HEALTHY, FESTIVE, FEEL-GOOD DESSERTS

December 13, 2020 Cheryl Telfer

CakeEven the most health-conscious of us can find the plethora of dessert options during the holidays too tempting to deny, and I am no exception. Whether it is rich chocolate desserts, or intensely fruity puddings, I can easily find my fingers in too many pies, or puddings. However, there is no point in feeling guilty about enjoying more sweet desserts than you normally would. Instead, focus on making your own. That way you can tailor them to suit your personal needs. Opting for sweeteners like agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut sugar and even yacon syrup, is a great way to add some sugar, without sending the blood sugar levels through the roof. This is because they sit lower on the glycemic index, meaning the release of energy will be steadier than refined sugars, unlike white cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

And it is not just the sugars that can be substituted. Perhaps gluten doesn’t sit well with you, or you want to cut back on the low nutrient refined grains. There are so many options now with gluten-free flours, which contain ingredients like rice flour, buckwheat flour and potato starch. I used this in both the Christmas cake and Gingerbread cookie recipes. If you tolerate nuts well, almond meal adds a sweet nutty flavor to any dessert recipe that is traditionally cooked with all-purpose flour.

Some might be concerned about how well these gluten-free flours can bind, especially if you follow a dairy-free diet. Fortunately, some great natural binding ingredients work as thickeners, or are gelatinous. Arrowroot starch is a reliable gluten-free thickener and is an alternative to the highly processed cornstarch. The ultimate egg substitute for me is a chia egg, followed by flaxseed egg. Simply milling these seeds and adding 3-parts water to 1-part seeds, will give you a gel binder that is also highly nutrient-rich. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and a rich source of fiber, which will also help slow down digestion, avoiding the dreaded sugar spike and subsequent crash.

Need a little inspiration on how to add some nutrients back into your desserts this Winter? Then these three recipes are a great place to start. The fruit-rich Christmas cake has much of its sweetness from the dried fruit, so going for a little less unrefined brown sugar than is often is required for this cake, does not make this any less of a dessert. The gingerbread biscuits utilize the almond meal, arrowroot starch and gluten-free all-purpose flour to ensure a crisp cookie.

For the ultimate cozy hot drink, try the festive eggnog latte. The spice blend is too comforting for anyone to miss out on, so making this vegan means we can all enjoy this delicious drink. You can thank the coconut cream for its velvety texture, but also for being a source of antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamin E, which is essential for protecting the skin from free radicals.

Give these recipes a go to feel all the joy this holiday, without any of the guilt! 

Cookies

Even the most health-conscious of us can find the plethora of dessert options during the holidays too tempting to deny, and I am no exception. Whether it is rich chocolate desserts, or intensely fruity puddings, I can easily find my fingers in too many pies, or puddings. However, there is no point in feeling guilty about enjoying more sweet desserts than you normally would. Instead, focus on making your own. That way you can tailor them to suit your personal needs. Opting for sweeteners like agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut sugar and even yacon syrup, is a great way to add some sugar, without sending the blood sugar levels through the roof. This is because they sit lower on the glycemic index, meaning the release of energy will be steadier than refined sugars, unlike white cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

And it is not just the sugars that can be substituted. Perhaps gluten doesn’t sit well with you, or you want to cut back on the low nutrient refined grains. There are so many options now with gluten-free flours, which contain ingredients like rice flour, buckwheat flour and potato starch. I used this in both the Christmas cake and Gingerbread cookie recipes. If you tolerate nuts well, almond meal adds a sweet nutty flavor to any dessert recipe that is traditionally cooked with all-purpose flour.

Some might be concerned about how well these gluten-free flours can bind, especially if you follow a dairy-free diet. Fortunately, some great natural binding ingredients work as thickeners, or are gelatinous. Arrowroot starch is a reliable gluten-free thickener and is an alternative to the highly processed cornstarch. The ultimate egg substitute for me is a chia egg, followed by flaxseed egg. Simply milling these seeds and adding 3-parts water to 1-part seeds, will give you a gel binder that is also highly nutrient-rich. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and a rich source of fiber, which will also help slow down digestion, avoiding the dreaded sugar spike and subsequent crash.

Need a little inspiration on how to add some nutrients back into your desserts this Winter? Then these three recipes are a great place to start. The fruit-rich Christmas cake has much of its sweetness from the dried fruit, so going for a little less unrefined brown sugar than is often is required for this cake, does not make this any less of a dessert. The gingerbread biscuits utilize the almond meal, arrowroot starch and gluten-free all-purpose flour to ensure a crisp cookie.

For the ultimate cozy hot drink, try the festive eggnog latte. The spice blend is too comforting for anyone to miss out on, so making this vegan means we can all enjoy this delicious drink. You can thank the coconut cream for its velvety texture, but also for being a source of antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamin E, which is essential for protecting the skin from free radicals.

Give these recipes a go to feel all the joy this holiday, without any of the guilt! 

Christmas Cake
Gluten-free/ Dairy-free Christmas Cake

Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours (approx)
Total time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Equipment:
• 20”x 7” deep round cake tin
• parchment or greaseproof paper,
• 2 x mixing bowls
• blender

Ingredients:
• 3½ cups mixed dried fruit
• 1¼ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
• 1 cup almond meal
• ½ cup desiccated coconut
• 2 tbsp mixed spice
• 1 grated orange rind and juice
• 2 tbsp brandy (optional)
• ½ cup soft brown sugar
• 1 stick plus 1 tbsp vegan butter (125g)
• 3 tbsp chia eggs (1 tbsp milled chia seeds + 3 tbsp water)
• 1/2 cup plant milk (almond milk works well)

Topping
1 can organic coconut cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Method 
1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
2. Rub some coconut oil around the inside of the round cake tin, and line with a double layer of parchment or greaseproof paper.
3. Take a 300mm/12” square of parchment, fold the corners to meet in the middle, press to make folded flaps. This will be used to reduce the risk of burning the cake top.
4. Put the flour, almond meal, desiccated coconut and mixed spice into a bowl and stir to combine.
5. Add the mixed dried fruit into the mixing bowl and stir with the other dry ingredients.
6. Grate in the orange rind.
7. In another bowl, blend the sugar and vegan butter until fluffy. Then add in a tablespoon at a time of the chia egg. Finally add the plant milk, juice of the orange and brandy, and blend again.
8. Pour the wet ingredients onto the prepared fruit and flour, and mix everything well.
9. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, pushing it down and smoothing the top.
10. Place the prepared parchment paper square over the cake tin, with the folded flaps pointing down. The paper should loosely cover the tin when it goes into the oven.
11. Bake for 2 hours on 300ºF.
12. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 12 hours.
13. When quite cold, remove the cake from the tin and store the cake in a foil wrap. Refrigerate or add the topping if you are ready to serve.
14. To make the topping, whip the coconut cream and powdered sugar together until fluffy. Stirring the coconut cream in the fridge will allow it to be firmer.
15. Spoon the topping onto the cake to cover just the top, and then finish with fresh seasonal fruit like cranberries, or even dried orange slices, as pictured.

Gluten-free/ Dairy-free Christmas Cake

Christmas CakeTime: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours (approx)
Total time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Equipment:
• 20”x 7” deep round cake tin
• parchment or greaseproof paper,
• 2 x mixing bowls
• blender

Ingredients:
• 3½ cups mixed dried fruit
• 1¼ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
• 1 cup almond meal
• ½ cup desiccated coconut
• 2 tbsp mixed spice
• 1 grated orange rind and juice
• 2 tbsp brandy (optional)
• ½ cup soft brown sugar
• 1 stick plus 1 tbsp vegan butter (125g)
• 3 tbsp chia eggs (1 tbsp milled chia seeds + 3 tbsp water)
• 1/2 cup plant milk (almond milk works well)

Topping
1 can organic coconut cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Method 
1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
2. Rub some coconut oil around the inside of the round cake tin, and line with a double layer of parchment or greaseproof paper.
3. Take a 300mm/12” square of parchment, fold the corners to meet in the middle, press to make folded flaps. This will be used to reduce the risk of burning the cake top.
4. Put the flour, almond meal, desiccated coconut and mixed spice into a bowl and stir to combine.
5. Add the mixed dried fruit into the mixing bowl and stir with the other dry ingredients.
6. Grate in the orange rind.
7. In another bowl, blend the sugar and vegan butter until fluffy. Then add in a tablespoon at a time of the chia egg. Finally add the plant milk, juice of the orange and brandy, and blend again.
8. Pour the wet ingredients onto the prepared fruit and flour, and mix everything well.
9. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, pushing it down and smoothing the top.
10. Place the prepared parchment paper square over the cake tin, with the folded flaps pointing down. The paper should loosely cover the tin when it goes into the oven.
11. Bake for 2 hours on 300ºF.
12. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 12 hours.
13. When quite cold, remove the cake from the tin and store the cake in a foil wrap. Refrigerate or add the topping if you are ready to serve.
14. To make the topping, whip the coconut cream and powdered sugar together until fluffy. Stirring the coconut cream in the fridge will allow it to be firmer.
15. Spoon the topping onto the cake to cover just the top, and then finish with fresh seasonal fruit like cranberries, or even dried orange slices, as pictured.

Vegan Eggnog Latte
Vegan Eggnog Latte

Serves 2
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
• 2 cups plant milk
• 1 tbsp organic coconut cream
• 1 cardamom pod
• ¼ tsp cloves
• ½ tsp nutmeg
• 1½ tsp cinnamon
• 2 tsp maple syrup

Method:
1. Warm the plant milk in a small pan, on medium heat on the stovetop. Add the spices, and using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir and break down any clumpy bits of spice.
2. When the steam starts to rise and it simmers more rapidly, turn the heat to low.
3. Stir in the coconut cream, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
4. When the coconut cream melts, and the spices have blended in to give it a warm creamy color, turn the heat off and pour to fill your mugs 3/4 full. Remember to take out the cardamom pod.
5. Then in a milk frother, froth the rest. Alternatively, you can let the latte coming to a rolling boil for a minute, which will make it a bit frothy.
6. Finally, fill the mugs to the top and sprinkle a little nutmeg or cinnamon on top. 

Vegan Eggnog Latte

Eggnog LatteServes 2
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
• 2 cups plant milk
• 1 tbsp organic coconut cream
• 1 cardamom pod
• ¼ tsp cloves
• ½ tsp nutmeg
• 1½ tsp cinnamon
• 2 tsp maple syrup


Method
:
1. Warm the plant milk in a small pan, on medium heat on the stovetop. Add the spices, and using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir and break down any clumpy bits of spice.
2. When the steam starts to rise and it simmers more rapidly, turn the heat to low.
3. Stir in the coconut cream, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
4. When the coconut cream melts, and the spices have blended in to give it a warm creamy color, turn the heat off and pour to fill your mugs 3/4 full. Remember to take out the cardamom pod.
5. Then in a milk frother, froth the rest. Alternatively, you can let the latte coming to a rolling boil for a minute, which will make it a bit frothy.
6. Finally, fill the mugs to the top and sprinkle a little nutmeg or cinnamon on top. 

Gingerbread Cookies
Gluten-free Gingerbread Men Cookies

Makes 10-15 cookies

Time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 13 minutes
Total time: 53 minutes

Ingredients
• 1 cup almond meal
• ⅓ cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup arrowroot starch
• 2 tsp ground ginger
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼ tsp baking soda
• ⅛ tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
• 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

Decorating:
• ¾ cup icing sugar for piping
• 15 ml warm water

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, gluten-free AP flour, arrowroot starch, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda and stir to combine.
3. Add in the coconut oil, maple syrup and molasses, and stir again until a sticky dough is formed. I find using your hands work best.
4. Place the wrapped dough in the freezer for 30 minutes to help it firm up. (Or you could place it in the fridge overnight if you want to make this a day in advance.)
5. Place the dough in the center of a large piece of parchment paper, and sprinkle it with a bit of arrowroot starch to help prevent sticking. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a flat sheet, about 1/4-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to create the gingerbread men, and then pull away the excess dough to reveal each shape. Re-roll the dough to create more shapes.
6. Bake the cookies at 350ºF for about 13 minutes for a crisp cookie.
7. Allow cookies to cool completely on the pan before icing and serving. They will firm up as they cool.
8. To make the icing, mix the icing sugar and warm water. If it is too thick, add a little more water. If it is too runny, add a little more icing sugar. Leave to cool in the fridge for 15 minutes to thicken up slightly. Spoon the mix into a piping bag with a small nozzle, or a plastic sandwich bag, with a tiny tip cut in one corner. Decorate the cookies and leave for 30 mins to harden before serving.
9. These cookies can be stored uncovered on the counter for up to 3 days, or they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, freeze them for up to 3 months. 

Gluten-free Gingerbread Men Cookies

Gingerbread CookiesMakes 10-15 cookies

Time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 13 minutes
Total time: 53 minutes

Ingredients
• 1 cup almond meal
• ⅓ cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup arrowroot starch
• 2 tsp ground ginger
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼ tsp baking soda
• ⅛ tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
• 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

Decorating:
• ¾ cup icing sugar for piping
• 15 ml warm water

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, gluten-free AP flour, arrowroot starch, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda and stir to combine.
3. Add in the coconut oil, maple syrup and molasses, and stir again until a sticky dough is formed. I find using your hands work best.
4. Place the wrapped dough in the freezer for 30 minutes to help it firm up. (Or you could place it in the fridge overnight if you want to make this a day in advance.)
5. Place the dough in the center of a large piece of parchment paper, and sprinkle it with a bit of arrowroot starch to help prevent sticking. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a flat sheet, about 1/4-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to create the gingerbread men, and then pull away the excess dough to reveal each shape. Re-roll the dough to create more shapes.
6. Bake the cookies at 350ºF for about 13 minutes for a crisp cookie.
7. Allow cookies to cool completely on the pan before icing and serving. They will firm up as they cool.
8. To make the icing, mix the icing sugar and warm water. If it is too thick, add a little more water. If it is too runny, add a little more icing sugar. Leave to cool in the fridge for 15 minutes to thicken up slightly. Spoon the mix into a piping bag with a small nozzle, or a plastic sandwich bag, with a tiny tip cut in one corner. Decorate the cookies and leave for 30 mins to harden before serving.
9. These cookies can be stored uncovered on the counter for up to 3 days, or they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, freeze them for up to 3 months. 

Copyright Cheryl Telfer 2020
hello@cheryltelfer.com, cheryltelfer.com 

What to Read Next

Skincare Powered by Functional Nutrition

Skincare Powered by Functional Nutrition

While studying Nutrition as an undergraduate, I learnt about the body and how it responds to its environment, toxins, nutrition and stress, which is what later inspired me to progress...

Read more
The Wonderful World of Functional Mushrooms

The Wonderful World of Functional Mushrooms

When you think of mushrooms, what first comes to mind? Portobellos? Those little, white button mushrooms on pizza? Or the kind that people consume for hallucinogenic effects? There’s actually a...

Read more
Healthy, Festive, Feel-good Desserts

Healthy, Festive, Feel-good Desserts

Even the most health-conscious of us can find the plethora of dessert options during the holidays too tempting to deny, and I am no exception. Whether it is rich chocolate...

Read more