Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

We had an utterly inspiring talk at our Women’s Institute meeting last night by one of our members, Alison Graham, about how to get the best out of your sugar. I have to confess I am an absolute sugar junkie and anything to help me curb the cravings but not obliterate cake and chocolate from my life is worth looking into.

Quitting sugar is one of the latest fads that diet gurus seem to be peddling which is all well and good but is it really practical? I’m sure most of us simply want to understand our bodies better from an informed perspective and enjoy the odd treat without being slaves to our 4pm sugar crashes. These days we are becoming more aware of what we eat, what triggers our eating habits and the science behind it. There seems to be new information to guide us all the time as nutritionists and scientists learn about how our bodies react to natural substances like gluten and processed substances like everyday cane sugar. All we can do is take the information on board and decide how it can work for us so that our food is giving us energy and not taking it away.

keep calm and no sugar

The ordinary cane sugar we buy for baking or using in our tea and coffee is made up of half glucose and half fructose. Glucose is in all foods and is the good sugar which our body needs to make and store energy. It’s glucose we crave when we need a sugar fix and our bodies recognise it and use up every calorie of it. Fructose is the interloper. That’s not to say all fructose is bad and if you eat it in the form of a piece of fruit then you’ll be fine, thanks to the fibre in the fruit which helps your body digest the fructose. It’s when fructose is not in its natural state though that you will have a problem. Even if you do a simple thing like blitzing your banana to make a smoothie or juicing your apple, then you are breaking down the fibre before you eat it. Without its fibre bond, your body cannot recognise the fructose so it doesn’t provide an insulin response, it moves to your liver unaided to form fatty acids which swim around your body until they are deposited as body fat.

Not only that but because your body hasn’t recognised the fructose you might as well have not eaten it in the first place, your body will still crave the glucose it wanted in the first place and will insist you try and get yourself more. So instead of having just the one glass of apple juice or one chocolate bar, you will crave another then another. If you stick to just the glucose in the first place you are giving your body what it needs and you should feel fully satiated.

So basically fructose, when not found in whole fruit, is not a good thing to be eating. It was surprising to me though that many of the sugars we consider as natural and healthy like honey or maple syrup are also just fructose so has the same effect within our body. This is also not to mention the obvious fake sugars out there like sweeteners and corn syrup which again are just fructose. There is a whole bunch more reading that I need to do on this subject as I’ve only had a taster and I have found it fascinating. Alison recommends reading Sweet Poison by David Gillespie for more information and I’ve already bought it for my Kindle.

IMG_6309

In the meantime to celebrate this fascinating talk and enthused by this new way of looking at sugar I wanted to bake something using pure glucose which is the good sugar our bodies need for energy. I saw these amazing looking Extra-Fudgy Coconut Oil Brownies from Pinch of Yum last week and knew this would be the recipe I would use as a base as I’ve been desperate to make them.

Lindsay had already done the hard work and made them dairy free since she uses Coconut Oil instead of butter in her brownies. However, I adapted it a bit by substituting the sugar in the form of rice malt syrup, which is a blend of glucose and maltose. Then to really get on board the health wagon I made it gluten free by adding coconut flour which also amped up the coconutty taste and added cocoa to boost the intense chocolateness. I couldn’t just leave it there though and topped the brownies with a rich ganache made from dark chocolate and a smidgen of coconut milk to thicken it. The coconut milk I use, as I’ve advocated before, is from Pride and is very thick with almost no liquid. The thinner your coconut milk the thinner your ganache will be so it might not be so easy to spread. I then sprinkled a liberal amount of unsweetened desiccated coconut on top to finish them off. The end result wasn’t overwhelming coconutty but definitely had a delicious hint and I have to say these are one of the best brownies I have ever made. They are dense and fudgy but also light without making you feel all stodgy inside after you have eaten them. They feel like a decadent treat but also wholesome like you are doing your body a favour by eating them.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

Although I’m not sure I could tear myself away from all different types of sugar entirely, I love baking and cooking too much to restrict myself, I have certainly come away from these brownies and Alison’s talk by knowing that this way of living would be completely achievable if you still want to indulge in your treasured treats. The brownies were nice on day one, delicious on day two and then days three and four the brownies were absolutely sublime. These started off being just an experiment but they have ended up being firm favourites of mine.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Fructose-Free Coconut Brownies

125g 70% dark chocolate
160g coconut oil
200g rice malt syrup
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g coconut flour
25g cocoa
½ teaspoon salt

For the ganache:
100g 70% chocolate
1 tablespoon coconut milk
3 tablespoons unsweetened desiccated coconut

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and line and grease a 9 inch square baking tin.
  2. Place the chocolate and coconut oil in a bain-marie and melt together.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and pour in the rice malt syrup, stirring until thoroughly combined.
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together in a separate bowl then stir into the chocolate mixture and pour into your baking tin.
  5. Bake the brownies for 20 minutes then remove from the oven.
  6. Leave the brownies to cool in the tin for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight to set before removing from the tin and topping with the ganache.
  7. To make the ganache melt the chocolate and coconut milk together in a bain-marie.
  8. Once the chocolate has melted and the mixture has thickened you can immediately use it to adorn the top of your brownies.
  9. For the final touch sprinkle on some unsweetened desiccated coconut then cut into squares.

Sea Salt Cashew Praline Brownies

Sea Salt Cashew Praline Brownies
I know that Easter is over and most normal people are sick of chocolate, having gorged themselves silly on mini eggs, crème eggs and Lindt bunnies. I have never been normal though when it comes to food and for some reason Easter has released my Kraken and I just can’t get enough chocolate this week. That’s assuming that the mythological Kraken also eats a lot of chocolate.  It doesn’t help that a quick trip to Sainsburys to buy milk ended up as a mini chocolate spree as their Cadburys Caramel eggs were reduced to just 20p each which seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I’m nothing if not thrifty. Maybe a bit greedy too.

Sea Salt Cashew Praline Brownies  |  Stroud Green Larder\ Sea Salt Cashew Praline Brownies  |  Stroud Green Larder

Sea Salt Cashew Praline Brownies  |  Stroud Green Larder

I love these brownies, which my comfy lounge pants which I have just had to change into can testify to, as like any good chocolate recipe they rely on both good dark chocolate and cocoa powder to really hammer home the chocolate hit. They are wonderfully intense with sweet and salty cashew praline hidden inside like buried treasure. If you want to double the amount of cashew praline then you will also have plenty to gild your brownie platter.

Sea Salt Cashew Praline Brownies  |  Stroud Green Larder

Sea Salt Cashew Praline Brownies

100g cashews
50g caster sugar
a good pinch of sea salt
200g dark chocolate
300g unsalted butter
250g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder

  1. Place the cashews on a baking tray and bake in an oven pre-heated to 180°C for 10 minutes until just turning golden. Remove from the oven (leaving the oven on) and cool for a few minutes. Then chop the cashews up very roughly and set aside.
  2. Line and grease a 20cm square cake tin.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat up the caster sugar and salt slowly. Do not stir but you can shake the saucepan occasionally to ensure the sugar melts evenly. Once the sugar has completely melted and has turned golden, then add the cashews to the saucepan. Stir together quickly to completely coat the cashews in the sugar, then turn out the praline onto baking parchment. Work quickly to spread out into a shallow layer. Leave to cool whilst you prepare the brownie batter.
  4. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a bain marie.
  5. Once melted add the muscovado sugar and stir to combine.
  6. Whisk the eggs up lightly with the vanilla extract then add into the chocolate and sugar mixture.
  7. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, then add to rest of the ingredients. Stir well together.
  8. Chop up the cashew praline roughly, then add to the brownie batter.
  9. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 20-25 minutes so the brownie still has a slight wobble.
  10. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin before removing and cutting into squares.

Sea Salt Cashew Praline Brownies  |  Stroud Green Larder

Minted Brownies

Minted Brownies
During my first year at University I developed an unhealthy obsession.  Well, I developed several but I’m not here to talk about cold spaghetti bolognaise on toast or 80s night at the student union.  I am here to admit unashamedly that I couldn’t read Proust or start writing about Proust or watch Fifteen to One without a Wispa Mint on the go.  This unfortunately meant I had several a day.  The dark years arrived soon after graduation however as the Overlords of Chocolate discontinued this perfection of a candy treat.  It seems that I was singlehandedly keeping this little number in production.
Minted Brownies

Yesterday though I was transported back in time to university like Felicity at the end of Season 4.  Suddenly I was watching Fifteen to One in our communal kitchen feeling inadequate for not knowing any of the answers and seeking consolation in my velveteen treasure.  My time machine arrived in the form of Mint Chips.  These are not a new ingredient to millions of Americans who have kept this wonder close to their chest over the years but they are new to me.  They are a delightful lurid green and perform the exact same minty miracle to chocolate as the top layer of a Wispa Mint.  As soon as I tried one of these chips I knew exactly what had to be done. Without further ado I had melted down some chocolate, threw it in the mixer with flour, sugar, eggs and the minty morsels and in less than 15 mins I had some Minted Brownies nestled in the oven.

Mint Chips
Mint Chips2

Since these little guys are an American import you won’t find these at the local supermarket but you can happily find them online as with most things.

The brownie recipe is adapted from one by Niamh Shields from Eatlikeagirl.com who wrote this for ivillage.  Her recipe suits me perfectly as they are dense and fudgey since they only using a scant amount of flour and lots of chocolate.

Minted Brownies

Minted Brownies

225g dark chocolate
100g unsalted butter, cubed
150g caster sugar
50g plain flour (you can use a gluten-free flour blend)
A pinch salt
2 eggs
3 handfuls of mint chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare a 20cm square brownie pan with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a bain marie or a bowl over simmering water.
  3. Mix the sugar, flour and salt together either in a stand mixer on medium speed or you can easily mix it by hand as well.
  4. Pour in the melted chocolate.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Stir in the mint chips then pour into the prepared brownie pan.
  7. Bake for 20 mins until the top has just set, the mixture should still be wobbly underneath.
  8. Leave to cool in the tin for at least 3 hours before removing and cutting into pieces.
Minted Brownies