (30 g), and Seed Flour: 1 cup freshly milled sunflower seed flour (84 g). TIP: Once all your flours and starches are combined in a bowl, give them a whisk to break up clumps.
Next, try making a Gluten-Free Vegan Pie Crust with the same GF flour blend.
Substitute pure vanilla extract with 1/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla bean powder. Substitute vegan butter with organic extra virgin olive oil. Coconut oil is an alternative, but that option was not tested.
Keywords: Maple Cream Bars, Maple Cream Dessert, Maple Syrup, Gluten-Free Vegan Dessert, Allergen-Friendly Dessert, Gluten-Free Dessert, Vegan Dessert, Dessert Bars