So I’ve been baking a lot lately. Not because I’m craving sweets necessarily (at least no more than usual), but I’ve been wanting to relearn everything I knew about baking (or rather, learn how to bake with ingredients that actually have some nutritional value). I know I consume too much refined sugar and refined white flour, via Mexican Coca Cola (made with real sugar, but it’s still sugar), the endless free sweet tea available at work, and the iced coffee, so I wanted to make a change.
Most sweets generally have both sugar and flour (I’ve always been much more of a baked goods girl than a candy girl). Because it costs somewhat more to bake without these two “staples”, I’ve been putting it off, but I realized if I can buy a two-dollar black-and-white cookie from the Publix bakery three times a week, I can put that money towards a natural sweetener, like raw honey or pure maple syrup. (Almond flour is when it gets expensive. $12.99/bag.) I’ve experimented with a few traditional desserts, Paleo-style (chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, brownies), and most of them have turned out really well (the brownie recipe used sweet potatoes, which I don’t even like). In fact, they are as delicious as the traditional, and sugar is no longer in my pantry. (Flour we still use to fry chicken.) It also takes less to satisfy. I may spend more for the ingredients, but I eat less (and there is less waste, considering the considerable cost.)
We happened to have one box of Ghiradelli brownie mix in our pantry, and so I went ahead and made them for my husband. I tried one bite and though they were good, I didn’t really crave it. The other night, after work, I bought a black-and-white from the bakery; I ended up only eating half (the dark half, of course), and gave the rest to my daughter (not an everyday thing, I assure you). It was good, but I just didn’t want it anymore. The thought of the rocky road fudge I used to make at Christmastime doesn’t even appeal to me anymore. Eating Paleo desserts for a week changed my taste buds. That said, I’m not jumping on the Paleo bandwagon completely. Potatoes (other than sweet potatoes) are banned from the diet, and that’s just a no-go for me. Potatoes are natural and good–it’s just what we do to them that makes them bad for us. And nothing is going to make me give up dairy. Hold the almond milk, please. And there is NO substitute for butter. None.
I have also found that even though I loved baking before, I love it more now…somehow. It’s almost like falling in love all over again, but with a clearer perspective.
And for the reasons I love to bake over cook:
- I don’t have to handle disgusting raw meat. That was always one of the worst things about making meatloaf. It was like mushing up brains. (And I like meatloaf, but the whole fecal matter scare has turned me off of it for awhile; after the story about the pink slime came out, I couldn’t eat ground beef for 6 months).
- You don’t have to separate anything from bones or cut off that piece of gristle that is sometimes on the ends of chicken.
- It often doesn’t require frying anything. Frying is messy and it’s just not my forte. Frying and grilling out are part of my husband’s skill set.
- It is more of a science than an art. You don’t have to constantly taste everything. (I really don’t like doing that.)
- I can just eyeball something and know when to take it out of the oven, but if it’s a protein, I am so paranoid about it being the least bit undercooked, I often overcook it (which doesn’t bother me in the least) or I have to have my husband check it for me. I just don’t have the instincts.
Now, for three stellar Paleo dessert recipes I’ve found thus far (I can’t vouch for any of the frosting recipes, because I rarely eat frosting; I’ve always been one of those people who scrape it all off):
Sweet Potato Brownies
Now one thing about the one below. I strongly urge you to use almond oil rather than coconut, because the first time I made it, the coconut flour combined with the coconut oil completely overpowered the cake. I like coconut, but the chocolate flavor was just lost. I made a simple chocolate ganache which was perfect (not Paleo, I just used equal parts dark chocolate and heavy cream), but I will definitely try the pumpkin next time (I just didn’t have it on hand).
Chocolate Chip Cookies
I wasn’t sure about the cinnamon with the chocolate, but I am so glad I tried it. I wouldn’t make them any other way. When I showed them to my husband, he almost didn’t believe me, he said they looked so professional. (I had to use the back of a fork to mash them a bit halfway through cooking time, or they would have just been like cookie dough balls.)