Sundays have become “baking day” for Bracken and I, to both of our delight. Most Sundays I have some sort of baking project for us to do, beyond the usual things we bake throughout the week ( like winter squash, sweet potatoes, and such.) When we bake together it reminds me of my sister and I baking alongside our grandmothers as children, especially baking cookies with Grandma Baker. Those memories make me smile. My sister told me awhile ago how relaxing it is for her to spend time in her kitchen on the weekends, after a long and busy week. I can relate to that. I find baking particularly enjoyable and whenever I look in a cookbook for the first time, I tend to gravitate towards the recipes for baked goods. I find that a little funny, considering we don’t eat grains, but I still love to bake and like to find recipes for our family to enjoy. Here’s the thing about baking, though: I love the act of baking, but most baked goods make me feel terrible after I eat them. I love to enjoy treats that are made with healthy ingredients, delicious, and make me feel good after eating them. I’m always on the search for baked goods that fit those things.
I remember when I first met Jeff and he was eating gluten-free, I experimented with gluten-free baking and found it rather tricky at times. Then we switched to a grain-free diet and I started baking with nut flours on occasion. I have quite a few nut allergies though. Now I’m finding it really fun to experiment with nut-free baking. You may be wondering what is left to bake with at that point (as I did) and you’d be surprised at some of the options. One of my favorite cookbooks right now is: ‘The Paleo Approach Cookbook: A Detailed Guide to Heal Your Body and Nourish Your Soul’ by Sarah Ballantyne. It’s filled with so many great paleo recipes (geared towards healing autoimmune diseases, but even if that’s not your goal it still contains so many nutrient dense and healthy recipes.) Many of the recipes for baked goods in her cookbook contain hard to source ingredients, but there were a few with ingredients easier to find. We’ve made Plaintain Crackers three times now, each time a little different, and we’ve made the Carob Brownie Bites twice. Both have been enjoyed, but my favorite are the crackers. We all think they are delicious. (In some of these pictures I grabbed our experiments and brought them outside to photograph in the last of the afternoon light shining through the woods.) And I feel good after eating them, which is incredibly wonderful!
In her companion book, Sarah says that chocolate is extremely high in phytic acid, omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, and contains caffeine so she recommends carob as an alternative. I’ve never been a huge chocolate fan (I know, people think that’s crazy), but I’ve eaten it from time to time. I’m very sensitive to caffeine and whenever I eat it I get super hyper, so need to avoid it before bedtime. But I actually prefer the taste of carob over chocolate, so that’s what we use most often around here. We use carob powder and avoid carob chips because of all the added ingredients they contain. (Since I’ve been asked about carob before, I’ll share what she says about it here.) She says: “Carob is a commonly used chocolate substitute. While it is technically a legume, carob powder is actually only the ground-up pod of the carob bean. Carob does not contain caffeine and contains three times more calcium than chocolate. It also contains B vitamins, Vitamin A, magnesium, iron, manganese, chromium, and copper. Carob is naturally sweet, most of its sugars being sucrose (55 to 75 percent), with glucose and fructose each making up 7 to 16 percent. Other sugars (0.5 to 3 percent) in carob are galactose, mannose, and xylose. All in all, this makes carob very similar to most fruit in terms of sugar content.”
Oh yes, and back to the crackers. When I first saw Sarah’s baked recipes using green plantains as a base, it seemed rather strange to me. (My brother in law told me that they are a staple around the world and that many people eat them for their starch source rather than potatoes.) How digestible can unripe fruit be, after all? But with more information about resistant starch coming out these days, green plantains seem like a very healthy option for baking. I’m happy I’ve found a few stores that carry organic plantains. (And want to try making our own plantain flour in the future.) The first time we made the cracker recipe with green plantains, coconut oil, and salt. Loved them. Second time we tried the “dessert cracker” option and used ripe plantains (when the peels are black on the outside), coconut oil, salt, and a bit of cinnamon. Loved those too. Third time we used the green plantains again and salt, but ran out of coconut oil so used lard instead. Results? Delicious. As we get into the groove, I’m learning how long I like them cooked for and how long is too long. I prefer them a little chewy rather than crispy. Those crackers are becoming a staple around here now. We could eat them all in one sitting, but I put them in the freezer so we savor them throughout the week, until our next baking day.
Baking day is something Bracken and I look forward to now and I’m excited to keep experimenting with new recipes. Do you bake regularly in your home? Do you have fond memories of baking as a child? What are your favorite things to bake?