Would you think it strange if I told you that diabetes has made me a better cook? Or at the very least, a more creative and resourceful one? If not for my blood sugar issues, I would never have begun searching out alternatives for flour and sugar with which to satisfy my sweet (and carb) tooth. In my searches, I have come across so many amazing websites and blogs and been introduced to such a wonderful variety of foods that I might have overlooked otherwise. To think that a few short months ago, I knew nothing of coconut flour or how to bake with almond meal. How things change! I might go so far as to say that I enjoy cooking and baking even more now, because whole new worlds have been opened up to me.
I don’t remember where I first came across a recipe including coconut flour, but upon searching further, I stumbled upon the Tropical Traditions website, devoted to all things coconut and other organic products. They have an extensive recipe collection, some posted by the company owners and many posted by the customers themselves. There appears to be no end of creativity to be found with various coconut products. One recipe in particular caught my eye, the combination of ingredients sounding unique and intensely flavourful. I bookmarked it immediately and have been going back to it every so often, wondering how best to low-carbify it.
The original recipe was already gluten-free. Although GF and low carb don’t necessarily go hand in hand, I do find that gluten free recipes can provide me with a good jumping-off point. People following a GF diet get to use real sugar (those lucky dogs), although a lot of them are health-conscious enough to use less refined alternatives like raw honey. And they can use other flour alternatives that are not diabetes-friendly, like rice flour and cornstarch. But I like GF recipes because they find ways to make up for the lack of gluten in the recipe that I can then incorporate into my own version.
So I finally gave this one a go. I made up my own low carb, gluten free “baking mix” with almond meal and coconut flour as the main ingredients. I replaced the brown sugar with erythritol and stevia extract. When I looked up the nutritional content of crystallized ginger, I knew I had to cut back on that, so I added some ground ginger to the dry ingredients to up the gingery flavour. When I’d put some of my ingredients together, the batter was too dry and stiff so I increased the amount of liquid (almond milk, in this case) and added an extra egg. And as always, I crossed my fingers as I popped it in the oven, hoping the results wouldn’t let me down.
The Results: Mmmmm, good stuff! A dense, moist bar with a nice gingery bite to it. The combo of ginger and toasted coconut is really delicious. I wasn’t sure it was going to work, as the bars rose a lot in the oven and I was afraid I would end up with something more like cake. But I took it out of the oven when it was a little underdone and let it sit until it cooled. It “depuffed” and I ended up with the texture I was looking for.
My only complaint about these is not flavour or texture-related at all, but visual. Baked goods made without any sort of sugar don’t brown up the way things made with sugar do (honey, agave syrup and all of those alternatives count as sugar in this sense). Next time I might consider adding a tablespoon of molasses to the batter to give it a browner colour without adding too many extra carbs. Molasses and ginger go so well together, I think it would also intensify the ginger flavour.
Toasted Coconut Ginger Blondies – adapted from Tropical Traditions
3/4 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut flour
2 tbsp vanilla-flavour whey protein powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1.5 tsp ground ginger (add more if you don’t put in any crystallized ginger)
1/2 tsp baking powder
12 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup almond milk
16 drops stevia extract
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped fine (optional)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 7×11 inch pan with butter or vegetable oil (this is an odd size of pan so if you go with 8×8, you will need to bake the bars a little longer).
Whisk the first 6 ingredients together in a medium bowl. If you are adding crystallized ginger, add to these dry ingredients, breaking up any pieces that are sticking together.
In a larger bowl, beat melted butter and erythritol together. Beat in eggs, almond milk and stevia extract until well combined.
Add dry ingredients to wet and beat until combined. Spread in prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with shredded coconut.
Bake 20-25 minutes, until the top is set and the coconut is toasted. Let cool completely in pan. Cut into bars.
20 servings. 8g total carbs, 2 g of fiber per serving. 5g of carbs per serving if you subtract erythritol.