I went trick-or-treating right up until the age at which it was no longer socially acceptable. 😀 The last time I donned a Halloween costume and collected copious amounts of candy was with the neighborhood gang, back when we were freshmen and sophomores in high school.
Archive of ‘Brownies and Bars’ category
A Giveaway! And Sugar-Free Rice Krispie Treats and Marshmallows
Does anyone else love shopping for groceries? There’s something about perusing the shelves, discovering new foods and special sale items, that makes supermarket shopping trips secretly exciting for me. The international and organic food sections are my favorite areas of the store to wander around in aimlessly, scanning the shelves for anything that jumps out at me. Today I was looking at the gluten-free grains in Kroger, and spotted brown rice “krispies.” Immediately the thought of sweet, gooey Rice Krispy treats popped into my head. A reader had asked about the possibility of a low carb, sugar-free version, so I thought I’d give it a shot today.
So let’s start by deconstructing rice krispie treats. Crispy rice cereal is not something I’d consume on a daily basis because of its processed nature, starchiness, and low protein content, but it lends that familiar crunch that’s so essential for these kid-friendly treats. Next, we need to do something about that corn syrup filled marshmallow. It’s 100% sugar! Fortunately, xylitol works well in homemade marshmallows. It’s a one for one swap, with a touch of honey to keep the marshmallows moist and soft, and stevia to boost the sweetness. Finally, we need to cut back on the brown rice if we want to make these treats low carb. I replaced half of the cereal with blanched sliced almonds that I dry toasted in a skillet. They’re a crunchy, high protein addition to rice krispie (krispy?) treats that I hope you’ll enjoy as a healthy twist to old classic!
Now for the fun part! I’d like to share my other food find from the organic foods section at Kroger. It’s organic erythritol, on sale for a Manager’s Special promotion! I’m passing the savings on to you guys by giving it away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment, telling me why you eat sugar-free, to be entered into a drawing for a box of this natural, calorie free sweetener.
You have a whole week to enter! I’ll ship the box to the winner as long as you’re located in the U.S.
And now, back to marshmallows! Don’t be intimidated by the number of the steps for this recipe. The process is pretty straightforward. You don’t even have to use a thermometer. Just set up your bowls in advance, and have your ingredients already measured out if you’re trying to do this with a hand mixer, like I did. You’ll be adding everything with one hand, and mixing with the other. Isn’t a little bit of labor worth it for (almost) sugar-free marshmallows, though?
They look a little rustic, but taste every bit as good as regular marshmallows…
Adapted from this recipe at AllRecipes.com
Makes about 7 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup xylitol
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (clear imitation is recommended)
Big pinch sea salt
1/8 teaspoon good tasting pure stevia extract (NuNaturals)
Organic cornstarch or toasted coconut, for dusting (optional)
You can find step by step photos of this process here. I use a different method, but the pictures of the beaten marshmallow are accurate.
Grease an 8 by 8 inch pan with butter or nonhydrogenated shortening. Set out a saucepan and a large stainless steel bowl, or a large pot. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together xylitol, honey and 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water. Heat xylitol mixture, without stirring, until it bubbles vigorously. Place remaining water in a large bowl or saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over the surface of this water. Heat bowl containing gelatin and water over a saucepan of simmering water to melt and liquefy the gelatin. Remove gelatin from heat. Turn down xylitol mixture to medium heat and boil solution until it turns a deep amber color, as seen in this photo. Remove immediately from heat and pour into bowl of dissolved gelatin. It will foam up considerably, thus the need for the large bowl in which to heat the gelatin. Whisk together once the foam dies down, and transfer the amber colored liquid to a glass measuring cup. In a clean bowl (preferably metal), start whipping egg white with a pinch of cream of tartar, or one drop of vinegar. Whip until the egg white is at the stage of soft peaks. Slowly stream in xylitol solution over the course of a minute or so, beating all the time. Try not to hit the sides of the bowl as you stream in the hot xylitol mixture. Turn up mixer speed to high and beat egg white xylitol mixture for 5-10 minutes, until fluffy and thick. Beat in vanilla, stevia, and salt. When marshmallow is beginning to set, it will pull on the beaters a lot and leave tracks. Pour immediately into greased dish and spread around with a spatula. Let set out on the counter for about 8 eight hours. If you are eating the marshmallows out of hand, invert the pan onto a clean surface, like a cutting board. Marshmallows should flop out onto surface after a bit of shaking. Pry them out gently with a buttered silicone spatula if necessary. If you are eating these out of hand, place sifted cornstarch into a large bowl. Chop marshmallow block into 1 inch cubes, or 1/2 inch for mini marshmallows, with a large buttered knife. Toss handfuls of marshmallows into cornstarch and shake around the bowl. Store in a ziptop bag on the counter.
~17g net carbs for the whole recipe, depending on how you count xylitol (add 7g net carbs for each tablespoon of cornstarch you toss the marshmallows in)
Low Carb Rice Krispy Treats
Makes 12 servings
4 cups sugar-free mini marshmallows
3 tablespoons regular organic butter or nonhydrogenated shortening
2.5 cups sliced blanched almonds
2 cups GF organic crisped brown rice cereal
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt (if you use shortening; just a pinch if you use butter)
Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and crunchy. Do NOT let them brown, or they will taste burned. Set aside to cool.
Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add salt and mini marshmallows, and stir until melted and thoroughly blended into a smooth mixture. Cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cereal and almonds. Stir until well coated. Using buttered spatula, press mixture evenly and firmly into a buttered 8 by 8 inch pan. Cut into squares when cool.
~7g net carbs per 1/12th of a recipe
Don’t forget to enter the contest with a comment! It closes Friday of next week, July 12th.
Coconut Flour Brownies, revisited–Gluten-free and Delicious!
Coconut flour is so much fun to play with! It’s so much easier to measure out versus grinding up almonds each time I want to bake. Get some and I promise you’ll be hooked on the richness of this gluten-free, low carb “flour.”
Interjection to share some science nerdiness. Check out this study on LDL in heart attack patients. Who knew that lower LDL is associated with increased mortality? And more of the low LDL patients were diabetic. Curious, very curious…
Remember these brownies? They’re delicious when undercooked, but turn cakey and dry if you leave them in the oven a minute too long. I know how annoying it is to waste these expensive natural ingredients on recipes full of fail, so I am sorry if you have been caused grief by moisture-sucking overcooked brownies. This new and improved version of sugar-free low carb coconut flour brownies is MUCH less temperamental, and pretty much foolproof in terms of the baking time. Thanks to Buffy at Low Carb Friends for bringing this inspiring recipe to my attention! These brownies are not gooey or chewy, but fudgy and dense. They’re more milk chocolate than most chocolate treats I’ve made, which is refreshing. If you enjoy these brownies as much as my roommates do, you’ll want to stockpile coconut flour for many more batches!
A note about ingredients: Use the highest quality pastured butter you can find for optimal results. I bought a bunch of Kerrygold butter on sale, and have found that it lends such a pleasant buttery taste to everything I use it in. So worth the not-on-sale price! I’ll be using Kerrygold in the recipes you see here from now on. When baking with no sugar and no flour, it’s recommended to use the best of the ingredients we CAN work with! Also, for those of you who don’t use erythritol, I’m pretty sure these brownies would work with 1/4 cup raw honey and 3/4 teaspoon of stevia. This will add 68 grams net carbs to the recipe, making each brownie about 9.5 grams net carbs. Be aware that with the honey/stevia combo, they won’t be as sweet as traditional brownies.
Remember to keep your mitts off of these for a full night in the fridge. I don’t know why, but it seems that baked goods made with coconut flour take a full night to “settle” into their full decadent yumminess. Just make up a batch, toss ’em in the freezer, and go to bed. Or watch SVU reruns on USA all night. Or read Good Calories, Bad Calories under the covers. Just do something to avoid cutting into this chocolately goodness until it achieves its full potential!
Then wake up and grab yourself a delicious and nutritious sugar-free low carb brownie. For breakfast. You know you want to!
Healthy Coconut Flour Brownies
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 sticks salted organic butter (3/4 cup), softened
OR 1 stick butter, 8 ounces sour cream (for more moist brownies)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup sifted Bob’s Red Mill coconut flour
3/4 cup erythritol or xylitol OR 1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract (increase to 1 teaspoon if using honey)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brush both sides of an 8″ by 8″ (or 11″ by 7″ for thinner brownies) pan with coconut oil, or spray with extra virgin olive oil cooking spray. Place a cut square of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan.
Beat softened cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth. Beat in butter, vanilla, and sweetener. Whisk together dry ingredients. Add eggs one at a time to cream cheese mixture, and beat until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and heavy cream. Fold in nuts. Pour chocolate mixture into prepared pan, and smooth top with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes for the wider pan, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and top feels firm to the touch. When done, place pan on wire rack and cool completely. Cool pan of brownies overnight in the refrigerator. Slice into 12-16 squares, and serve. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container, or freeze cut brownies, individual wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil.
~4g net carbs per 1/12th of a recipe
Healthier Magic Cookie Bars (Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free)
Seven Layer Bars a.k.a Magic Cookie Bars, are my absolute favorite holiday treats. The combination of rich chocolate chips, toasted coconut, and the sticky sweetness of condensed milk all coalesce into an incredibly addictive bar cookie. My take on Seven (Six?) Layer Bars is sugar-free, gluten-free, and low carb. It’s a good thing they freeze well ’cause the batch I made today was just too tempting, sitting around on the counter top lookin’ all delicious and gooey!
You’ll need to make a homemade sugar-free caramel sauce to replace that Eagle Brand Condensed Milk that holds these bars together. With a touch of real honey, the sauce is smooth, creamy, and perfect for any dessert that calls for a drizzle of caramel. It doesn’t keep well, so you should prepare and use it immediately. Fortunately, it takes minutes to make.
Holiday Indulgences: Sugar-Free Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
If you’ve heard of Paula Deen, you know what this awe-inspiring seasonal dessert creation is. Or more importantly, how it tastes. When I made this for my family as a freshman in high school, a new holiday tradition was born. We couldn’t stop eating it, and somehow a day after Thanksgiving there was nary a crumb in the pan of leftovers.
Holiday Indulgences: Best Low Carb Cocoa Brownies, with a Twist
This is my submission to the Nourishing Holiday Food Carnival, hosted by Kimi Harris over at the Nourishing Gourmet blog. Check out the other recipes and her fabulous blog!
I’m in a bit of a rush lately with the end of the term approaching quickly (and then Christmas, yay!), so I’ll make this post brief. My dairy-free pumpkin pie didn’t turn out as attractive as I’d hoped, so here’s a considerably easier treat for those of you who don’t like fighting with crumbly crusts and temperamental custards. Cranberry brownies sound a bit unusual, but I promise that you will like this tart twist on the ultimate chocolate indulgence. And if you don’t care for the cranberries, these are darn good regular brownies. They may have just usurped the ooey gooey kind as the best low carb sugar-free brownies. The best part about these almond oat flour brownies is that they are ridiculously easy to prepare!
A few notes about the recipe…
1. The brownies are shaped like muffin tins because I don’t have real pans in my school apartment. Feel free to use an 8 by 8 inch pan. You might have to adjust the baking time a bit, though.
2. The oat flour is not certified gluten-free (I’m not celiac, just intolerant), but you can certainly make your own oat flour with certified gluten-free oats.
3. The type of cocoa you use affects the flavor–use Dutch-processed for that old school Little Debbie Snack cake cocoa flavor. Natural cocoa will give you a more complex chocolate flavor depending on what brand you use.
4. You can use dried UNSWEETENED cranberries (check the Whole Foods in your area if you have one!), fresh, or frozen berries. If using frozen berries, be sure to defrost them and squeeze out all of the excess moisture with paper towels.
5. Toast hazelnuts for 10 minutes or until fragrant (but not brown) in the oven as you are preparing the batter. If you can’t find hazelnuts, walnuts work just as well.
Cranberry Hazelnut Holiday Brownies
One recipe of Simple Cocoa Brownies
1/2 cup frozen cranberries, chopped into halves
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or walnuts, toasted
If you are using frozen cranberries, thaw chopped halves in 10 second intervals in the microwave until heated through and no longer icy. Squeeze as much moisture out as you can with paper towels. Mix into batter.
Simple Cocoa Brownies
Yields 10-12 brownies
1/2 cup organic unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup erythritol or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons xylitol
1/4 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract (NuNaturals)
2 large organic eggs
1/4 cup organic heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup oat flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt butter and cocoa together and stir until smooth. Whisk in eggs and erythritol. Pour cream in, whisking for a minute or two to dissolve all of the erythritol. Add in remaining ingredients, reserving nuts to stir in last. Pour batter into silicone muffins cups or an 8 by 8 inch pan lined with parchment or greased aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool COMPLETELY before cutting and serving. These brownies are at their BEST after letting them sit overnight. They’re yummy and fudgy straight from the refrigerator.
~3g net carbs per brownie (made with erythritol)
Crunchy Low Carb Snack Bars
This will be my last post for awhile. I’ll be heading back to university this Monday and having an actual life!
When a good little low-carber wants something to snack on, she usually reaches for string cheese, sliced veggies, or a spoonful (or five, in my case) of peanut butter. Packaged diet bars and cookies just won’t do. They fail to satisfy the hunger like whole foods. Scary artificial sweeteners and the polyols that accompany them have very unpleasant side effects. Abstain from the “M” word–MALTITOL–if you have a social life and want to keep it. On top of that, a chewy, dry bar encased in a chocolate vegetable oil coating is a big disappointment to the natural food adapted palette. What’s a hungry health foodie to do?
A brilliant gal named Elana came up with a fancy shmancy version of coconut bark, chock full of nuts and seeds, slathered with a blanket of rich chocolate to make your snack time extra special. Spoil yourself rotten with these babies when you can’t look at another cold cut or celery stick. The coconut oil makes them a bit crunchy, tickling your corn chip- and pretzel-deprived taste buds. I cut down on the sugar, de-carbed the chocolate coating, and punched up the flavor with a little twist on the preparation. The testers absolutely flipped for the toasted pecan version. I’d recommend starting there and then following wherever your culinary imagination takes you! There are no hard and fast rules with this wonderfully versatile recipe.
One trick to maximize the lovely flavors of these natural ingredients: Toasting, my friend! Don’t be afraid of somehow “destroying the nutrients” in the nuts. Roasting the nuts can actually improve digestibility. I like to think that our tongue is so well designed that it knows what’s best for us, in the same way that it regulates sodium intake. These bars are even more fabulous with the aromatic, slightly smoky flavor that toasting imparts to the nuts and coconut, so don’t skip this step!
Crunchy and sweet, topped with a layer of smooth dark chocolate! You won’t believe they’re free of sugar and gluten. Promise.
~To toast the ingredients, spread nuts and coconut flakes around a small pan. Pop ’em in the toaster oven and toast for one cycle on medium heat, watching closely to prevent excess browning of the coconut flakes. You might have to stir them around the pan mid-cycle.
~I buy unhulled sesame seeds for the highest calcium content. Get them at the bulk bin or refrigerated section of your local health food store.
~Non-hydrogenated palm oil based shortening is sold under two names, to my knowledge–Spectrum Organic shortening and Jungle brand shortening.
~I get my nuts, seeds, honey and almond butter from the bulk bin section at the health food store. You can buy as much or as little as you want that way. Just be sure to sample the almond butter for freshness.
~Peanut butter is the cheapest option, but almond butter lends a more neutral flavor. Make your own macadamia nut butter with a magic bullet or powerful food processor. Heat the nuts in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and blend. Macadamia nuts contain enough natural oil to turn into a smooth paste after enough pulsing and scraping.
~If you buy roasted pistachios, rinse the salt off under a colander, pat them dry, and toast them for one cycle under medium heat to crisp the pistachios back up.
~For the 85% chocolate, I alternate between Lindt, Ghirardelli, and Green & Black’s organic. Use whatever brand you prefer–the carb counts are similar.
~DON’T heat the flax seeds or hemp seeds. You want to keep those precious omega-3s intact!
The following is my absolute favorite version. It smells like a Samoa cookie, no joke!
Crunchy No-Bake Snack Bars
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup golden flax meal (could also use sesame seed meal)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup almond butter (could also use peanut or mac nut butter)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of raw honey
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons erythritol
1/8 teaspoon of pure stevia extract
Easy Chocolate Ganache Topping
4 squares of 85% cacao chocolate
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening (could also use more coconut oil or organic unsalted butter)
1 tablespoon erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract
1 teaspoon organic heavy cream (or full fat coconut milk)
For Snack Bars:
Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or magic bullet. Toast coconut and nuts in a dry pan over medium-low heat or the toaster oven, until slightly browned. Pulse nut and seed mixture in a food processor just until nuts are chopped. Melt coconut oil and nut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Add vanilla extract, honey, erythritol, stevia, and sea salt, stirring until incorporating. Fold into nut mixture. Press into an 8 by 4 pan with a spatula. Quick set in the freezer for 20 minutes. Cut into 6 bars. Store in the refrigerator, covered with a paper towel and plastic wrap.
For Ganache Topping:
Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or magic bullet. Melt shortening and chocolate in microwave in for 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Stir in cream, erythritol, and stevia, until mixture is completely blended. Spread over cooled bars immediately.
~4.35 grams net carbs per 1/6 of a recipe
Check out that funky green color! It’s from all the pistachios and pepitas. The flavor is pretty phenomenal, too. Very pistachio-y.
Pepita Pistachio Variation (a.k.a. REPTAR BARS, RAWRR!)
1/2 cup pistachios, roasted
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons pepitas, toasted
2 tablespoons hemp seeds (could use more pepitas)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (could also use golden flax seeds)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup macadamia nut butter (could also use almond butter)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon raw honey
1/8-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract
Follow the steps listed above.
~6 grams net carbs per 1/6 of a recipe
The Taste of Summer, pt. 2– Sugar-Free Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
This time of year, I like to cool off with my treats. My new Cuisinart ice cream maker has been running constantly lately. To mix things up and take a break from the brain freeze, I decided to try something new. Cheesecake is the ultimate cool, creamy indulgence that’s naturally low in carbs. There are tons of variations and different recipes out there for this classic dessert. I’ve never made it, though. The idea of using a whole pound of cream cheese, a giant round pan, and a water bath was always intimidating. It just sounds hard, worrying about cracks in the top and achieving the right consistency and whatnot. Though I’ve never experienced intense cravings for this particular food, cheesecake seemed like the perfect excuse to use up a CostCo-sized tub of blueberries sitting in my fruit bin.
Blueberry cheesecake called my name! It’s rather simple to de-carb cheescake–you simply remove the sugar. Erythritol (see the bold term for info) works like a charm for “wet” applications like cheesecake, so you don’t have to worry about using any special ingredients to offset its menthol-like “cooling” effect. Stevia rounds out the sweetness of these incredibly creamy bars. This sour-cream based cheesecake recipe posted in its original form here is a real winner. Thanks to BawdyWench for her simple, delicious recipe!
Even if you’re not a “cheesecake person,” you should definitely give this recipe a try. It takes minutes to whip up, and doesn’t have that thick, gummy mouthfeel elicited by a ton of cream cheese. The blueberries burst in your mouth as you bite through the silky base and nontraditional but oh-so-delicious gluten-free shortbread crust (check oats for gf label!). Get your brain-boosting antioxidants in for the day with these fresh blueberries. Studies show that blueberry consumption positively affects your memory. These delicious summer fruits are naturally low in carbs, so eat up! The batch of cheesecake bars from yesterday is almost gone. Some serious nibbling has been happening. I don’t blame the cheesecake bandit–it was love at first bite with these babies!
Creamy Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from this recipe by BawdyWench
Makes eight servings
3/4 cup finely ground almonds
2 tablespoons sifted oat flour (check for gluten-free certification if necessary)
1 tablespoon erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup organic sour cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons erythritol
1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract
8 ounces cream cheese (1 package), softened
1 tablespoon organic unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk together dry ingredients for crust. Mix in melted butter and press into the bottom of a foiled lined 8 by 5 loaf pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Let crust cool.
Turn oven down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Blend together eggs, vanilla, sour cream, and sweeteners. Beat cream cheese and melted butter together until smooth, then add to first ingredients and beat until just combined and smooth. Stir in half of the blueberries. Pour cheesecake batter into loaf pan and sprinkle the rest of the blueberries over the filling. Bake for 35 minutes using the water bath method (see this post). Remove from oven and let the cheesecake bars cool completely, still submerged within the water bath. Remove the loaf pan from the water bath and move it to the refrigerator when the bars have cooled to room temperature. Cover with a layer of paper towels and plastic wrap. Refrigerate for four hours or until firm. Don’t sneak a bite until they have set up properly and attained the perfect creamy consistency!
~6 grams net carbs per serving
Ooey, Gooey and Gluten-Free: Brownies, Baby!
On certain very special Saturday mornings when I was growing up, a sweet aroma would tickle my nose, gently nudging me out of bed and into the kitchen. It was the smell of freshly baked brownies, cooling on the stove top in their 8 by 8 tin pan. It was my number one favorite treat when I was growing up–dense, fudgy (never cakey!) squares that fell apart in your napkin when you scooped ’em out of the hot pan. My mom always made the standard recipe out of the red checkered Homes and Gardens cookbook, never using a packaged mix or fancy toppings. The beauty was in the simplicity of these unadorned and positively addictive chocolate treats. They never lasted long around our house, although I do remember peeling back saran wrap and gnawing on cold brownie bits from the freezer. Yu-umm.
My first attempts to adapt that treasured recipe failed. There was something not quite right about my sugar-free concoctions. I tried tweaking the Homes and Gardens recipe by replacing the flour with various flour blends, and the sugar with erythritol. I would end up with shapeless goo or dry, flat blocks that were light and airy–decidedly unbrownie like. The standard low carb brownie recipes made out of various combinations of almond meal, flax meal, and cream cheese always lacked a characteristic “heaviness” of the stick-to-your-ribs treats of my childhood.
Enter the hero of our story, coconut flour. If you haven’t heard of it, listen closely, because what I’m about to say will change your life. It’s just coconut meat with the fat pressed out, pulverized into a fine powder. Though it may look like all purpose flour (cue ominous music), this magical substance is so fragrant and alive compared to its refined evil twin. Get it here, or pay twice as much at your local health food store.
I always have to stick my nose in the bag and inhale before baking with coconut flour. Now coconut flour can be tricky to work with, so you must follow a tried and true recipe, or be stuck with a pan full of door stops. The moisture-sucking quality of coconut flour must be tamed with copious amounts of eggs. Once you get the hang of it, you will be turning out moist muffins and fudgy brownies that put my Mom’s old recipe to shame. Blasphemy, I know!
Coconut flour is low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fiber, which correlates with a lowered glycemic index for whatever you’re baking. Low-carb, sugar-free, and gluten-free, these brownies can be part of a wholesome breakfast… or maybe a midnight snack. 😉
These are ah-mazing. The center of the brownie pan is almost molten chocolate. I like to eat this part first, with a spoon. The edge pieces are firm, but moist. These brownies are a hit of pure chocolate to the brain–not the least bit coconut-ty, if you’re worried about that. They’re perfectly sweet with a subtle hint of caramel flavor from the molasses. They’re so incredibly rich that one serving should be enough, with all of the healthful natural saturated fat these brownies contain. Make a small pan if you are feeling emotional, ladies.
UPDATE, 5.2.09: This recipe for coconut flour brownies is MUCH more reliable, and even more delicious!
Sweet and Sugar-free Raspberry Lemon Swirl Bars
To make use of the gorgeous produce we have readily available right now, I decided to make something I hadn’t really even liked in my carb-addicted dark past. Lemon bars had never really appealed to me, probably because they don’t involve chocolate. And yet they just sounded really good the other day for some reason, with their refreshing tartness and shortbread crust. The recipe is well-suited to a healthful makeover because of the low carb content of eggs and lemons, so I just couldn’t resist trying a batch. After demolishing a trial batch along with my faithful testers, it’s safe to say these gluten-free low carb lemon bars are just as church picnic worthy as their high carb counterparts!
In all their tangy, swirled glory…
As far as the technical baking stuff goes, you do need erythritol if you want to add bulk and lessen the carb count per bar, not to mention the nice rounded sweetness from combining it with the stevia. It also adds a nice crunchiness when it crystallizes, but no overwhelming cooling effect. However, if you refrigerate these bars, you’ll want to pop ’em in the microwave for 10 seconds or so to warm them up for the best mouth feel. Furthermore, you can use a product like ThickenThin Not Sugar (or pure acacia gum) to lessen the amount of recrystallization if you want a smoother texture. You can forgo the erythritol altogether, but you’ll have to use a lot of stevia or just accept a less sweet finished product. Finally, the xanthan gum takes the place of flour in the original recipe to firm up the top of the bars. You could probably use a bit of coconut flour for a similar effect.
Health-wise, these bars are a delicious vehicle for the goodness of raspberries and lemons, which are bursting with vitamin C and cancer-fighting compounds. In lemon, the limonins have the free radical scavenging cytotoxic effects. In red raspberries, ellagitannins may block carcinogens and ward off sickness. Both raspberries and lemons are low in carbs, which makes them perfect candidates for a after-dinner treat or a pre-workout snack. I sip at stevia-sweetened lemonade all day, which is supposed to aid in the absorption of the catechins (antioxidants) in my green tea. I’ll drink to that!
Healthy Raspberry Lemon Swirl Bars
Makes eight bars
1/4 cup butter
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening:
-1 tablespoon erythritol or xylitol
-1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract
Pinch sea salt
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons almond meal
1/4 cup oat or buckwheat flour (oat flour is a lot prettier!)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum
2 large cage-free organic eggs
1/2 cup erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract (NuNaturals brand)
1/4 cup organic lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Pinch sea salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup organic raspberries
1 teaspoon organic lemon juice
1 teaspoon erythritol
Fresh raspberries for garnish
Soften butter for shortbread. Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or blender. Cream butter and erythritol together, then work in flours and gums with a fork until thoroughly combined. Add a pinch of salt and stevia. You want it to be a bit sweeter from the stevia than you can stand it, because some of the stevia’s sweetness breaks down under heat. Press or spread into an 8″ by 4″ loaf pan lined with buttered parchment. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, 15-20 minutes. Let crust cool while you prepare the filling. Stick it in the freezer to speed the process.
Powder erythritol. Beat erythritol with eggs, lemon juice, and zest. Add gums. Add a pinch of sea salt and stevia to taste. Pour over shortbread crust.
Puree raspberries with lemon juice and erythritol. Strain through a mesh colander, pushing the puree through with a spatula, if you don’t want seeds in your bars. Drop raspberry puree onto lemon filling in different spots and swirl with the spatula. Dot batter with fresh raspberries if desired. Bake for 20 minutes or until just set. I left the center of mine slightly jiggly, and it firmed up after cooling.
~3.75g net carbs per bar!