I know some of the ingredients I use seem simply weird. Where on earth do you buy coconut flour, stevia, or dextrose? How do you know which type of chocolate is ‘low-fructose’? I’d love to answer any questions you have about ingredients or methods, and I’ll start by explaining some things I know have been bugging people.
Okay, so I often use “low-fructose” dark chocolate chunks in my recipes, or else cacao nibs. Where can you get them? I suggest making your own chocolate at home, as I do – it is MUCH cheaper than shop-bought ‘sugar-free’ chocolate, which is also (often) loaded with artificial and nasty sweeteners. To make simple dark chocolate, use this recipe:
– 3 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
– 3-5 Tablespoons cocoa powder (depending how bitter you can stand!)
– stevia, dextrose, or rice malt syrup, to taste
1. Mix together all ingredients together until smooth, taste, and adjust. Pour into a small loaf tin lined with baking paper and freeze until hard. Alternatively, use chocolate moulds.
2. Chop into small chunks/ chips, and store in a zip-lock bag (or container) in the freezer.
This is my go-to recipe, and I love it. The chocolate melts fairly quickly at room temperature, so must be kept chilled. To eliminate this problem, substitute coconut oil with cocoa butter – but be aware that this can get pretty pricey!
This chocolate is full of healthy and filling fats from the coconut oil, antioxidants and tryptophan from the cocoa, and none of the nasties found in regular chocolate.
Another great option is cacao. You can buy cacao nibs from many health food stores, and many of the specialty food shops (which also sell products like maca powder, goji berries, raw cacao powder, etc.). I actually bought some raw cacao beans, soaked them in water, removed the skins, and bashed with a rolling pin to form my own (less-expensive) nibs. I found the beans near the cacao nibs in one of these health food shops.
Cacao has a bitter, earthy flavour – so while it is crunchy, chocolatey, and incredibly healthy, I do find it difficult to imagine ‘real’ chocolate while eating it. I prefer just to use a little sprinkle of the nibs along with my own low-fructose dark chocolate, to get the right flavour and texture.
Some of you may find it too time-consuming or difficult to make your own chocolate or scour shops in search of cacao. I avoid any chocolates sweetened with maltitol/ malitol, sorbitol, or any artificial sweeteners – some have been linked to cancer, and are generally pretty nasty for your health. I’d say your best bet is the darkest chocolate possible (90% cocoa solids, or 85% at a stretch). Of course, it is totally up to you what you use, but remember that whatever isn’t cocoa (solids) is likely to be sugar!
Dextrose and Rice Malt Syrup:
Dextrose is glucose by another name, and the ‘other half’ of table sugar (which contains 50% fructose and 50% glucose). It is white and finely powdered, similar to icing sugar (but slightly coarser), and slightly less sweet than regular sugar. It has been said to spike blood sugar levels, so I would perhaps not recommend it for diabetics.
You can buy it from home brewery shops, in 1 kg bags, for about $4. If you’re crazy like I am, you can also buy huge (25 kg!) sacks of it – I have a never-ending supply of my beloved dextrose, and it works out pretty cheaply! Dextrose is made from corn/ maize, mainly, and is usually gluten-free. When substituting for sugar, use a 1:1 ratio, and increase the liquid slightly/ add an extra egg (dextrose can make baking dry).
Rice malt syrup is another ‘safe’ sweetener, in the form of a brown syrup. It has a slightly caramelly flavour, and is great for substituting honey or maple syrup in recipes. You can buy this from health food shops, and I’ve also found it at supermarkets. It may also be called brown rice syrup, or rice syrup.
I use stevia tablets in my coffee, and stevia powder when making low-carb sweet treats. My preferred brand is “SweetLeaf” – it has inulin as its filler ingredient, a type of soluble fibre. No calories, carbohydrates, or baddies, this sweetener is a must for ketosis!
Coconut flour/ oil:
I love coconut flour because it is low-carb, high-fibre, and full of protein, as well as having other health benefits. Coconut oil is a beautifully saturated fat, which is anti-bacterial/ fungal/ microbial, tastes lovely, promotes weight loss, is great for skin/ hair, and helps suppress appetite/ provide a feeling of satiety, as well as being incredibly heat-stable (so it is great for baking, frying, and cooking in general, as well as cold).
Coconut flour and oil can be bought from most supermarkets, and though they are quite expensive, remember that coconut flour goes a LONG way (about twice as far as usual flour!), and coconut oil is a zillion times better than unstable seed oils (think canola, soy, and sunflower – I avoid these with all my might!).
I use psyllium husks in many of my recipes. Psyllium is the husk of the seed of the Plantago plant. It is often used (in capsule form) to treat bowl function problems, as well as helping with weight loss. This is because the husks absorb so much water, and 100 grams of them contain 71 grams soluble fibre. I love them because they help thicken smoothies and ice cream, as well as creating a spongy texture in cakes (and reducing the need for flours/ other absorbent ingredients). You can buy psyllium husks from health food stores, as well as supermarkets (I got my bag from Countdown, in the health food section). Psyllium husks are gluten-free, and I highly suggest using them!
Agar agar Powder:
Agar agar is a naturally occurring substance in seaweed. It is used to thicken and gel liquids, and is a great vegan alternative to gelatin. It sets liquids much firmer than gelatin, so less is used – 1 teaspoon of agar powder is supposedly equivalent to 8 teaspoons of gelatin powder (however, they do not yield the same texture and I have not tried these measurements personally!). You can buy agar in flakes or powder – I have only ever used the powder, so if you substitute flakes in my recipes, adjust quantities to about 1 Tablespoon of flakes to 1 teaspoon of powder. Agar is about 80% fibre, and contains no fat, calories, sugar, gluten, or carbohydrates. It has glucose-absorbing and water-absorbing properties (in your stomach), and helps inhibit excess fat storage/ retention. I bought mine at a local Asian store (it was cheapest there, only a few dollars for a packet), but you can also buy it at some health food stores for a higher price.
Guar gum is a thickening powder derived from the guar bean. It helps bind together gluten-free baked goods, preventing a crumbly texture, as well as improving the texture of ice creams and thickening shakes/ liquids. It is generally regarded as a safe food ‘additive’, although large doses may aggravate people with bowel problems (cause bloating/ gas). I found my guar gum in a local supermarket – Pak’nSave – in the health food section. If you can’t find any in your supermarket, try a health food specialty store or a gluten-free shop.
I hope my tips have helped! Please feel free to comment and ask for any further clarifications, ingredient advice, and anything else that will help you understand fizzifood! 🙂