Sugar-free Chocolate Treats
Making Chocolate Treats Healthier
While there is something tempting about the chocolate spread that has shown up by the cartload at the Grocery Outlet, the ingredient list isn't ideal. I have been playing around with making my own chocolate concoctions. The biggest goal is to make chocolate dental-friendly. After all, the chocolate itself isn't an issue, just the sweeteners.
It's also cheaper to include ultra-healthy ingredients when doing it myself, and I get to add the fats I prefer: coconut or olive. All the recipes here combine unsweetened cocoa with a sugar alcohol or a blended natural sweetener. They tend to be heavy on coconut-based ingredients; I add a dash of almond or hazelnut flavoring. Most of the concoctions I have made are vegan -- I did put a tablespoon of cream in the chocolate spread, but it could be altered and made vegan.
Stocked with ingredients from the bulk bin and working in a tiny, hot efficiency apartment... Well, I think it as a cross between having a chemistry set and a No Bake Oven! There is an unusual ingredient in one of the recipes. It comes from tree bark...
Images by the author
This fudge includes slippery elm! I've made it a couple ways.
If the main purpose is to make slippery elm palatable, mix unsweetened cocoa and slippery elm (a little heavier on the cocoa), add enough oil that the powder can be made to disappear with prolonged stirring; then sweeten to taste. I made fudge the first time with olive oil, and actually liked it that way.
Here's a tastier version with a hint of hazelnut and coconut. Ingredients are approximate:
- 6 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
- 4 teaspoons slippery elm powder
- 4 teaspoons coconut powder
- 4 teaspoons oil
- 2 packets Truvia or Nectresse*
- 2 teaspoons sugar-free coffee syrup (or blend water and alcohol-free almond extract and go a bit heavier on the powdered sweetener)
- Mix the three dry ingredients together.
- Add oil and stir -- it will seem very thick and be a little hard to stir. Add the two sweeteners and stir again. It should have a play dough consistency.
- Shape as you like.
Using Decorative Ice Cube Trays
I surprised myself here. I pressed the fudgey dough into decorative ice cube tray molds, popped it into the refrigerator, and took it out a little while later. It was no surprise that the candy had hardened -- coconut oil does that in the refrigerator. What surprised me was that I got most of the candies out of the mold without too much difficulty... and without breaking them or reducing them to a sticky mess. (And this from a person who tracked very ripe blackberries across the hardwood floor a couple days ago and sent a carton of omega 3 eggs crashing to the floor today!) I turned the tray upside down, thumped it more than a few times -- and stared because they actually looked flower-shaped.
Slippery When Wet - ... And Cheaper in Bulk!
Native Americans may have used slippery elm as a foodstuff when pickings were scarce. That isn't to say that the average person would benefit from liberal use in their diet. The most frequent caution I've come across is that excessive/ prolonged use could interfere with nutrient absorption. While it's believed to have little in the way of side effects, it's recommended that one consult a healthcare provider before giving it to children.
I first 'met' slippery elm years ago, as one of the Essiac herbs. My father lived with leukemia for 18 years, and my mother not only gave him Essiac, but sometimes urged a cup of the beverage on other family members. I must say: Without its three Essiac helpmates, slippery elm is a mild tasting powder.
Adults who take it often take a tablespoon or more at a time. Why limit oneself to tea?
Why Slip Slippery Elm?
People who use slippery elm in recipes generally do so because they want slippery elm in their diets! But if that's you, you may find you like it a lot. This is not one of those "I will choke it down because it's good for me" add-ins.
I sought it out this time for a particular purpose: It's a folk remedy that hasn't garnered much in the way of modern research. I wanted to wedge a bit of slippery elm dough between my teeth at night in spots where there was a chip or appeared to be a cavity. Does it work? I can't say for sure... yet.
But I can say that slippery elm is nifty stuff. Mix it with a little water, and it not only becomes doughy... it tastes like dough. It's a great binding agent, and it tastes completely innocuous.
I had a thought: I bet you could use the stuff like marzipan! I guess I am not the only person to think of that. I came across an article by a mom who gave it to her child as a remedy. Among the things she had done with it was make flavored play dough.
No, this is not your average tree bark. You can sweeten it... build with it...
- Spotlight on Slippery Elm
This mommy blogger talks about uses... and about adding syrup or honey and making it into a play dough. Shape and eat!
The ProcessClick thumbnail to view full-size
This is my chocolate spread in one of its current incarnations. I ran the recipe several times, changing and adding things, to get it in this form. I will probably alter it again -- but in the meantime, it's pretty palatable. (The lid pictured here is decorative. This particular sample didn't actually make it into the refrigerator.)
It's not quite Nutella, but it packs some advantages. There is very little in the way of even naturally occurring sugars here; the almond meal adds a minute amount.
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 scant tablespoon almond meal
- several drops of almond extract
- 1 packet Truvia
- 1 tablespoon cream or unsweetened nondairy milk
- Dissolve the cocoa powder in the coconut oil -- it dissolves much more easily in oil than water. Stir in the almond meal and Truvia. Add cream and stir until the consistency is right. Adjust ingredients as needed for taste and texture.
- Another vegan option: Tahini would probably work in place of both the creamer and almond meal.
Here are some of my ingredients. The package of cocoa powder and the bag of almond meal are both from Trader Joe's.
A Further Note on Ingredients: The type of coconut oil makes a significant difference. When I was first getting ready to try making chocolate spread, I got some coconut oil at the Grocery Outlet. I didn't notice the note about it being refined from mature coconut and not having coconut taste. When it was time to restock my oil a few months later, I got some extra virgin coconut oil -- also from the Grocery Outlet, but at a bit steeper of price. This one as significant coconut taste.
Hazelnut Meal - (And Another Dessert Idea)
The inspiration for making chocolate spread was chocolate hazelnut spread, but ground almonds were easier to come by. It is possible to buy hazelnut meal, though.
This Bob's Red Mill hazelnut meal has just one review, but the reviewer left more than an just opinion. The review includes a recipe for something chocolate and sugar-free. You can use ground hazelnut in place of graham crackers in pie crust.
Chocolate Spread and Candy
Dental Friendly Polyols
Xylitol has long been considered the main dental-friendly sweetener: It goes beyond just not having negative effects -- some dentists really push it. There is a limited amount of research now suggesting that erythritol is as good, or better, for teeth. I think the issue is in the "more research needed" category.
That's some incentive to warm up to erythritol. Here are some other considerations for those selecting between the two.
Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. Even though I don't have a dog, I am a bit obsessive over how I use it and dispose of it. Yes, I give a lot of thought to whether there is xylitol in the trash! If it weren't for that, I would consider it practically the perfect sweetener -- at least for me. I like that it has some calories because it's hard for me to keep weight on. And for me, xylitol seems pretty much side effect free.
Some people who have digestive upsets on sugar alcohols say that erythritol is the one they can tolerate; ethyritol is touted as the most digestible polyol of the bunch. Me, I am apt to get a mild 'tummy ache' if I eat more than the equivalent of, say, a packet of Truvia. It tends to strike soon after I eat. (They say that erythritol is, by and large, absorbed at an earlier stage in the digestive process. Well, that could be consistent with just how soon my 'Truvia tummy ache' can strike.)
I would tend to recommend that most people try erythritol first... even though I am pretty fond of xylitol myself.
Since these recipes are no-bake, it's easy to experiment with sweeteners. Here's erythritol in three forms. In its pure form, it's just about 70% as sweet as sugar. Sold in blended form, it's sweeter!
Truvia combines erythritol with stevia while Nectresse combines it with monk fruit. There's a little less erythritol in Nectresse.
Cheaper in bulk.
Combines erythritol and monk fruit.
Combines erythritol and stevia; a single packet is as sweet as two packets of table sugar.
Another Take on Sugar-free, Vegan Chocolate
Here's another vegan concoction: truffles. This recipe also uses coconut.
Chocolate Chia Pudding
I've played around with chocolate chia pudding, altering recipes from the internet. Every chia pudding recipe I have seen in vegan, but often they are not sugar-free. They frequently start with regular or vanilla nondairy milk which already packs some sugar. The amount of sweetener they add... not enough, I think.
The recipes I've seen call for chia seeds and nondairy milk in anywhere from a 1:3 to 1:8 ratio. My preference is to go on the low end, but put the pudding in the refrigerator for a good long time. I think it helps some to use coconut milk, which tends to be thicker than almond milk.
Almond extract (optional)
1) Heat at least some of the coconut milk -- that's so the chocolate powder will dissolve. (This is microwave time for some of us!)
2) After the cocoa and coconut milk are blended, stir in the chia seeds.
3) Add the sweetener and extract (to taste) at the end. A packet of Truvia or Nectresse per half cup serving is a reasonable starting point.
4) Place in small covered containers and refrigerator overnight.
- Pudding with lots of Chia Seeds
This resembles tapioca.
This is a chef's playground: the bulk bins section at Whole Foods. Most of my ingredients did not come from Whole Foods because most I could get more cheaply elsewhere. But the bulk goods section was my source for obscure ingredients and ingredients that I wanted to try in small amounts.
In most cases, one ingredient can be substituted for another. What I see goes a fair ways toward determining what goes into something. There wasn't a large selection of ground nuts or nut powders, but I saw coconut flour, and at a pretty good price. I didn't opt for soy powder, but I imagine it would have been workable. I can imagine making fudge with soy flour.