A second chance
In college I finally gave peanut butter another try. I cautiously spread a thin layer across a slice of sprouted whole grain bread. I didn’t mind it. The second try wasn’t bad. By the third try II actually liked it. Fast forward 15 years and my favorite mini-meal was peanut butter slathered on fresh or frozen (over-ripe) bananas.
The cookie test
Recipes for gluten free cookies abound, but recipes for grain-free, starch-free, flourless cookies are far less common. Recently I set out to test a gluten-free, grain-free, flourless peanut butter cookie seven ways. I started with Bette Hagmen’s Flourless Peanut Butter Cookie recipe, which I’ve seen published on multiple web sites.
I tried the recipe with almond butter one weekend, peanut butter the next. I tried it with two sugar-free, zero-carb sweeteners (Erythritol and Lakanto), with a low carb, sugar alternative for baking (Nu Naturals More Fiber Baking Blend), with xylitol (40% fewer calories than sugar), and with coconut palm sugar (a low glycemic sweetener with the same calories value as sugar).
Open to experiment
I usually sweeten desserts with stevia, dried fruit, a combination of honey or maple syrup with stevia, or all three of these. Honey I can buy from farmers and stores that support local bee keepers. Pure maple syrup I can buy almost anywhere. Stevia allows me to cut the amount of caloric sweetener I use (honey or maple syrup).
Xylitol, erythritol, and Lakanto are made in a laboratory, although they mimic sweeteners naturally found in vegetables and fruits. You can’t make them or grow them at home. Still, they may help people who want and need to reduce or eliminate sugar and want sweeteners they can use cup for cup to replace sugar in recipes. More Fiber baking blend contains a variety of fibers and too much fiber can be irritating to some people.You'll have to experiment to see how you do with these sweeteners.
Like I said, this was an experiment. I’m not endorsing any of these alternative sweeteners. I think they’re all safe but I’m not sure how much I will use them in my classes and recipes. (Stevia I’m sold on and have used for years with no digestive distress or other ill-effects.) I want to see what more people think of the flavor and texture of recipes made from them and whether many people experience gas, bloating,or loose stools from the indigestible carbohydrates contained in xylitol, erythritol, and Lakanto, and from the fibers in the baking blend.About xylitol
Xylitol is a low-glycemic sweetener metabolized without insulin. It’s slowly absorbed and does not cause the sharp increase in blood sugar or the insulin response that usually follows consumption of other carbohydrates. It’s safe for diabetics and anyone else who wants to reduce his/her sugar intake. It has been clinically proven to fight tooth decay and other infections in the mouth.
Note: the dried apricot in the recipe on the right was used to mark one of the cookie tray so I would know which batch contained the xylitol when baking against another batch with a similar sweetener.Xylitol is a naturally-occurring sweetener (scientists classify it as a polyol) found in many fruits and vegetables. It can be produced by the human body during normal glucose metabolism. It tastes as sweet as sucrose and has no after-taste. It has a slightly cooling taste on the tongue. Its safety has been proven in long-term clinical studies worldwide. Nevertheless, as with other polyols, large quantities may have a laxative or gas producing effect. The amount tolerated varies with individual susceptibility and body weight. Most adults can tolerate at least 40 grams per day.
Erythritol a naturally-occurring sweetener found in many fruits and vegetables. It is three fourths as sweet as sucrose, has no after-taste, and is safe for diabetics. It is a zero-glycemic sweetener that does not stimulate an insulin response. It’s safe for diabetics and anyone else seeking a safer alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. The safety of Erythritol has been proven in long-term clinical studies and has been confirmed by all the major regulatory bodies worldwide. Unlike other polyols, it does not produce a laxative effect. I used Nut Naturals Sweet Health brand erythritol for my tests.
The founder of the Body Ecology Diet, Donna Gates, developed a sugar substitute that tastes a lot like sugar (not 100%) without sugar's adverse health effects. This zero calorie, zero glycemic index sweetener is is made from fermented erythritol and the extract of Luo Han Guo, an antioxidant-rich fruit used in Asian. Where as xylitol and erythritol are white, like sugar, Latanto has a beige color like demurara or castor sugar. The main disadvantage to Lakanto is it’s high price tag. It costs more than any of the alternative sweeteners I tried.
About More Fiber Baking Blend
More Fiber Baking Blend contains NuStevia, Maltodextrin, Dextrin, Oat Fiber, Acacia Gum, Tapioca Flour, Guar Gum & Xanthan Gum. Because the stevia is mixed with fibers and starches you can measure this one for one (tablespoon for tablespoon or cup for cup) to replace sugar in cookies, cakes, and muffins.
NOTE: If you have celiac disease, do not use this product because it contains oat fiber.
Made from the sweet nectar of the coconut palm tree, coconut palm sugar is a pure and simple low-glycemic cane sugar alternative. that provides the energy and nutrition your body needs for a healthy lifestyle. If the product you buy contains pure palm sugar and is not mixed with sucrose, it contains more potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron as well as trace amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C than other forms of sugar. It contains roughly the same amount of carbohydrates and calories as sugar. I used palm sugar from EnerHealth Botanicals.
This unusual dark chocolate is organic, sugar-free, lactose-free, sweetened with xylitol, and made with a proprietary blend of herbs, such as Momordica (to help control blood sugar), Bioperin (to increase absorption of nutrients), Noni (an immune system modulator that contains a lot of antioxidants), Febnol (reduces sugar absorptionin the intestines), Green Tea Extract (a strong antioxdiant and antibacterial), and Ellagic acid (an antioxicant, antimicrobial, and liver detoxifier). I received samples of it and wanted to try it in some recipes to see how it performs.
Note: You cannot bake with this xylitol sweetened chocolate because it burns above 108 degrees F. I chopped and added it to some of the cookie dough as chips and they burned. The company confirmed this and suggested using it in sauces (coarsely chopped and melted with other liquids in a recipe) or melted and spooned over baked goods once they have cooled. That turned out great!
My team of tasters
I didn’t want to overdose on cookies, so I made half batches of each recipe variations I wanted to try. I also recruited 10 friends, three children and five adults (ages 2 to 50-something). The kids were great taste testers with no expectations.
My test results
The recipe was easy to assemble. All of the granular sweeteners produced a cookie with the look and texture you’d expect. The cookies made with erythritol, Lakanto, and xylitol had a cooler taste on the tongue and a difficult to describe flavor that’s different from sugar, but not unpleasant. The cookies made with coconut palm sugar had a softer, moister texture and slightly les sweet taste than the other. None of the alternatives produced a cookie that tasted exactly like a sugar-sweetened cookie, but I think you (or I) could get used to the taste of the alternative sweeteners and cookies.
My tasters preferred the cookies made with the More Fiber stevia baking blend followed by the erythritol and Lakanto, followed by the batch made with xylitol. The coconut palm sugar batch was rated “ok” but not great. I agreed with them.
Everyone liked the cookies topped with melted xylitol-sweetened sugar, especially the three kids who tried them and asked for seconds. One of my friends, who tried the cookies with and without xylitol and the xylitol-sweetened chocolate on different weekends said he noticed intestinal gas from the xylitol-sweetened cookies and the ones topped with xylitol-sweetened chocolate. I thought I noticed some but I'll have to work with it more to know for sure. We both have sensitive digestion. Some people use xylitol regularly and say they don't notice any negative effects. You be the judge. Let me know if you try the recipe, what sweetener you use, and what you and your family think of the results.
Surprisingly, the peanut butter cookies didn't taste that peanut buttery. I'm not sure why, but the peanut taste was very slight. Ditto for the almond taste in the almond. Of the two, I liked the peanut butter version best and so did most of my taste testers.Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Prep: 20 minutes Cooking time: 8 to 10 minutes Yield: about 24 cookies
I found several different version of this recipe, originally created by the late Bette Hagman and published in her book, The Gluten Free Gourmet. It has a wonderful cookie texture without any flour or starch. The recipe called for white sugar. I tested it with a variety of alternative sweeteners. You can use any of the granulated sweeteners listed below. NOTE: If you have celiac disease, do not use the Nu Naturals More Fiber Baking Blend because it contains oat fiber.
1 cup unsweetened, non-hydrogenated peanut butter
1 cup xylitol, erythritol, Latanto, Nu Naturals More Fiber Baking Blend, or Palm Sugar
2 medium to large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for ease of clean up.
- Cream the peanut butter and sugar alternative in a bowl with a sturdy wooden spoon or the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Mix in the eggs, baking powder, and optional vanilla. Mix until only enough to thoroughly combine.
- The dough will be sticky. Place a bowl of water next to you. Scoop the dough out by rounded tablespoons. With moist hands, roll into balls, about 1-inch in size.
- Place the dough on prepared pan(s) about 3 inches apart. Flatten each cookie slightly with the tines of a fork pressed first in one direction, then in the other. Dip the fork in water periodically to keep the dough from sticking. Leave about 1/2-inch of space between each cookie.
- Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly golden on the top and bottom. Let cookies cool on the baking tray for at least 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. They will harden as they cool.
- Replace peanut butter with roasted almond, cashew, or cashew macacamia nut butter above.
- Sugar Dipped Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies: Before flattening each ball of dough, roll it in a bowl of xylitol, erythritol, Lakanto, or coconut palm sugar, then flatten and bake as directed above.
- Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips: Add 1/2 to 1 cup of bittersweet dark chocolate or chocolate chips to the cookie dough before shaping and baking. For a sugar-free chip alternative, try cocoa nibs. They’re not sweet, so you may need additional sweetener in the recipe.
- Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate: Coarsely chop 2 to 4 ounces of xylitol sweetened Healthy Chocolate from The Healthy Chocolate Company using a serrated knife. Melt in a double boiler or in a saucepan over very low heat. When cookies have cooled, spoon melted chocolate over each one and spread with the back of a spoon. Allow to cool at room temp or refrigerate to harden the chocolate more quickly.