Archive for the 'Refined Sugar-Free' Category



Something Fruity, Cakey, Alternatively Sweetened

Those were the only requests made by my friend Rachel for her birthday cake. Actually, she suggested a loaf-type-dessert, but I thought that since it was her birthday after all, she should have something that more closely resembled a cake! I’ve always loved this recipe, which originated from The Candle Cafe Cookbook, and is for their Lemon-Poppyseed Muffins. However, as I made it this time with my baking buddy Julie, I took out the cane sugar (substituting date sugar instead), added extra lemon zest, and doubled the whole recipe to fit into a large bundt cake pan. I’ve never baked with date sugar before, and I wasn’t sure exactly how it would react in a cake – the results were fabulous. I barely noticed a difference from how the original recipe tastes, except for a slightly “darker” flavor, a little bit like I had added a touch of molasses. It’s nice to know that you can substitute a totally natural sweetener for the highly processed white cane sugar that is in so many baked goods, making them a little more nutritious as well as ethically healthy (i.e.: animal-friendly).

Personally, I loved this cake as it was (and I love it so dearly in muffin form too!), with tons of crunchy poppy seeds in every single bite, but I was told that it would be extra delicious with a lemon glaze drizzled over. I would do this right after taking the cake out of the oven, and as the cake cools it will create a crispy crunchy sweet top. …And after writing this post and looking at my pictures again, I’m wishing I had an extra slice leftover to nosh on right now!

Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins Ingredients:
Makes 12 muffins (double this recipe if you’d like to make a bundt cake)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or a combination of 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour)
1/4 cup date sugar (you can easily substitute 1/4 cup of cane sugar, if you want, and you will be back at the original recipe!)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt (fine grained)
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine, slightly melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup poppy seeds
3 tsp. grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin, line tins with cupcake papers, or grease and flour a bundt pan.

Sift the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to mix. In a separate bowl, whisk together the margarine, maple syrup, almond milk, and lemon juice until foamy. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and mix until the batter is smooth. Fold in the poppy seeds and lemon zest.

Pour the batter into the muffin tins or bundt pan, dividing evenly and spreading flat across the top. Bake on a center rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes for muffins, or 55 minutes for a cake – make sure to do a toothpick test by sticking a toothpick into the center, and if it comes out clean you can take the pan out of the oven. The muffins are best served while warm, but if you choose to make the cake then leave it to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes before extracting it. Take your cake out of the pan and let cool completely before eating.

The Finals Crunch, Sweetened with Agave

The end of the semester somehow snuck up on me (can you believe it? It’s already December! The first night of Hanukah is tonight!) and I’m in the midst of the finals crunch at school. I have so much work it seems unbelievable, and of course this cold, rainy weather is tempting me every minute to drop my work and just cozy up and bake cookies! There’s nothing I want more than a comforting, healthy, sweet snack to eat with tea or coffee while I study and write final papers, so I took the plunge and started baking with these simple delicious treats. Of course, I got seriously distracted, and completely caught up in the pre-holiday baking whirlwind, and made a dozen or so other truly sinful sweets. Unfortunately my papers won’t seem to write themselves, as much as I hope that will magically happen overnight, so I’m going to have to wait a few days to post the photos and recipes till I actually write more and can cross things off my finals to-do list. Most of the other cookies are intensely rich and buttery, with dark chocolate, rum, sugared ginger, and icing – just what you’d expect (and want!) from holiday baking sessions. Please check back soon to see these exciting morsels! But for now, I hope you enjoy these healthier cookies which are gluten-free, refined sugar-free, protein-packed, chewy delights.

Apricot Almond Quinoa Chews

Adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

Ingredients:
1/2 cup almond milk
2 Tblsp. ground flax seeds
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3-1/2 cup dark agave, depending how sweet you want the cookies to be
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
2 Tblsp. arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup quick-cooking quinoa flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
Additional chopped almonds and apricots for decorating cookies

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mizing bowl, whisk together the almond milk and flax seeds and let sit for 1 minute.
Then, stir in the agave and vanilla until smooth.
Sift in the quinoa flour, brown rice flour, arrowroot powder, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda, and salt.
Mix to form a thick batter, then fold in the quinoa flakes, apricots, and almonds.
For each cookie, scoop 1 rounded tablespoon of dough onto the baking sheet, keeping the cookies about 2 inches apart.
Sprinkle the cookie tops with a few chopped almonds and apricots, and flatten the tops with the back of a measuring cup.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until puffed and just starting to brown on the edges.
Remove the cookies form the oven and let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.
Transfer them to wire racks to cool completely and store in a tightly covered container.
These cookies are best eaten the day they are made.

Cornbread with Miso-Tahini Spread

I don’t usually use baking mixes, but I had this one on hand and wanted to make a last-minute treat, so I whipped it out and set out to make it. It turned out moist, crumbly, and had a perfectly crispy crust because I baked it in a cast-iron skillet. The mix I used was from The Cravings Place, and it was gluten-free, vegan, and sugar-free (and super fast and easy!). The instructions suggested adding sugar, honey, or maple syrup if you wanted a sweeter bread…I had an inner debate about this, and ended up adding only about 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Lightly sweetened this way, the naturally sweet cornmeal flavor really shone through the bread and made for a wonderful appetizer. I made a Miso-Tahini Spread to go on top, using a recipe from the Angelica’s Kitchen Cookbook, which made the cornbread a little more savory. Good vegan and from-scratch cornbread recipes that I have tried before have been from the same Angelica’s Kitchen Cookbook, as well as Peter Berley’s cornbread recipe (these recipes are very similar, as Berley developed many of the Angelica’s recipes). While neither of these recipes are gluten-free, they could be easily adapted to be by substituting rice flour and xanthan gum instead of the wheat flour.

Miso Tahini Spread Ingredients:
Yield: 2 cups
1/3 cup mellow barley miso (I used a brown rice miso to make this gluten-free)
1/2 cup water
1 1/3 cups tahini

Combine the miso with the water in a food processor. Puree until creamy.
Add the tahini, and process until smooth.
Spread liberally on top of your cornbread, crackers, or anything else you might want a savory topping on.

Decadent Chocolate Pecan Pie

Looking for a chocolate-heaven-like dessert to serve at our Thanksgiving table, I found this Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe in Ricki Heller’s cookbook Sweet Freedom. She also has it online for free, here, but everything else I’ve tried from the book is delicious so it’s definitely worth checking the full cookbook out. The recipe wasn’t quite perfectly matched to the diverse dietary restrictions and needs that our guests (and myself) required, so I took the liberty of making a few minor changes. Simply, I switched the spelt flour in the crust recipe with an equal combination of sorghum and brown rice flours, making it gluten-free. Then, because I’m not eating refined sugars right now, I used unsweetened baking chocolate instead of the chocolate chips in the filling, and I used almond butter instead of cashew butter to adapt for one of the nut allergies. What I got was just what I was looking for: A rich, heavy, purely decadent chocolate dessert that would fulfill any chocolate addict’s cravings. It was also gorgeous, especially when cut into slices and the pecan pieces shone bright in the midst of all the dark chocolate fudge. If you are looking for a holiday dessert, or really any type of chocolate treat, this is definitely the recipe to try. I fully recommend it!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Whipped Coconut Topping

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving holiday yesterday, filled with family and friends, and of course lots of delicious food. Based on my own experience, I suspect that you stuffed yourselves, although hopefully not as much as I did! But, however full I felt last night (and still this morning!), I always enjoy looking at more food, so here is a sample of what I made and ate last night.

For our feast, I made a Pumpkin Cheesecake and topped it with a rich Whipped Coconut Creme. It tasted quite delicious, although definitely more like a pumpkin pie than a cheesecake. I think if I had used a Vitamix or a more powerful food processor, I could have gotten the filling to have a more even consistency (like the one in the original recipe’s picture, here), but nonetheless it tasted great. It had a wonderful pumpkin taste, and the pecans in the crust complemented the fall flavors very nicely. We had a little bit of extra crust dough that I baked separately, and it ended up thick and tasty as a simple shortbread-like cookie on it’s own. The coconut creme was from a recipe in Sweet Freedom, for a sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free vegan whipped cream. Dolloped on top of the pie, it was rich, sweet, and certainly very creamy, but not as light and fluffy as whipped cream should be. Our consensus was that it would have been very good as a fruit tart filling, and next time I make one I will definitely use this recipe!

Gluten-Free, Refined-Sugar-Free, Vegan and Delicious Pumpkin Scones

Yes, believe what the title says. It is definitely possible to make delicious vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free desserts. I’m slowly converting everyone I know, and I hope to convert you too, at least to the idea that this is a possible baking feat. I’m so used to adapting regular recipes, and have figured out good proportions of animal-friendly (as well as gluten-free and sugar-free) ingredients to make yummy veganized versions, but this time I found a recipe online that was already perfect and fit all my dietary requirements. Plus, it was already tested and blogged about, and even photographed so I could see evidence that this recipe actually worked. You can find all of that proof, plus the recipe, right here. I followed the recipe to a T, with a tiny addition of half a cup of chopped pecans mixed into the batter and sprinkled on the top before baking. I have to admit – these scones are a little bit muffin-like in consistency (they had a fluffier and a little more cake-like texture than most scones do), but they are so delicious you won’t care at all. You’ll eat tons of them. Especially because they are pumpkin (my favorite flavor), have no gluten, no refined sugar, no dairy and no eggs. So they practically don’t exist or have calories or anything, right?

Autumn Crunch

Fall is in the air – even here, in California, we have beautiful autumn leaves drifting down from the trees and blanketing our yards. They are definitely lots of fun to jump on and scrunch beneath your feet! However, not all the aspects of Fall are that alluring. With the school-based schedule crunch of final papers and projects looming over my head, and as the shorter, colder, darker days continue, I knew I needed something to look forward to and entice me out of bed with…So, using my dried persimmons and all the sweet warm spices I could think of, I created an autumnal breakfast treat to look forward to when I wake up.

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This Persimmon Granola is perfect paired with almond milk for a yummy breakfast, but it also is tasty plain as a snack, and I’m sure it would be good with vanilla ice cream as a crunchy topping.

You can make this granola with any mix of nuts, spices, and dried fruits that you have on hand. I think the persimmons give it a wonderful Fall flavor and color, but raisins or dates would be delicious as well. You can add brown sugar, agave, or honey if you want added sweetness, but I am enjoying the subtle sweetness of the brown rice syrup on it’s own; it really makes the persimmon’s natural sweet taste stand out. And the spices of course are flexible – add whatever you like best. My house was filled with great smells after baking this!

Ingredients:

5 cups oats
2 cups raw almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup shredded & unsweetened dried coconut
1 Tblsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup brown rice syrup
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tblsp. vegetable oil

2 cups chopped dried persimmons (it is easy to cut them with scissors into bite-sized pieces).

Preheat your oven to 300F. Cover two jelly-roll pans (cookie sheets with sides) with aluminum foil (this will make clean-up easier).
In a very large bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, walnuts, coconut, spices, and salt.
In a small saucepan, heat the applesauce, brown rice syrup, and oil. Stir constantly, till they are smooth.
Mix the heated liquid mixture into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined, then divide and spread the mixture evenly on your prepared pans.
Bake the granola for about 40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes, until the granola is a deep golden brown color.
Remove the pans from the oven, and cool completely.
Stir your chopped dried persimmons into the granola after it is cool.
Store the granola in a large, airtight container.

Dried Persimmons

I have a large Fuyu Persimmon tree in my front yard, and the fruits are ripe and ready for picking right now. These are the kind that stay hard and crunchy when ripe. They are delicious and sweet and some young friends of mine told me the “look a lot like little pumpkins.” I agree – except when you slice them through the middle horizontally, then I think they look like flowers. Check it out:

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Two years ago when we had our first Persimmon harvest, we had so many. We were eating them with every meal (sliced on top of green salads, mixed into fruit salads, on the side of every dish), and pureeing them and then mixing the mush into all of our baked goods. We ate persimmon cookies, persimmon cake, persimmon bread. You name it, we made it. I think we even tried to make a persimmon pudding, but that’s much better to make with the Hachiya variety of persimmons that get super soft and mushy when ripe. Recently, I’ve been on a sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan diet which, while difficult at first, has gotten a lot easier in the last week or so. I’m pretty comfortable experimenting with my baking, and adapting my recipes to fit any type of dietary restrictions, but honestly I have been baking less since changing my eating habits (also, I’ve had a lot less time to bake because of being in school). So I haven’t yet made any persimmon baked goods. I’ve been eating them raw and whole, like apples. It’s such an easy snack to take to classes with me! But, we have a lot, and I decided to try something new with them.

I started out by drying my persimmons, by slicing them thinly and laying them on metal cooling racks. If you want to do this at home, you can really do it with any type of fruit I think. If you have a dehydrator that would speed up the the process and make it a little easier, but since I don’t have one, I’m using my oven. It just means I can’t bake anything for a few days while the persimmons are drying in there, but somehow I’ll manage.

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I put the cooling racks in my oven (on top of the regular oven racks) and left the oven door a tiny tiny crack open so the air could circulate. I didn’t turn the oven on, but the pilot light kept the oven slightly warm and helped dry out the persimmon slices. I left them in for a day and a half, checking periodically and flipping them over to make sure the sides were drying evenly. You can decide when they’re done by checking to see how dry and crunchy they are – you want them pretty dry but still a little chewy. They’re very sweet and tasty for eating as a snack, but I have bigger plans for these babies. I’m posting these pictures as a teaser, so you’ll have to check in later to see the full recipe for what I’m going to make with them!

Rice Crispy Bars

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Rice Crispy Treats hold specific childhood sensory memories for me, and probably for a lot of adults as well. This sticky, sweet, crunchy, crispy, gooey, on-the-go, lick-your-fingers-afterwards, all at the same time experience is what childhood was all about. I got this recipe for a similar treat from my friend Marjorie awhile ago, and hadn’t had quite the right reason to make it till now. Brown rice syrup is much easier for your body to process than the cane sugar and additives that are in most baked goods. Since these rice crispies are stuck together and sweetened with the sweet syrup, they are a much healthier version than the traditional marshmallow dessert. However, these bars definitely don’t taste exactly like the marshmallow version; they aren’t as sickeningly sweet and they have the added tart flavors of dried fruit and the crunch of seeds, as well as the salty nutty taste of tahini. They are not kid-friendly in this sense, unless you have a particularly adventurous child.

This was lucky for me, as Marjorie used to make these and her kids wouldn’t want to eat them, so there were always some left for me to snack on! I would want to devour the whole container while I was at her house, but I’d hold myself back and enjoy these simple flavors and textures slowly. It’s very simple and nutritious – it’s one of those treats that is actually pretty healthy, although you do have to remember it’s a treat still, so you shouldn’t eat too much at a time…It was a perfect treat to take on a hike; it was a bit like an energy bar because it had all the necessary proteins and carbs to give us strength and energy to keep going, it was light and easy to pack and carry, and it satisfied all our sweet and salty cravings. And it was quite filling too!

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You can make it with whatever dried fruits you like best (I think that currants, apricots, raisins, or dried apples would taste delicious) and whatever seeds or chopped nuts you want to add would work too. While I just used crispy brown rice cereal as my base, you could throw in a combination of puffed rice, puffed millet, and puffed rice as well, as long as it equaled the same total amount. It’s a very adaptable recipe.

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This recipe makes 2 dozen squares.

Ingredients:
2 tsp. cold-pressed sesame oil
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
2 Tblsp. sesame tahini (or other nut butter of choice)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 cups plain unsweetened crispy brown rice cereal
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

In a large pot, heat oil, rice syrup, and tahini; stir until bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Add remaining ingredients, mixing well with a wooden spoon.
Spoon mixture into a 13×9 inch pan and press flat. Allow to sit at room temperature until set.
Then, cut into squares and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Agave-Sweetened Peanut Butter Birthday Cake

It’s birthday party season around here! I made a Hazelnut birthday cake last week for Becca, and this past Friday I baked a Peanut Butter Cake for Talia’s birthday, and Julie’s birthday is coming up (her cake is planned and not going to be nut-themed, don’t worry, I do consume things without nuts these days!). I’ve been planning these cakes for awhile now; all three fabulous women gave me requests for flavors and specific ingredients, and then I got to play around with how to incorporate them and how to design the cakes to fit each person. I love coming up with ideas that match up, and then make the recipient so happy! Watching people eat my baked goods and enjoy them is really my favorite part of baking.

So for Talia’s birthday, she requested a dessert that had peanut butter in it. She also wanted it to not be sweetened with sugar, or to contain chocolate. Tall orders, right? And I’m vegan of course so I only bake that way, which never feels limiting – I just have to be more creative! So here’s what I had to go on: No sugar, no dairy products or eggs, no chocolate, yes peanut butter!

Hm. What to do? I knew exactly which agave-sweetened cake I was going to make, but I was a little stumped on the frosting. I’ve made frosting without sugar before, but it was a dark chocolate ganache-like frosting, or something more like a cashew glaze that I tried (and loved, but didn’t think was the most appropriate birthday cake topping). But since I couldn’t use chocolate, and I wanted a thick spreadable frosting to slather around the birthday cake, I went to my current cake-bible, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. Of course they had just what I was looking for! The Super Natural Agave Icing with some added peanut butter would be perfect! I also used their Simple Vanilla and Agave Nectar Cupcake recipe to make my cake base. For both of these recipes, I simply doubled the recipe in the book (and added peanut butter to the icing recipe; I’ve reprinted my adaptations below). I put an extra peanut butter filling in between the three layers of the cake, for added nut-taste-explosion. This filling kept the cake incredibly moist, and the whole thing pretty nearly melted in your mouth!

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For her birthday, Talia invented a game for us to play…It was quite a stroke of brilliance! I’m not really a game person, but this one I could seriously get into! I can’t give away all the details about how to play, because I’m hoping Talia will copyright it and will strike it rich, and can support me and my baking for the rest of my life ­čÖé Wouldn’t that be nice?

You may recognize the formatting here a little bit…Some of us are just a little obsessed with Craigslist! We were each given a few random silly phrases that we had to incorporate. This was one result of the game, which was written about me, and was so creative and on-the-fly that I have to share it with you! (Thank you Rachel!):

Ode to what just happened in my mouth – w4w – (living room)

with your crunchy hippie peanut butter
dotted like leopard print
i tried not to give my gasp away
not even a little hint
the flavors swirling ’round my mouth
agave-sweetened yum
i wanted to tell you how heavenly
the cake went into my tum
as cool as i am, didn’t know what to say
so i gave you a little wink
like a catchy bedazzled license plate
i got water from the sink
so maybe i’ll pretend it’s my birthday too
tomorrow and the day after that
you might accidentally make me a cake or 6
and i’ll give you a thank-you hat.

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Cake Recipe: I used the Simple Vanilla and Agave Nectar Cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. I made no changes, just double the recipe so I could make three 9-inch cake layers.

Peanut Butter Creme Filling Ingredients:
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup smooth natural Peanut Butter
1/2 cup light agave nectar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tblsp. unsweetened almond milk
2 Tblsp. soy milk powder

Put Earth Balance and peanut butter into the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat for a minute or two, until smooth and well combined. Add the agave and vanilla, and continue mixing. Add the almond milk and soy milk powder and incorporate fully. You can add a little more soy milk powder or almond milk depending on how thin or thick you want the consistency to be. Spread in between layers of cakes!

Peanut Butter Agave Icing Ingredients (adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World):
2/3 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk
2 Tblsp. arrowroot powder
2/3 cup light agave nectar
1/3 cup refined, nonhydrogenated coconut oil
1 cup smooth natural Peanut Butter
1 Tblsp. vanilla extract
1 cup plus 4 Tblsp. plain soy milk powder

In a small saucepan, whisk together almond milk and arrowroot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, till mixture thickens into a puddinglike consistency, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and scrape mixture into a medium-size bowl with a heatproof spatula.

Add agave nectar and whisk till combined, then add coconut oil and vanilla extract and whisk again. Add Peanut Butter and beat on medium speed with an electric mixer for 1 minute until incorporated. Add soy milk powder, and beat for another 4-5 minutes, until creamy and smooth. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 40 minutes until mixture is firm, or for best results, allow to chill overnight.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Photos, Original Recipes & Text ┬ęcookiesandcandids 2008-2010 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. If you repost any material from this blog, please give credit by including a link back to me. Thank you!