Raw Mint Slice for The Sweet Swap 2014

The punch of peppermint is what first makes

It’s presence known in the rich nutty base

Then sexy dark chocolate, creamy with coconut

Widens the smile on the indulger’s face

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So as a nibble with tea

Or an after dinner zing,

This raw mint slice will make

Your taste-buds sing!

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Ok so a poet I clearly am not.  But I am kinda tickled pink with this recipe, and boxes of the decadent yet goodness-filled squares went out to three lovely bloggers.  Amanda of Chewtown, Bryton of Food in Literature and Cassandra of Journey From Within each received a box of these gluten-free, low sugar, raw goodies.  In turn, I welcomed sugary goodness in the form of Butterscotch Pecans from Fiona of Tiffin and Raw Date and Almond Truffles from Karla of Get On Up.  In its second year, the Sweet Swap, organised by Amanda (Chewtown) and Sara (Belly Rumbles) is a fun, innovative event that brings Aussie bloggers together and benefits a worthy cause.

Raw Mint Slice

Makes 24 squares, approx 4cm x 4cm

Get:

Base:
3/4 cup cashew or macadamia nut butter (homemade or store bought)
2 tbsp milk powder (or pea protein powder for a vegan option)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tbsp rice syrup
4 drops peppermint oil (available at cake supply shops)
1 1/2 tsp spirulina powder (for colour, optional)

Topping:
120g good quality dark chocolate
1 tbsp thick coconut cream* (see note)

To Sprinkle:
Small handful cacao nibs or shredded coconut

Make:

See the note below first regarding coconut cream.  Prepare a tray lined with grease-proof paper.  To make the base, place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir.  It will probably be a little too thick to stir, at which point you can knead with clean hands.  If the nut butter you use is on the runny side, you may need to add a little more milk or protein powder to achieve a bread dough consistency.  Press the mixture down into the tray to roughly a 6-8mm thickness.

To make the topping, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-30 second bursts in the microwave.  When it is fully melted, quickly stir through the coconut milk before the chocolate seizes up.  Quickly spread the mixture evenly over the base and sprinkle with cacao nibs or coconut.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before slicing with a sharp knife.

Notes:
Use coconut cream with no additives (I use Ayam brand), and pop the can in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Then, open the tin without shaking and use the thick part of the cream off the top of the tin.

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Stepping-Stone Nutty Chocolate Eggs (low-fructose)

Beyond the overstuffed floral sofas, past the assortment of porcelain milkmaids and ceramic puppy dogs, there was a scuffed old desk pushed up against the wall.  The tiny old lady gingerly pulled out the chair and perched herself on it, gesturing for my uncle and I to take a seat nearby.  She was my uncle’s dearest patient, and he had brought me along on a house visit to meet her.

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Carefully, she pulled open a draw and held out a plastic tube, paper thin skin stretching over arthritic knuckles as her hands curled around it.  Peering into the container, my eight-year old eyes widened in delight.  Eggs of all sizes were nestled in together.  They twinkled in their colourful foil wrappers, unlike anything I had seen before.

‘Pick one’ urged my uncle.  I snapped out of my bewilderment to choose a bright blue one, about the size of a chicken egg, and unwrapped it slowly.  A cobblestone chocolate surface was revealed as the soft foil fell away under my eager fingers.  The hollow centre was a real surprise, and there was something about that thin chocolate shell, perhaps the way it just seemed to give way on my tongue, that did it for me.  I’ve been weak at the knees for Easter eggs ever since.

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Those first few months after we migrated to Australia are mostly a blur, but there are certain memories, like this one that linger vividly within the childhood section of my mental filing cabinet.

The lovely old lady is long gone.  But that little girl’s first taste of a chocolate Easter egg, sitting in the living room of her uncle’s favourite patient, is never to be forgotten.

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These eggs were a happy accident in my quest to create a low-sugar creme egg.  While they are not quite what I envisioned, they are a stepping-stone towards a creme egg, and turned out too good not to share with you. The centres of these are creamy, albeit a bit too firm to call them a creme egg.  They have a natural sweetness provided by the nuts and boosted by the tiny amount of sweetner, which is nicely balanced by the bitter dark chocolate shell.  As for the original goal…..well, there’s always next Easter.

For other low-sugar chocolaty treats, try these or these.  Or even these.

Happy Easter to you all!

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Stepping-Stone Nutty Chocolate Eggs

Get:

Makes 12-15 small eggs

1/4 cup cashew or macadamia nut butter
100 grams (2 sachets) coconut paste
1-2 tsp rice syrup or honey
100g good quality dark chocolate

Make:

Dip the unopened packets of coconut paste in boiling water for a couple of minutes to soften.

Place the nut butter, coconut paste and syrup or honey in the food processor and blitz to a smooth paste.  Transfer to a bowl and freeze for 20 mins or so until quite firm.  Alternatively, you could pour the mixture into silicone chocolate moulds and place that in the freezer.

If hand-shaping the eggs, remove the mixture from the freezer and using the spoon, scoop out small amounts (about a tsp) of it.  Usig clean hands, knead and roll into balls, then flatten slightly to make eggs.  Place on grease-proof paper on a tray and freeze until very firm.

In the meantime, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-30 second bursts in the microwave.  Roll the frozen eggs (or whatever shape you choose) in the melted chocolate.  Use a couple of spoons to cover the eggs in the chocolate and place back on the grease-proof paper lined tray.  Refrigerate until the chocolate is set.

Eat!

Notes:

If you would like to make your own nut butter, find the method here.  You will need about 1/2 cup of nuts to make 1/4 cup of butter.

I found coconut paste in the Asian food section of large supermarkets.  I found it in a box of 5 sachets of 50 grams each.  I believe it is also available in some Asian grocery stores (thanks for the tip JJ!).

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Better Butter makes Bitter Batter Better: How to make Almond Butter at Home

During my days in London, we had upstairs neighbours who would play loud ‘Duff Duff’ music at any time of the day or night, subjecting us to what felt like a rhythmic earthquake on a fairly regular basis.  We were no strangers to loud dance music, having made it our unofficial mission to investigate the pros and cons of every nightclub in London, however the  same racket was not quite so welcome at 2 am when we were snugly in our beds on a school night.

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In addition to this, above my room is what I strongly suspect was a communal athletics track for several highly dedicated athletes who trained by sprinting across my ceiling at all hours.  We of course tried many methods of negotiation including the highly sophisticated broom-banging-on-ceiling technique which I believe is used by the military in times of war, to no avail.  So the ‘Duff-Duff’ continued to be part of my life until I moved out in pursuit of postgraduate study and improved sleep patterns.

In another flat in another part of London, I had the pleasure of neighbouring a devout, god-fearing woman who had been suitably blessed with a booming set of lungs and equally devout friends.  The paper-thin walls meant that on some mornings at around 4am, I would be jolted from sleep by voices chanting the Lord’s praises punctuated by thunderous declarations of ‘JESUS WILL SAAAVVVEEE YOU‘.

Whatever I needed to be saved from, I was fairly confident that it could wait till sunrise.

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In order to pay it forward, I have now become the neighbour who places dry roasted almonds in a food processor resulting in what the neighbours probably assumed was a vicious, albeit brief attack on the building by a machine-gun squad of some sort.  All this to make my own almond butter which I assure you was totally worth the racket.  In my defence I did (completely by accident) choose a day when there was work being done in the building so the sound of almonds on metal was nicely drowned out by a much more obnoxious jackhammer.

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So to make almond butter you need a fairly tough food processor and a bag of roasted almonds.  Alternatively, roast the almonds on about 160 degrees Celsius in the oven for about 10-15 mins.  Careful not to over-roast them as this will result in a bitter butter (that Betty Botter bought).

Unless of course you’re into that sort of thing.

Then you throw the almonds, skin and all into the food processor, plug your ears, and hit start.  Keep pulsing on high speed, intermittently scraping down the sides of the bowl.  The almonds will first become a dry powder, then form clumps, then become a slightly oily butter.  Stop at the slightly oily, smooth but still slightly coarse stage and transfer the almond butter into clean jars or containers.

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I used 3 cups of roasted almonds which made about 2 cups (2 small jars) of almond butter.  I have frozen one jar for later and am currently devouring the contents of the other spread on toast in the mornings.  You can use all nut butters the same way that you would use store bought peanut butter but the advantage of homemade nut butters is that there is none of the added sugar or salt that you find in the packaged versions.  I suspect the same process would work well with macadamia nuts, peanuts and brazil nuts.

Do you have any crazy-neighbour stories?  Please do share in the comments below…….

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