My co-author, Heather Connell, has had an exciting month, with the launch of her first book—Paleo Sweets and Treats: Seasonally Inspired Desserts that Let You Have Your Cake and Your Paleo Lifestyle, Too (Fair Winds Press, 2013). I had been very impressed with the recipes she developed for the book we wrote together (Powerful Paleo Superfoods, May 2014), so when she asked if I’d like a review copy of her first book before it released, I jumped at the chance to see what other deliciousness she’d created. I have been happily baking away this past month, testing the recipes and making notes. And now I’d like to share those notes with you!
Even if you don’t eat strictly Paleo, her recipes are great options for people who enjoy baking but would like to limit their sugar and refined grain intake and eat more fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Still, Heather makes a point to acknowledge that these are treats—not every day dietary staples. She does use natural sweeteners like dates and maple syrup, so even though her recipes are more healthful than sweets made with refined flours and sugars, you still don’t want to go overboard.
If you’re new to Paleo baking, like I was, be sure to read the introduction. Heather walks you through stocking your Paleo pantry, and she gives strategies for adapting traditional dessert recipes using Paleo-friendly ingredients. Note: Heather relies quite heavily on coconut products, but since I don’t like coconut, I made a few substitutions. I found that the amount of coconut flour she called for in most of the recipes was small enough that the flavor wasn’t an issue, but I swapped in grass-fed organic butter for coconut oil and unsweetened almond milk for coconut milk where she called for those ingredients. I’m sure that changes the flavor somewhat, but I think the results were good. There are many recipes that rely so heavily on coconut-based ingredients that I’ll just have to skip them, but for the most part I think these substitutions will work fine.
The recipes are organized seasonally, and I started with the fall and year-round recipes. I look forward to testing the winter, spring, and summer recipes over the next year!
Apple Spice Cakie Cookies—This might be my favorite of the recipes I tested. They had a great flavor and texture, and although I was initially hesitant about storing cookies in the refrigerator, that really did work well to keep them moist and soft. I will be making these again.
Carrot-Apple Whoopie Pies—I was suspicious of the “cream” filling made from cashews, but it was surprisingly good. My filling didn’t get as fluffy or firm as hers looks in the book photo, but that’s probably due to my small, aging food processor. Overall, quite yummy.
Maple Date Pecan Squares—These didn’t quite turn out for me, I think partly because I found the cloves in the crust a little overpowering (I’ll use half the amount the next time I make these). But the bars also fell apart when I tried to cut them (maybe they needed more of the non-pecan ingredients in the filling? Or maybe this is a case where my substituting almond milk for coconut milk just won’t work?). When I make them again, I will also be sure to refrigerate them as she suggests, since the crust got really soft and almost soggy as the bars sat at room temperature.
Dark Chocolate Cakie Cookies—Really good, although the banana flavor is noticeable. I love chocolate and banana together, so that wasn’t an issue for me, but be aware that it’s not a straight chocolate cookie.
Dark Chocolate Cacao Cinnamon Dusted Almonds—Totally addictive, just as she warns in the recipe intro. Use really good quality chocolate, since the chocolate will make or break this recipe. I was able to use double the amount of almonds that she called for, and probably could have even managed another quarter cup. And as the chocolate hardened, it formed more of an almond bark, so I had to break it apart before tossing with the cacao and cinnamon. But I will be making these again, soon.
Stay tuned for another review in a few weeks of such amazing-sounding treats as Pumpkin Pecan Pie Bars, Chocolate Pudding, Dark Chocolate Almond Cups, Snickerdoodles, and Fudgy Chocolate Coffee Brownies…