Gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free
If I had to chose my favorite dessert, I would not be able to chose just one. It would have to be a tie between a blondie and a brownie. I am a simple girl.
Blondies are so addictive because of the caramel, butterscotch flavor that comes from the brown sugar, butter and vanilla that they are usually made with. I wanted to make a ‘healthier’ version.
When I say healthier, I am not talking about lower calorie (I don’t count calories), but rather choosing ingredients that are just a little bit better for you, but still can play the role I need them to in a baked good.
Fat is your friend
Fat is necessary, but you can certainly chose a better fat. Almond butter is a great source of fat, flavor and protein. Using a smooth, organic almond butter in place of most of the butter will give you a sort of butterscotch-like flavor too.
I also use olive oil. I do not use coconut oil in anything because it is not a healthy fat, despite being very popular right now. Also, I can’t eat coconut; my body just doesn’t like it. Olive or avocado oils are a great source of healthy fats and you don’t need much here.
Homemade flour power
I have called these paleo-ish blondies purely because of the flour mix I used. I made my own gluten-free, almost grain-free flour mixture. Almond flour is a paleo favorite, but I always think it needs a little help. Tapioca flour, which is made from the root of the cassava plant. It is sometimes called tapioca starch, but works great as a flour.
Now, I love oats. I eat oatmeal every day. I also think that oat flour is a great gluten-free flour and gives some good fiber to gluten-free baking. While oats are exactly paleo, there is some new research that shows that oats may have actually been part of the Paleolithic diet…
When I put all these flours together, along with potato starch and psyllium husk powder (both paleo-approved) for more body, I was really happy with the results; so, now I keep a big mason jar of this in my pantry.
1 cup homemade gluten-free flour mix* (see recipe below)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup + 2 tbsps smooth, unsweetened almond butter
2 tbsps olive oil (you could also use avocado oil)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 large, free range egg
1/2 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract**
1/2 cup chocolate chunks (I used a chopped up HU Kitchen Cashew Butter and Vanilla chocolate bar)
Preheat the oven to 350F and line an 8 inch square baking dish with tin foil, making sure to press it into all the corners. Grease with oil.
In a large bowl, whisk together the almond butter, oil, maple syrup and coconut sugar until smooth.
Add the egg, vanilla and salt and whisk again to fully incorporate the egg. Keep whisking for another 3 minutes, even after all the egg is combined. You want to get a little air in the mix since we aren’t using a leavening agent like baking soda.
Add the flour mix and fold until mostly combined, but with a few streaks of flour. At this point, add most of the chocolate chunks, saving some to sprinkle on top before baking. Continue mixing to incorporate the chips and all the flour.
Pour batter into the prepared pan, top with the leftover chocolate chunks. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the middle is just starting to brown. Don’t over bake these lovelies.
Let them cool for 30 minutes before slicing. I made these after thanksgiving and had some leftover cranberry sauce (made with maple syrup and orange). These tasted amazing served warm with some of that cranberry sauce.
*Gluten-free flour mixture:
While I do keep a gluten-free flour mixture on hand, sometimes I like to make my own. I call this one my paleo-kinda mix. It is not strictly paleo because it has oat flour, but I really think that the oat flour gives some good structure and flavor to the mix, not to mention fiber. And the potato starch and psyllium husk powder are very important. These guys are binders and almost act like the gluten would normally; they give structure and a little bit more chew.
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1 1/2 cups tapioca flour
1 cup gluten-free oat flour
4 tsp potato starch
2 tsps psyillum husk powder
Combine all of the flours, potato starch and psyllium husk powder in a bowl (i put it all in a giant mason jar) and give it a whisk (or a shake in the mason jar).
** Not all vanilla extracts are gluten-free. All vanilla extracts are a combination of alcohol and vanilla beans. It is possible to buy a non-alcoholic vanilla extract, but it is usually an imitation vanilla flavor. If you want to make your own, buy a smallish bottle of silver tequila, 3 vanilla beans. Pour 3 cups of the tequila into a mason jar, split and scrap the vanilla beans into the tequila, throw in the pods and seeds scraped, shake it all up and let sit in a dark place for 2 weeks before using. Boom. You’ve made gluten-free vanilla extract.