quinta-feira, 3 de setembro de 2015

Peanut Butter and Coconut Chocolate Bomboms



Chocolate is a winner, an unanimity if I may say. Nearly everybody loves it. Exceptions exist as they say, to make stronger the rule. Chocolate is the best.

The problem is, when you are looking forward to adopt a "low fructose" or "fructose free diet", the perspective of living completely without chocolate is quite sad. However, there are alternatives out there to try.

When I am faced with strong chocolate cravings, instead of a sugar loaded bombom, my chocolate substitute of choice is a delicious hot cocoa drink, which I make with extra high quality cacao powder, good milk and totally sugar/sweetener free. All I add, besides milk and cacao, is a pinch of vanilla powder. Vanilla or cinnamon can add not only flavor, but sweetness too. If I am really in the mood, I might add some (no sugar or sweetener added) whipped cream to make it really naughty. I usually add some drops of vanilla extract or a dash of vanilla powder before I whip the cream. It is a favorite around here, zero sugar or sweetener added. High fat and extra low carb.




Recently I have found an alternative to help me through the days when all I want is to lay my teeth on a bar of chocolate, or on a little "bombom". It was not an easy task, trying to master the art of natural chocolate making. After trying for a while to limit myself to extra dark chocolate bars, I gave up and decided to find myself something less bitter, creamier and tastier... Not that dark chocolates are not tasty. I don´t mean that. Tasty they surely are. But I am a chocolate-with-nuts kind of person. Besides, I love some plain milk chocolate too. Just like my strong cup of cacao drink with a big dollop of cream on top. After sorting out some alternatives, I manage to find my favorite made from scratch homemade chocolate bombons. Here they are.

These homemade chocolates are delicious, they make my taste buds happy, but they are not as sensational as advertised. They lake the consistence and the texture of commercial and store bought chocolates. Free from conservantes and additives of all sorts, including lecithin, these bars can not resist room temperature for very long and in warmer areas of the world must be kept in the fridge at all times.



They are free from fructose because I decided to use barley malt syrup in their making. Barley malt syrup is a dark syrup that contain only glucose and is totally free from fructose. The type of sweetener is pretty much your own choice, you can go for the one you prefer. As a fructose free chocolate bombom, these little beauties have a feel good side for me because I have fructose intolerance, even if they are not what I would call healthy. Can chocolate ever really be healthy?

My opinion is: Even if chocolates are made from cacao (cocoa), a very healthy and rich fruit, our ways with the products made out of the mass, paste and fat of the toasted cacao beans are far from healthy. We have allowed ourselves to over indulge and get addicted to the sugar that coats the world of chocolate. Our sugar craving is what guide our search (in vain, I believe) for healthy chocolate alternatives. I can see it clear that I am addicted to chocolate/sugar and to feed my cravings is bad for me. I hope to leave it all behind me some day, meanwhile enjoy moderately...





Peanut Butter and Coconut Chocolate


100g organic cacao butter (I like this one)
50g organic cacao mass ( I like this one )
30g organic cacao powder (this time I used this one )
50g organic extra virgin coconut oil
50g organic pure peanut butter (without added oils, sugar or salt)
50g organic barley malt syrup (you can use the sweetener you prefer: rice malt syrup, honey, maples syrup, agave, coconut palm sugar, stevia, erythritol or even plain sugar...)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
Sea salt (optional)

How:

In a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water melt the cacao butter, the cacao mass, the coconut oil and the peanut butter. You don´t want the mixture to be very warm, just to melt, therefore I recommend the double boiler. Remove from heart, add the barley malt syrup, take it back to heat and whisk well until completely smooth and homogeneous. Remove from heat and sift in cacao powder and vanilla powder or seeds. Add sea salt if using. Taste for sweetness and saltiness, and adjust accordingly.
In silicon or paper cups spoon the chocolate batter. Don't spoon too much because you will prefer a rather thin chocolate cup.

Place in the fridge or freezer for 30 minutes or until its solid enough to be removed from the cups and served.

Keep in refrigerated.

Makes 15 to 40 chocolate pieces. It all depends on the size of the molds/silicone cups you are using.



terça-feira, 1 de setembro de 2015

A Jam Made of Favorites: Mango and Strawberry Jam



The first time I tried this jam I was in France, in a village called Niedermorschwihr where I bought my first jar of mango and strawberry jam at the Au Relais de Trois Epis. I made a post about Niedermorschwihr here and the Au Relais de Trois Epis where Madam Ferber's central quarters are located.

Christine Ferber is known as the grand master of jams, or the jam fairy and hers are the most famous jams in France these days. Christine Ferber, or Madame Ferber, plays amazingly well with fruits, berries, herbs and nuts, mixing wisely and surprising us all. She is known for adding chocolate to her jam, making some of those jams extra dense and bold and velvety and extra delicious. I made two chocolate jams inspired by Madam Ferber and you can see my Banana and Chocolate jam here and my Rapsberry and Chocolate e here. I made some changes, but they were directly inspired by her jams.



It might sound a little bit arrogant but the jam I made, with delicious in season Norwegian strawberries, tasted much better than the one I bought at by Madam Ferber's maison in Niedermorschwihr. I used more strawberries than mangoes in my mix, while Madam Ferber clearly uses more mangoes and we can feel it not only because of the color of her jam, which is more orange, but the light strawberry flavor also indicates more mangoes were added to the mixture. Equal amounts of fruits would still produce a red jam with a quite dominant strawberry flavor, I have tried half and half and decided to go for a greater amount of strawberries in my mix.

If you dare to try this recipe don't settle with mine, go experiment with different amounts and find the mix that suits you better. Use different types of strawberries too...



The mixture made of mango and strawberries is a mixture of favorites as mango is the world's most eaten fruit while strawberry is the world's favorite berry. People get quite surprised to learn that mangoes are the world best seller fruit, as they think about themselves and all the bananas, apples and oranges they usually eat. Mangoes are native to Southeast Asia, originally the area where today is the country of India, where mango trees have been cultivated and loved for more than 20.000 years. Mango is naturally the national fruit of India and this country alone responds for more than 50% of the world production of mangoes, while it exports only 1% of its production... 99% of India's mango production is destined to the local markets. Can you imagine how much mango it takes to feed the love of a population of more than 1 billion people?




If the dominance of mangoes can be a surprise to some, there is no surprise in the fact that strawberries are a world favorite. Strawberries are a fabulous berry, delicious anywhere you find them. More or less sweet, more or less acidic, a strawberry is a strawberry, the distinctive aroma, the red color, the magical flavor, all together making it simply wonderful.

The Norwegian strawberries are a chapter apart, extra sweet and extra red, little or no acidity at all, due to the time the berries spent buried under snow during the long and cold Norwegian winters. Unfortunately, this does not mean they are free from toxic chemicals used in strawberry production. Even in cold Norway the strawberries are heavily sprayed and these berries should be well washed before eating and eaten in small amounts. The only good alternative is organic strawberries which are growing more and more every year. It is a challenge to grow organic strawberries, but the conventional one is not but better because, as expected, the bugs and pests are wiser that the chemical industry, and as humans we got to do better than that...



Mango and Strawberry Jam
(Inspired by Christine-Ferber)

300 grams of mangoes in cubes (preferably organic)
450 grams halved washed strawberries (preferably organic)
300 grams organic sugar (this is up to you, use more if you like)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

How:


In a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat cook the mangoes and the strawberries with 100ml of water. Once the mixture boils reduce the heat and let it cook until the fruits are soft, circa 10 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and using a hand mixer mix the fruits until they are homogeneous. Take the pan back to stove top, add sugar and lemon and cook until the right consistence. Around 10 minutes more. To check if the jam is ready, check the consistence by adding a teaspoon of jam to a cold plate. If the jam spreads it is not ready. Once it is ready the jam will gel immediately once in contact with the cold plate.

This recipe makes around 3 glasses of 250 ml to 300 ml.


Tips:

To check if the jam is ready, test its consistence by adding a teaspoon of jam to a cold plate. If the jam spreads around, more like a liquid, it is not ready and needs extra cooking time. However, if the jam is ready it will hold its form and gel immediately once in contact with the cold plate.

Always remember that the gel will thicken after it is completely cooled down, so avoid over cooking it if you don't want to end up with a thick fruit paste.

Add sugar according to your taste and the quality of the fruits you have in mind. You are not obliged to follow old school of jamming and add equal parts of fruit and sugar. Today is is pretty OK to break the rule of extra sweet jams and make more fruity and less sweet. In jam making it is very important how to sterilize and manipulate the jam once it is ready, to avoid dangerous mold.

It is OK if you want to keep the fruit pieces and avoid the processing part. In that case add the sugar and cook a little extra time to reduce the liquids a little more.

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