Gluten-free but sweet

Cathi Litzenberger offers some tasty desserts for those who are avoiding gluten, either by choice or for health reasons

What’s the the biggest health craze of our time, even though some doctors fear it’s creating real problems? Why, it’s the gluten-free diet.

And ever since cardiologist Dr. William Davis published his  best selling book in 2011, Wheat Belly, an entire industry of gluten-free products has exploded onto the scene.

Although I was unable to attend, Dr. Davis was in Vernon this past week, speaking on his experiences and research. I’ve read his book and understand and agree with much of his research. Anyone with celiac and other diseases or sensitivities of the intestinal tract already knows how important it is to avoid gluten. However it is not these people who are driving this new industry; it is people who are trying to avoid genetically altered food, and wheat is by far one of the most altered.

It is important to realize, though, that most gluten-free processed foods that are substituted for wheat varieties, are high in simple carbohydrates with little food value and this is a real concern to many health professionals.

Having said that, today I want to offer a couple of lovely dessert recipes today for everyone who has to avoid gluten, because heaven knows they never get their share of desserts.

Grain-free Raspberry Sour Cream Crumble Cake

Crust and crumbles:

¼ cup + 1 tablespoon raw coconut oil

6 large medjool dates (I used what I had)

1 cup toasted almond slices

1 cup coconut flour

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling / topping:

1 egg

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup maple syrup OR honey OR agave

2 tablespoons coconut flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ bag of frozen raspberries (1 bag = 12oz / 340g)

Defrost raspberries. Preheat oven to 325 F and grease the bottom of an 8½” springform or line with parchment paper.

In small saucepan, slowly melt coconut oil on low heat.

Chop dates into small pieces and process in blender or food processor. Add almond slices and process again. Add coconut flour, coconut oil, sea salt and vanilla extract and process until you have a sticky-wet, crumbly consistency. If you pinch it, it should hold together.

Set ¼ of the crust aside and press remainder into bottom of springform and up to about 1 inch on the side.

For filling, beat egg; add sour cream, maple syrup, coconut flour and vanilla extract; mix well. It should be a thick, creamy consistency – if too runny, add another tablespoon of coconut flour.

Pour filling over crust and spread out evenly.  Cover with raspberries and add crumbles on top.

Bake 40 – 45 mins. Make sure centre is cooked through. Allow to cool down before serving. Enjoy!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

16 oz. solid dark chocolate (use your favourite GF dark chocolate bars)

1 cup organic light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup organic white cane sugar

3/4 cup very hot strong coffee (or use espresso powder in very hot water)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

2 tbsp. unsweetened organic cocoa powder

8 large organic free-range eggs, room temperature

1 tbsp. vanilla extract — yes, a tablespoon!

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare a 10-cup springform pan by lining the bottom with a circle of buttered parchment. Wrap the outside of the whole pan (underneath, to catch any leaks) with a big piece of foil.

Break up the dark chocolate into pieces and pour the chocolate into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until the chocolate breaks up into small bits. Add the sugar. Pulse until the chocolate and sugar turns into an even, sandy grain. Pour the hot water or coffee slowly into the feed tube as you pulse again. Pulse until the chocolate is melted. Magic! Add butter pieces and cocoa powder, and pulse to combine. Add eggs and vanilla, and process till smooth. The batter will be liquid and creamy. Pour batter into the lined springform pan.

Bake at 350 F in the centre of the oven, till puffed and cracked and lovely, about 55 to 65 minutes. (Note: it took an hour and 15 minutes when I baked this at high altitude.) Use wooden toothpick to check centre of cake; pick should emerge clean, with maybe a crumb.

Place cake pan on wire rack to cool. It will deflate. Don’t worry! When cooled a bit, press on it gently with spatula to make it even, if you wish. Or not. When cake is completely cooled, cover and chill for at least three hours (best up to eight hours) until serving. Overnight is even better.

Serve thin slices with drizzled chocolate sauce or a sprinkle of sifted powdered sugar. Garnish with fresh berries or mint leaves.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.

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