Ingredients and Equipment
Cooking gluten-free, grain-free, Paleo desserts can be daunting at first just because the ingredients are so unfamiliar. In order to make your life easier (and mine as well), I’ve stuck to the most common (and most essential) Paleo ingredients.
Although these ingredients are “common” to Paleo recipes, they may not be 100% familiar for you. Here is a brief list and description of these ingredients, as well as some options for substitutions (or how to make your own) if you have trouble finding or buying any particular ingredient. Note that while substitutions are suggested here,
I haven’t tested out every substitution in every recipe, so substituting ingredients may change how the recipes turn out.
Almond flour is a flour-like substance made from almonds (usually “blanched,” meaning without the skin) that have been ground. You can make this yourself by grinding almonds in a food processor or blender.
However, if you make it yourself, it usually won’t result in a very fine flour, which might change the texture of a recipe; also, blending for too long will produce almond butter rather than almond flour. You can get away with using your own ground almond flour (often called almond meal) in the recipes in this book, but it will make the texture of the desserts a bit grainier. If you don’t plan to make it, then you can buy this almond flour on Amazon or Flipkart.
Coconut flour is dehydrated and defatted coconut flakes (or shredded coconut) ground very finely until it forms a flour. You can make a rough version of coconut flour yourself by grinding unsweetened raw coconut flakes(or shredded coconut) in a blender or food processor. Again, you have to be careful not to over-blend it, as it’ll form coconut butter instead.
To get a fine flour requires a bit more 14 work you’d need to first blend the coconut flakes (or shredded coconut) with water, strain the liquid out, and then dry the resulting meal in a dehydrator or oven. I highly recommend buying coconut flour if you can, since many of the recipes work much better with fine coconut flour.
Coconut oil is simply the oil from coconuts I do NOT recommend trying to make it yourself. Just buy it (it’s also great to use as your general cooking oil). If you can’t find any coconut oil to buy, then try using another healthy Paleo oil like ghee (see below) or olive oil (this will change the taste of course!).
If you are not sensitive to dairy, then butter (preferably grass-fed) is also an option, although if you have access to butter, then I highly suggest making your own ghee using the butter.
Ghee is basically the oil derived from removing all milk solids from butter (this makes it healthier than butter because many people have sensitivities to those milk solids). It’s also referred to as clarified butter, although ghee is typically made in a slightly different process than clarified butter. You can buy ghee or clarified butter in many stores.
It’s particularly popular in South Asian cuisines as well as certain European cuisines, like traditional French cooking. You can make your own ghee by gently heating unsalted butter until the milk solids (the white residue) separate from the oil.
Strain the liquid through cheesecloth to remove all of the solids, and the oil you’re left with is the ghee/clarified butter. Typically ghee involves a bit more effort, but for the recipes in this book, the resulting oil is fine to use as ghee.
One of the biggest problems with Paleo desserts is finding a good Paleo sweetener.
No matter what you use, this is probably the least healthy part of any Paleo dessert. I personally believe that raw honey is the best (and tastiest) Paleo sweetener, since it contains many of the vitamins and minerals needed for your body to properly process the sugar in the honey. (I don’t, though, believe that honey is great for our bodies in huge amounts, so I try to use it judiciously.)
You can often buy raw honey from local shops, but if it’s difficult to find. If you don’t have access to raw honey, then most natural sugars (e.g., regular honey, pure maple syrup, and cane sugar) are about equivalent from a health perspective, so pick whichever is more convenient for you. You will have to adjust the amounts if you’re using a sweetener other than honey as they differ in sweetness.
This is a natural sugar substitute that adds very few carbs or calories but is several hundred times the sweetness of sugar. It has a slightly bitter aftertaste, which is why I don’t like to use it by itself in desserts (unless I’m making a sugar-free one for my dad, who is diabetic).
However, honey and spices hide the taste of stevia well so that you can decrease the amount of honey and substitute in some stevia to create a low-sugar dessert. While some people place stevia into the same category as artificial sweeteners, it’s certainly healthier than copious amounts of honey and maple syrup, and the amounts of stevia that need to be used are tiny. There is a variety of different brands of stevia (some are more pure than others, and some have other sugars or fillers mixed in).
I prefer to buy very pure stevia and just add a tiny amount into my baked goods. You are welcome to use whatever brand you like (or not use stevia at all), but I encourage you to use a stevia that doesn’t have other fillers or sugars added in. If you use a non-pure brand of stevia, then be sure to use that brand’s conversion chart.
If you want to use stevia, then you can buy it. If you don’t want to use stevia for whatever reason, then simply use raw honey (or your 16 sweetener of choice) instead.
I love adding pure vanilla extract to various desserts it imparts a taste of sweetness without having any sugar in it. Some store-bought vanilla extracts contain added sugar, so try to buy ones that don’t list any forms of sugar in the ingredients .
You can also make your own vanilla extract using fresh vanilla beans (split them in half) and letting them sit in some flavorless alcohol (e.g., vodka) for 2-3 months. If you don’t have access to vanilla extract or vanilla beans, you can omit this ingredient from the recipes (this will change the flavor of the recipes a bit).
Coconut cream is really just a thicker version of coconut milk (it’s great as a non-dairy substitute for cream). The easiest way to get this is to buy cans of coconut milk and to place the cans in the refrigerated for half a day.
The coconut cream will form on the top of the can so that you can scoop it out from the top when you open the can gently. To make your own coconut cream, you can food process fresh coconut meat (scraped from fresh coconuts) until it forms a creamy puree.
Coconut butter is dried unsweetened coconut flakes (or shredded coconut) pureed until the oils mix with the coconut meat (note that there isn’t water in this). You can buy coconut butter in jars from many gourmet or natural health stores, but you can also make this yourself using unsweetened coconut flakes (or shredded coconut) and blending or food processing it really well (you may need to add a little bit of coconut oil to help it blend).
Chia seeds are small plant seeds that have gelatinous properties, which makes them great for grain-free baking (it helps bind ingredients together). Chia seeds are sold all over the world and have become increasingly popular in the US over the past few years. You can buy chia 17 seeds. If you can’t find chia seeds, then you can use flax seeds instead (chia is generally considered healthier than flax).
If you don’t have access to either, then you can add in an extra egg (note that this will change the texture and taste of the recipe). However, these substitutions won’t work for the Chocolate Chia Pudding Recipe because chia is the main ingredient.
Baking Soda and Baking Powder
Baking powder is usually a combination of baking soda with an acidic agent (such as cream of tartar, which is described below) along with some other ingredients, such as cornstarch. Baking powder produces carbon dioxide bubbles, which expand in the oven (due to the heat) so that your baked goods will rise and become light and soft.
Baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate, which reacts with anything acidic in your baking mixture to produce carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles will start forming as soon as the baking soda touches the acidic ingredients.
While you can’t make your own baking soda (since it’s just the pure compound of sodium bicarbonate), you can make your own baking powder from baking soda and cream of tartar (which is a naturally occurring acidic salt, potassium hydrogen tartrate).
One advantage of making your own baking powder is that your baking won’t include cornstarch or any other non-caking agent that is typically put into store-bought baking powder to prevent it from clumping together.