Thursday: What’s Baking?

Every now and then, we need to evaluate how much processed sugar we are taking in on a daily basis. I love to bake, and I believe sugar is your best friend in most recipes, but what happens when you and sugar need to take five? Well, I’ve been researching online, and “naturally sweetened” recipes are a new trend for those who are becoming more observant about their sugar intake. Everyone knows that once you add sugar, everything else pales in comparison, but I will make it my mission to find natural recipes that can hold a torch to the real deal.

Below is a cookie recipe we can start off with, that uses honey as the primary sweetener. Let’s take a look:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups brown rice crisps*
  • 1 ¼ cups whole pecans, chopped, divided
  • ¾ cup creamy peanut butter (plus a pinch of salt if your peanut butter is unsalted)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 ½ cups (9 ounces) chocolate chips*
  • ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt or ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with a strip of parchment paper, cut to fit neatly across the base and up opposite sides. In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown rice crisps and 1 cup of the chopped pecans (reserve the rest for sprinkling on top). Set both aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the peanut butter and honey. Warm the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring often, until it’s steaming or you catch a bubble or two forming on the bottom, about 5 minutes. (We don’t want this mixture to come to a boil or the peanut butter could scorch.) 
  3. Pour the warm mixture into the bowl of rice crisps. Using a rubber or silicone spatula, stir until the mixture is completely combined. Transfer it all to the lined baking dish. Press down with the spatula to spread it fairly evenly, then switch to a large, sturdy glass with a flat bottom (maybe a working jar or mason jar or what-have-you) and press down firmly all over, including the corners. You really want to pack it down (it’s ok if you hear some crunching noises). Lastly, use your hands to ensure that it’s evenly compacted.
  4. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second increments, stirring after each one. Don’t overdo it. The chocolate is done when it’s about 90% melted—keep stirring off the heat and the pieces should completely dissolve. (Alternately, you can use melt it in a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water.)
  5. Pour the melted chocolate over the peanut butter-crispy mixture. Use a clean spatula to spread it evenly all over. Make some pretty chocolate swooshes if you’d like. Sprinkle the remaining pecans on top, followed by the salt.
  6. Place the baking dish in the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to a day. To slice, carefully grab both sides of the parchment paper and lift it out of the baking dish. Use a sharp chef’s knife to make 4 even columns and 4 even rows—to minimize the risk of cracking the chocolate, carefully apply even pressure from above the knife to press straight down, rather than sawing from one edge across.
  7. These bars will keep well at room temperature for up to 1 week, or for several months in the freezer. Store in an air-tight container either way.

NOTES

*INGREDIENT NOTES: I used Whole Foods 365 brand of brown rice crisps (found in the cereal aisle) and Guittard’s 46% semisweet chocolate chips. I usually love dark chocolate, so I was surprised that bittersweet chocolate seemed a bit too intense here.

MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE: Double-check that your ingredients are certified gluten free.

MAKE IT DAIRY FREE: Use dairy-free chocolate chips, such as Enjoy Life brand.

MAKE IT VEGAN: Use dairy-free chocolate chips, such as Enjoy Life brand, and substitute maple syrup for the honey.

MAKE IT NUT FREE: While I haven’t tried, I believe you could substitute sunflower seed butter for the peanut butter, and omit the pecans.

CHANGE IT UP: You could substitute maple syrup for the honey, substitute another type of nut for the pecans, or omit them altogether. You could also use almond butter or even pecan butter instead of peanut butter. If you love salty chocolate, you could double the amount of salt provided.

*Recipe taken from cookieandkate.com

I chose this recipe because I have made something similar with white sugar, and it was fabulous! However, this recipe might be a new normal if it makes the cut. Are you willing to try something new? We might be onto bigger and better things if we give “natural baking” a try. I’m excited! Hope you are too;) Happy Thursday everyone!

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