If “Paleo baking” sounds strange, conjuring up odd images of cavemen eating blueberry muffins, we have a book that can help.
Cynthia Spivey’s How to Eat Paleo—When You Don’t Live in a Cave (Smiling Water Group, $29) takes the mystery out of cooking, baking, shopping and eating in the trendy ancestral style. With in-depth tips, the latest science behind the diet, and 25 recipes, Spivey makes it easy and delicious to adopt the Paleo lifestyle. Here are some useful baking tips from Spivey’s book, plus a chocolate coconut-dipped macaroon recipe that is as easy as it is delicious:
Cook With Natural Oils: Use coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, animal fats (lard or duck) or cold-pressed avocado or nut oils on occasion. If you enjoy dairy products, cook with butter, which is a wonderful, flavorful fat for cooking. Grass-fed or organic butter is available in most areas.
Skip Refined Oils: Seeds don’t inherently contain a lot of oil, so chemicals or heat are used to extract the oil from the seed. Heat reduces nutrient levels of seed oils and can raise toxicity. It’s best to cook with oils cold pressed from olives, coconuts, avocados or nuts. For high-heat cooking, you can use ghee or animal fats like lard or duck fat.
Choose Paleo Flours: There are many flours used in Paleo baking. The most popular are coconut flour, almond flour, tapioca flour and arrowroot flour. Others include sweet potato flour, a variety of nut flours and plantain flour. Most of these flours have different qualities than grain flour (i.e., coconut flour adds dryness), so use recipes specific to those flours until you are familiar with how they react. Gluten-free flour blends, which typically contain rice flour and cornstarch, are not recommended unless you find one containing only Paleo-friendly ingredients.
Not All Leavening Agents Are Created Equal: Baking soda is Paleo. A baking powder substitute can be easily made by mixing 1 part baking soda with 2 parts cream of tartar. Commercial baking powder is not Paleo because it contains ingredients like cornstarch. However, the amount of baking powder used in cooking is minimal so the choice is yours when it comes to purchasing baking powder or making your own.
Paleo-Safe Vanilla: Vanilla extract is Paleo if you choose an extract with no sugar or additives, not a flavoring, which is a synthetic, non-Paleo product. Some extracts are made with alcohol distilled from grain, but vanilla is typically used in such minimal amounts it shouldn’t make a difference in your diet unless you have an autoimmune disease, in which case you should choose an extract made with grain-free alcohol or make your own.
A Trendy Sweetener To Avoid: Agave nectar has higher fructose levels than refined sugar and is highly processed. Honey is a more Paleo option.
Elizabeth’s Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
- For Macaroons:
- 1 teaspoon melted coconut oil
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1-3/4 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
- For Chocolate:
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and then grease paper with the coconut oil.
- For Macaroons: Whisk together the egg whites, contents of the vanilla bean (vanilla pod can be discarded), vanilla extract and salt in a medium metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Add the honey and whisk intermittently until very warm to the touch, about 2-3 minutes. The mixture should look frothy. Remove from heat.
- Add the coconut and fold into the warm mixture until all of the liquid is absorbed. You may need to let it sit for a few minutes and fold again.
- Fill a 1-ounce mini ice cream scoop (1-3/4 inch diameter) with batter and pack to make a compact scoop. Place each scoop 1 inch apart on pan and bake for 25 minutes or until the macaroons are a deep golden brown. Let cool completely before dipping in chocolate.
- For Chocolate: Combine the coconut oil, honey, and salt in a small pot. Heat to melt the coconut oil. Place the cocoa powder in a small bowl and pour the warm mixture over cocoa powder. Whisk to combine.
- Dip the cooled macaroons into the chocolate, coating the bottom of the macaroon (and up about a quarter of the macaroon or as far as you desire.) Place each on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and refrigerate to set.
- Macaroons are best the day they are baked but can be stored refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.