Toasted Marshmallow Coffee Brownies.

My many experiments in non-traditional baking have had mixed results—sometimes they turn out delicious, sometimes they are horrible failures, and sometimes they’re surprisingly, differently good. Because I’m lucky enough not to have any food allergies (*knocks on wood*), I’ve tried a lot of different methods, including gluten-free, grain-free, low-sugar, low-carb, and always with as little processed foods as possible. I feel experienced enough now to say that most of these substitution-based recipes are only better than the original if you have no other options (or are totally delusional). It’s the hard truth about healthy desserts.

The results definitely range though, depending on the baked good, and I think cookie recipes are the worst offenders. No matter what healthier option you try to sub in or out, there is no cookie better than the one on the back of the Toll House bag (that recipe is nearly perfect, by the way – if you use a little less flour than called for, and a little more vanilla and brown sugar, you’ll have the ABSOLUTE perfect chocolate chip cookie).

Meanwhile, I’ve found that brownies are the most flexible when it comes to subbing. For whatever reason, they can take a replacement here and there and still turn out totally delicious. That’s what we have here – a gluten-free, grain-free, soft and chewy chocolatey brownie recipe, with a little something special on top. I’d put these crumbly goodies up against any other brownie recipe I’ve made! What a wonderful taste test that would be…

IMG_1535

INGREDIENTS

6 tbsp butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup hot coffee
splash of vanilla
1/2 packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 packed tbsp coconut flour
3 tbsp potato starch (I haven’t tried it, but corn starch should work here, too)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
about 14 jumbo marshmallows

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a double-boiler, melt the butter and chocolate chips together until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before stirring in one egg at a time, followed by coffee, vanilla, and brown sugar.

Sift together cocoa powder, coconut flour, potato starch, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into batter and pour into greased 8×8 baking dish.

IMG_1506

Dot the surface of the batter with marshmallows. Love those cute & fluffy little pillows.

IMG_1518

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the center is set. If you stick a toothpick into the center, it doesn’t need to come out totally clean, but it shouldn’t be wet. Be conscious of the marshmallows burning; I ended up tenting a sheet of foil over the pan to slow the browning partway through the bake time. When the brownies are baked, remove them from the oven.

IMG_1529

As they cool, the brownies and marshmallows will deflate and fall a little bit. Good, the more condensed the better! If you’re planning to cut the brownies into nice neat squares, you may want to adjust your expectations, because these are gooey and crumbly. You’ll want to cool them at least an hour, if not more, and potentially give them some fridge time to firm up if you need them to really hold together. If you don’t mind a crumbly brownie, then ignore me and eat them whenever you want. They’re dang delicious!

IMG_1534

Advertisements

Mini Cheesecake Cupcakes.

I’ve been doing some experimentation with healthier crusts for the desserts in my life. My main criteria are that the recipe must taste amazing, be low in carbs and sugars, and be free of any processed ingredients. Ground almonds really fit the bill; when combined with butter, they hold the crust together very well, can be flavored however you like, and don’t need much in the way of sweetening. And while nobody loves a good graham cracker crust more than I do, I’ve found that this buttery almond crust rocks in its own right. Filled with creamy, tangy cheesecake awesomeness that has just a hint of coffee flavor, I think I need to start stockpiling cream cheese so I can make these whenever I want. Score another one for the low-impact dessert category!

IMG_1123

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup almonds, ground to powder in the food processor (or use a scant cup of almond meal)
6 tbsp butter, room temperature
1-2 tsp honey, to taste
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature (if it’s cold, it won’t mix smoothly)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp coffee (this is a very subtle flavor here. But if coffee’s not your thing, you could substitute with Kahlua, Bailey’s, or any other peppy flavoring you like… or a little bit more vanilla)
2-3 tbsp honey, to taste
2 eggs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together ground almonds, butter, and honey. Spoon mixture into bottom of cupcake liners and bake for about 8 minutes. You may see little bubbles in the crust as some of the liquid evaporates – this is fine. When the crust smells nutty and good and is starting to brown and set, remove the pan from the oven and set aside while you make the filling.

IMG_1108

To make the filling, use a fork to break up the cream cheese and make sure it’s totally smooth and creamy. Stir in the vanilla, coffee, & honey, and taste. Add more honey if you want it sweeter. Then add one egg and stir until combined before repeating with the second egg.

Spoon filling into cups, and fill as high as you like – these don’t rise as they cook, so need to worry about expansion or overflow. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until the tops are just barely set and starting to take on a golden color.

Let the baked cheesecakes cool in their pan for 2 minutes before taking them out. Then move them to the fridge for at least 2 hours (overnight is best, but that’s asking a lot of your self-control!). They taste good at any temperature, but if not given their proper cooling time, the crust won’t hold together as well and the cheesecake filling won’t be as satisfyingly creamy.

IMG_1127

I considered melting a bit of chocolate or topping with a raspberry or in some way dressing ’em up, but they really can stand on their own as a yummy dessert you can feel good about eating.