Sunday, September 4, 2011

A New Natural Sweetener- Coconut Crystals!

Well, it's new to me anyway. And what a find! As you know, I often use agave nectar to sweeten all kinds of things- from Greek yogurt to baked desserts. But since agave nectar is a liquid, using it as a substitute for white or brown sugar can sometimes be tricky.

So when I noticed this little can of goodness on the shelf in the Nature's Market section of Wegmans, I was intrigued. It's made of 100% pure coconut tree sap, unrefined, organic, and a low glycemic sweetener. Now don't be fooled by the name. This stuff doesn't taste a thing like coconut. It has more of a brown sugar-molasses type of taste and can be substituted for sugar evenly in a recipe.

I decided to try making brownies with it first and since the product came from a coconut tree, and I adore coconut, I decided they needed to be macaroon brownies. Fudgy and delicious, and worth the small amount of sugar in the dark chocolate chips. These were so satisfying that I continued with the brownie theme and invented an espresso brownie with Tia Maria ganache. To die for. The recipes are below, but overall I would highly recommend substituting coconut crytals for sugar in any recipe! If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Macaroon Brownies
1 pkg 60% chocolate chips
1 stick (4 oz) butter
4 eggs, room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup coconut crystals
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup chopped almonds, if desired
3 cups unsweetened natural coconut
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup agave nectar

Melt chocolate chips and butter together in a double boiler. Beat eggs, salt, coconut crystals, and vanilla in an electric mixer. Gradually beat in melted chocolate. Fold in flour and nuts. Pour into buttered and floured square pan (I line with parchment and butter again). In medium bowl, mix together conconut, almond extract and agave nectar. Sprinkle coconut mixture evenly over brownie mixture in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Whole Wheat Espresso Brownies with Tia Maria Ganache
Follow recipe above with the following changes:
(You will need TWO bags of 60% chocolate chips!)

Add 2 Tablespoons instant espresso powder to egg mixture. Omit almonds and coconut layer. Fold in an additional 3/4 cup 60% chips with the flour. In a glass measureing cup, heat 2/3 cup heavy cream in a glass measureing cup in microwave until simmering, but not boiling. Whisk in 1 cup 60 % chips (the rest of the bag)until smooth. Stir in 2 Tablespoons of Tia Maria or other coffee liquer. Refrigerate until thick, stirring occasionally. Spread cooled brownies with ganache.

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