Sometimes, recipe ideas, for one reason or another, just do not turn out. I had been working on a dessert idea that was essentially born out of a funny mistake my husband made when he was attempting to say “butternut squash” and instead said “butternut scotch”. I, being the loving and supportive wife that I am, proceeded to laugh in his face. Just so you can appreciate how great of a wife I am, English is his second language. After my fit of laughter, I immediately thought that a “butternut scotch” something would be a very cool name for a dessert. So I proceeded to spend months attempting to combine butternut squash puree and a paleo butterscotch sauce into various kinds of dessert to no avail. Who’s laughing now? Definitely not me! As much as my OCD serves me at times, this was not one of those instances. Finally, I convinced myself to give up on the idea, because the thought of baking and pureeing yet another butternut squash sounded absolutely dreadful. Sometimes you just have to let go of an idea to let another one grow. What that disastrous dessert attempt led to was this, healthy(ish) Caramel Swirl Streusel Bread. It’s an upgraded take on classic streusel bread but instead of a cinnamon sugar mixture ribboned through a fluffy loaf, mine has a simple creamy caramel sauce, which really takes it to a whole new level of delicious.
This Caramel Swirl Streusel Bread is really something special. It has a just perfectly sweet crumb that is light and fluffy yet moist. The bread is sweetened with cane sugar and kissed with cinnamon. The batter for this Streusel Bread comes together quickly in just one bowl! A simple yet incredibly addicting vegan caramel sauce is sandwiched between two layers of the batter to create the center swirl. The caramel sauce is made of coconut cream and coconut sugar caramelized together over a low flame on the stove. The coconut sugar has an inherently caramel-like flavor that, when reduced with the coconut cream creates a thick sauce that tastes almost exactly like a traditional caramel. I am fairly confident that any taster would not be the wiser that this is made with no dairy, refined sugars, or oils, it’s just that good. Then, as this is in fact a Streusel Bread, it is adorned with a simple crumble topping. The streusel topping is made with similar ingredients to the bread, but adds a wonderful sweet, cinnamony, and crispy crust to the top that really complements the bread and caramel layers beneath. This bread is the perfect anytime treat – be it a sweet breakfast, accompaniment to your afternoon caffeine fix, or maybe topped with a scoop of your favorite vanilla for a next level dessert. There really is never a bad time to enjoy a slice of this heavenly loaf.
I’ll be straightforward and say that this is not a one-bowl-baking-situation that I am so fond of. There are some steps and there will be a moderate amount of dishes as there are three components to this bread. But, I can assure you that IT IS WORTH IT! Because this bread is truly something special, and sometimes, special things take a bit more time. While admittedly this looker of a loaf takes a few more minutes than your basic quick bread or one bowl bake, this Caramel Swirl Streusel Bread is actually really simple! Here’s a rundown of the steps:
- Make the caramel by reducing coconut cream, coconut sugar, and coconut oil in a small pot over a medium low flame for 7-8 minutes. No special tools, like a candy thermometer, are needed to make the caramel. Just combine the ingredients and stir occasionally while it gently bubbles away. I do recommend a silicon spatula for the stirring, it’s incredibly resistant to heat and easy to clean. After it’s reduced, remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and set aside to cool.
- Make the streusel topping while the caramel is cooking down by mixing the dry ingredients first, then mashing everything together with coconut oil to create a sandy crumb. I like to use my fingers for this, but a fork is also fine.
- Mix the wet ingredients for the batter together in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until everything is just fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once during mixing to ensure everything is thoroughly distributed and avoid overmixing.
- Add half the batter to a loaf pan and smooth out with a rubber spatula to create one even layer.
- Pour the caramel sauce over the batter and spread out to the edges.
- Cover caramel with remaining batter creating the upper layer of the loaf.
- Top batter with streusel mixture.
- Bake, let cool, and enjoy!
This loaf is amazing both at room temperature and also still slightly warm from the oven. If you cannot wait to let this cool completely, when it the caramel has set and be easier to cut, the caramel layer may ooze out slightly and, while messy, it is absolutely magical. This loaf will keep at room temperature for a day or so in an airtight container. Afterwards, slice any remaining portion and store in the freezer. This would be amazing warmed up a bit in a toaster oven or microwave for the above mentioned reason and below photographic proof.
This Caramel Swirl Streusel Bread is made with better-for-you ingredients as it contains no hydrogenated oils or refined flours. Normally, my recipes are refined sugar free, but, for this bread I used both cane sugar and coconut sugar. I attempted to use all coconut sugar for this recipe, but unfortunately it yielded a bread that tasted monotonous and the wonderful caramel layer really disappeared into the loaf. So, the streusel and caramel are made with coconut sugar while the bread itself is sweetened with organic cane sugar. Organic cane sugar is much less refined than conventional white sugar but very similar in taste. Here’s a look at the main ingredients you’ll need:
Coconut Sugar – The caramel and streusel topping are both sweetened with coconut sugar. It is more similar in flavor to brown sugar than white sugar and is a delicious complement to cinnamon. It makes for a deliciously satisfying crunchy top in the streusel while creating a deeply flavorful caramel layer. I use and love Nutiva’s coconut sugar which I find has excellent quality at a reasonable price.
Coconut Oil – The oil used for this bread and really creates a flavorful and moist texture without feeling too rich. It’s a simple and easy replacement for butter which makes this dairy free. Use virgin coconut oil if you do not mind the coconut flavor, if you prefer a more neutral tasting oil, use refined coconut oil. I exclusively use Nutiva’s (refined) coconut oil and have made a habit of investing in the largest possible container. Of course I do an excessive amount of baking, but if you’re running through coconut oil containers often I highly recommend doing the same – it’s a great way to reduce plastic waste, save money, and trips to the store.
Coconut Cream – This is the thick white layer on the top of a fresh can of coconut milk. This, when reduced with the coconut sugar, creates the creamy caramel layer. You can purchase cans of coconut cream which contains more of the fluffy white part than milk. Otherwise, just use a regular can of coconut milk skimming as much of the cream off the top as possible.
Cassava & Tapioca Flour – My absolute go-to flour combination when it comes to grain free and nut free baking. I love how fluffy this bread turns out using these two flours with the added moisture of the cane sugar. I recently discovered that Amazon has the best pricing for cassava flour, compared to the health food stores near me and, surprisingly, Thrive Market. And I use Bob’s Red Mill for the tapioca flour.
Cane Sugar – The loaf is sweetened with organic cane sugar and creates a flavorful and light bread that is just perfectly sweet without feeling overindulgent. Wholesome Sweeteners makes an organic cane sugar that is excellent. Alternatively, Whole Food’s 365 brand is a cheaper option with comparable quality.
While this bread is definitely a treat, it is made with simple, real ingredients that are not overly processed or refined. This bread is gluten free, grain free, dairy free, and nut-free!
While this bread would be a welcome treat any time of year, this is sure to be especially satisfying during these cooler months. A thick slice of this Caramel Swirl Streusel Bread alongside your favorite warm beverage is sure to have you feeling all kinds of cozy with its soft and fluffy bread, ample cinnamon, creamy caramel layer, and addictingly crispy streusel topping.
gluten free, grain free, dairy free, nut free
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Caramel Swirl Streusel Bread
This loaf is really something special - a caramel layer ribboned through a soft and fluffy bread and topped with a deliciously addicting streusel top. The perfect treat for any time of day!
gluten/grain/dairy free, nut free
- 2/3 cup coconut cream (171 grams)
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar (74 grams)
- 2 tsp coconut oil (10 grams)
- 2 tsp vanilla (10 grams)
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar (36 grams)
- 1/4 cup cassava flour (36 grams)
- 1 tsp cinnamon (2 grams)
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 3 tbsp coconut oil (40 grams)
- 1 cup cane sugar (210 grams)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil (90 grams) melted and cooled
- 4 eggs ideally room temp
- 1 tsp vanilla (5 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups cassava flour (204 grams)
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour (30 grams)
- 1 tsp cinnamon (2 tsp)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (7 grams)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda (2 grams)
- 1/2 tsp salt (2 grams)
Heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare loaf pan by greasing with additional oil or lining with parchment paper.
Make the caramel layer by combining the coconut cream, coconut sugar, and coconut oil together in a small pot and heat over medium low flame. Stir well and let come to a gently boil. Cook, stirring occasionally for 7-8 minutes or until the mixture has reduced, become a dark brown, and is thick. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and set aside.
While the caramel is reducing, make the streusel topping. Combine the coconut sugar, cassava flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Add the coconut oil and mash together with a fork or your fingertips until everything is the texture of damp sand. Set aside.
Make the bread batter by mixing the coconut sugar, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla together in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl if mixing by hand, until everything is well incorporated and bubbly.
Add in the remaining batter ingredients and stir until just fully combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once during mixing to ensure all ingredients are evenly distributed and prevent overmixing.
Scoop half the batter into the prepared baking dish and, using a silicone spatula, spread out into an even layer.
Pour the caramel sauce over the lower batter layer.
Evenly distribute the remaining batter over the caramel and spread out into an even layer.
Spread streusel mixture all over the top batter layer.
Bake in the center rack of the oven for 52-55 minutes or until the top is golden brown all over and the middle appears set. Test for doneness by piercing with a toothpick, if it comes out clean it is done!
Let cool in baking dish for at least 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
This loaf is amazing both at room temperature and also still slightly warm from the oven. If you cannot wait to let this cool completely, when the caramel has set and it will be easier slice, the caramel layer may ooze out slightly and while messy, it is absolutely magical.
Storage: This will keep stored in an airtight container in a cool place for a day or so. Afterwards, slice any uneaten portion and freeze for longer storage. Although this bread is delicious eaten at room temperature it is really exceptional when heated up for a bit in a toaster oven/microwave and the bread becomes warm and the caramel gooey.
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