Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Home Chocolatier

So: you want all of the healthy antioxidants and polyphenols of chocolate (oh, and maybe the amazing taste, too!), but you're not sure you trust all the "stuff" that commercial chocolate producers put into them; or perhaps you don't want to pay the queen's ransom needed for the highest quality chocolates. Suffer no more, my friends: we can easily make chocolate bars at home.

I don't know why it never occurred to me that I could make my own chocolate bars at home, but it hadn't. For the past three months, I've been on a very-low-carb diet, typically consuming fewer than 50g of total carbs (maybe 20g sugars) each day. That doesn't leave much room for chocolate, unless it's dark. And I don't mean "dark" like Hershey's "special" (uh huh) dark: we're talking "is there any sugar at all in this, holy cow it's more bitter than my last ex" dark chocolate (that's 85-90%, if you weren't sure).

I discovered that I could buy such chocolates at Aldi for $2 per bar for Moser Roth and often the Lindt 85% or 90% could be had at Kroger for about the same price (slightly smaller bars). But when I found the Primally Inspired blog's recipe for chocolate, a whole new world opened up for me--one which I've only begun to explore.

The recipe as given there is basically:

1/2 c. cacao powder
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
1-2 T. raw honey or pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
a pinch of salt

I made my first batch with maple syrup (1 T., which seems to approximate 85% dark); today, I made a second batch using melted clarified butter (from grass-fed cows--boom!) and honey. The former were a bit harder than the latter, and I liked the flavor a bit better, but Lauren liked both the texture and the flavor of the butter-honey chocolate. Although she didn't complain about it in this context, she's not as big of a fan of coconut oil as I am, and she also doesn't like really dark chocolate as much as I do (I thought the butter-honey bar tasted a bit sweeter).

I suspect it will be quite a while before we've gone through all the possibilities we want to explore--before we get to coconut oil and honey or butter and maple syrup, I've decided to try using Polaner All Fruit spreadable fruit as my sweetener, because Lauren and I both suspect that a dark chocolate - raspberry would be delicious. It might be a little less sweet, but the flavor should be good (here's hoping the texture works!). I'm also tempted to lower the sugar by using a combination of less maple syrup or honey with some liquid stevia--I haven't been a big fan of the flavor of stevia, but I thought a mixture might yield a slightly sweeter chocolate with the sugars of an extremely dark bar. Time will tell!

Not only are these bars, whatever the flavor, awfully healthy, they're also about as cute as it's possible for a chocolate bar to be. We had these silicone molds to make cupcakes for the girls, and with a food scale to measure them out into 25g bars, they're great for my purpose:

The right-most bear is a bit scared. With good reason (he'll be delicious).

Dividing it up into five 25-gram bars, each has 127 cal, 12g fat, 7g total carbs (3g sugar), 2g protein (for some reason, my attempt with butter and honey gave me four 25-g bars and 1 20-g bar, which I suppose would change these numbers.

UPDATE: I tried two more variations and feel compelled to report. I got some raspberry Polaner all-fruit spread to use; I melted butter and mixed in 2 T. of the spread, since it is about half as sweet. I ended up melting more butter and adding it, because it was really thick. It stayed really thick, so I just kind of smooshed it down in the mold. Neither Lauren nor I liked it as much as we hoped we would (I can't pin it down, but it wasn't sweet enough for Lauren.

I also tried a version with just a tsp of maple syrup (in butter) plus some stevia (did you know it's a soft "e" in "stevia"? Now you know, and knowing is half the battle). I used SweetLeaf Sweet Drops, which I find hard to really measure, but it was definitely less than one dropper-full. It wasn't bad--a little sweeter than I want my dark chocolate, with that slight stevia-weird-flavor that the maple syrup didn't quite cover up. I kind of liked it, but I found the sweetness drew me toward eating more than I needed, especially since I could tell myself it had fewer grams of carbs/sugar: probably a double whammy of sweet flavor and sweet rationalization teaming up on me.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Low-carb buckeye treats

Outside our house, we have a horse chestnut tree, though to us transplanted Ohioans, horse chestnuts look suspiciously like buckeyes--probably just in disguise because they're in enemy territory over here in Hoosier-land!

This photo is just the initial pick-up that Lauren did with the girls. We've probably got this many more on the ground in just a couple days, and I don't want to think about how many are still in the tree.

All this, though, got me thinking about the buckeye candies that I--like any good Ohio boy--grew up with: sweet peanut butter balls wrapped in sweeter milk chocolate--delicious invitations to diabetes. Anyway, that's what they seem like now that I'm living a low-carb lifestyle.

Just about this time, though, I came across a recipe for low-carb, high-protein peanut butter balls.  Those called for being rolled in almond meal or some such, but I figured they'd make perfect buckeyes if dipped in chocolate--assuming I could make the chocolate low-carb enough to work for me.

Also, the ingredients I used didn't quite work in the ratios suggested, and if you're trying this at home, yours may not be quite the same as mine. So it goes.

Low-carb Buckeye Treats

1 1/3 c. no-sugar-added peanut butter (I get mine cheap at Kroger--which also makes a nice Ohio connection!)
1 1/3 c. protein powder (I used an unflavored whey protein)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 c. xylitol (a sugar alcohol--you could also use artificial sweetener, if that's your thing)

6 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (or mix 2 T. melted coconut oil--another fat would presumably also work--with 6 T. cocoa powder)

To make the peanut butter balls, combine the first four ingredients in a food processor or the bowl of a mixer and blend until well combined. If it seems too dry, add peanut butter. If it's too wet, add more protein powder or sweetener. At this point, I formed the mixture into balls and then put the balls--on wax paper on a cookie sheet--in the freezer to firm up. It might also work to put the bowl of dough in the freezer and then form the balls (I think you might get rounder balls that way--mine were kind of droopy).

Once the balls have hardened, melt the chocolate or mix the cocoa and the coconut oil--I did this in a coffee mug so that I would have a deeper pool to dip the balls in. There doesn't seem to be any great way to do this--I started trying to use a toothpick, but they slid off that, so I ended up using a spoon to dunk them, with somewhat half-assed results, in terms of the look of the buckeyes. Return them to wax paper and return them to the freezer. Once they've firmed up, move them to a storage container in the fridge, or just eat them right away.

Makes: 24 balls. Each ball has 134 cal, 1 g. sugar (14 g. total carbs), 9 g fat, 5 g. protein.

Now, a few comments: the chocolate coating is not sweet. Not even a little. I kind of like it that way, but my daughter flat-out rejects it. I might trying making a batch with a slightly sweeter coating to draw her in. It might be worth taking like a 85% or 90% cocoa bar and melting it down to give just a hint of sweetness to the coating, without adding too much in the way of sugars.

Just as she was skeptical about her sister lifting the pumpkin, our oldest was skeptical about the dark, dark chocolate surrounding the peanutty goodness of the candy buckeyes.