I am always looking for ways to indulge my sweet tooth without eating unhealthy food - largely a thankless quest, so when I find something good I do tend to become rather zealous about it, and I would like to spread my recent zeal for making home-made chocolate and various treats.
I was given this book for my birthday or Christmas last year, and I can’t remember who gave it to me, but I think it was my mum, or my sister, but neither of them can remember giving it to me.
When people hear you’re free-from they think getting you anything free-from is a great idea, and usually it really isn’t. Today I went to Borough Market and went to the free-from stall, and while it looks beautiful and amazing and impressive, and the offerings are all free of gluten or dairy, they are in no way a healthier option generally speaking.
If anything, they are worse. Certain oils used instead of butter are very bad for you, high in omega 6, and trans-fats. And to compensate for what’s lacking in the way of traditional baking ingredients, a cocktail is used to simulate the, I regret to say, considerable contribution of gluten and dairy to the deliciousness of food. Soy is often used, for example, and this is now known to be harmful in many ways – from an endocrinological perspective for a start.
But sugar is the real enemy. For some of us dairy is inflammatory, and for others gluten provokes a reaction, but sugar is the universal threat, and for someone with a food intolerance, all the evidence suggests that eating sugar is not helping their situation.
So when I got this book, It's a Pleasure, I didn’t pay much attention immediately, and that was a mistake, because when I finally picked it up I found a lot of recipes I was very eager to try, and when I tried them they did not disappoint.
If you like low-quality sugary treats (like I do) exclusively (which I don’t) you may not be keen on these. Indeed, when I tried what I thought were fantastic treats on my friend’s children they were unimpressed. Perhaps I built them up too much. But if you can teach your kids to be enthusiastic about this kind of sweet treat rather than a commercial bar of chocolate it will be to their benefit, if only to make them feel, when they encounter sweets and chocolates in the wide world, that they are sickly sweet and they don't actually want to eat very much. My daughter is younger and hasn't been exposed to all that much sugar, and she seems to like them.
It's a question of controlling what children perceive as a treat, I think. I am proud to say that Flora will eat 100% dark chocolate with zero sugar. She won’t eat avocado, but I will take this victory for now!
It is very difficult, not to say unrealistic to renounce sugar altogether and forever, but massively reducing your intake is possible, and indeed vital, and having palatable replacements is cause for great joy in my house. It’s still not a good idea to gorge, but you can be safe in the knowledge you are actually eating something which presents some nourishment, rather than something which is harming your body.
Here are the things I made from the book. One thing I will say is this is an expensive way to treat yourself, but it’s great fun and good for the soul too, I think. Making food from scratch should be a pleasurable and fulfilling experience. You learn a lot about how the food you consume is put together.
Thanks to this book I discovered coconut syrup which is utterly amazing. It’s very difficult to describe, but it has an almost alcoholic sweetness to it. The results of these recipes impressed me a lot and I will be making them often. I recommend this book – it is packed with impressive recipes, all gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. And can I say, my photos of my versions do not do the book justice.
Homemade chocolate made with raw cacao, cacao butter, coconut oil, coconut syrup or honey and vanilla. This is amazing. It’s like eating a whole new kind of chocolate. Once you’ve got it down you can put whatever you like in it – fruit, nuts, peppermint.
Bounty bars, using the homemade chocolate or shop bought chocolate, preferably sugar-free dark.
Chocolate covered marzipan, with ground almonds and coconut syrup. Homemade marzipan! This was a revelation to me.
Mint fondant chocolates - I had no idea it was so easy!
These treats are a great way to finish a meal, when you've served a dinner after which people aren't likely to have room for dessert but still want to nibble on something sweet to round off the meal.
So if you fancy some homemade-sweet therapy with a side of self-righteousness, put this fabulous book on your list for Santa... Meanwhile here is how I made the bounty bars.
Makes quite a large batch, maybe 20 little bars
1 medium potato, or white sweet potato also works
4 tablespoons of honey or coconut syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of desiccated coconut
4 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted
100g chocolate to cover - as natural , dark or low sugar as you can handle!
1. Boil the potato and mash it with the vanilla and honey or coconut syrup.
2. Now add the coconut oil and dried coconut, adding until you have a a thickish dough with which you can make little balls or bars with your hands.
3. Divide into as many portions as you wish and place in the freezer on a baking sheet for half an hour or so.
4. Meanwhile melt the chocolate in a glass bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water.
5. Dip the hardened bars into the chocolate and leave to dry on some foil or greaseproof paper.
They will keep well in the fridge, but that has no bearing on how long they will actually last...