Those of you who saw last week’s post about Challah now know that I have a special fondness for food items with a sweet flavor profile. I believe this love of sweet things is one of the reasons Halloween is my favorite holiday. I mean, sure, dressing up in a costume can be creative (not looking at you 2-holes-in-sheet ghost) and “fun” but, really, it seems logical that part of the enjoyment is a result of the sugar-high that results from eating 12 trial-size Snickers in a 5-minute span. Plus there is a special euphoria that comes from the scientifically proven fact that trial-size candy is practically calorie-free (because it is so small – duh).
But, as much as I love a good Halloween candy binge (which, as any grown-up knows, takes place on the exact day you buy the candy “for the trick-or-treaters”), I feel better, sleep better and look better when I limit how much sugar I eat. And I have found that it’s easier for me to avoid sugar completely, than to just eat a little bit. Something about that little bit of sweet is just enough to get me thinking about all the many and varied ways I could incorporate something sweet into my daily diet. So I have a pretty disciplined food policy where I have a day (sometimes 2) per week when I have sweets, but the other 5-6 days, I tried to avoid any kind of sweet food… even limiting how much fruit I eat. I don’t even eat or drink foods with non-calorie sweeteners. While this method is not for everyone, nor would it work for everyone, it works for me. As long as I am not triggering my sweet taste buds, I can pretty easily avoid the temptation to eat sugary foods.
The thing is, though, sometimes I just want chocolate, or some delicious buttery treat, etc., and that is when I find myself getting creative with my culinary skills and coming up with a non-sweet thing that will still taste decadent and satisfying. My most recent creation is chocolate nut and fruit bark made with 100% chocolate… meaning only chocolate and no sugar.
Now, I am not going to look you in the face and lie to you about how you will not miss the sugar if you try making this bark. That would not only be wrong, but it would also be cruel. But, if you are an adventurous foodie-type who enjoys trying “interesting” new things, or you are looking for a new snack that is an antioxidant superfood powerhouse, this is for you. And, if you’re not that type, I invite you to consider trying this recipe with an 85-90% chocolate which is very low in sugar. Then, upon tasting it, simply say to yourself “I know this is not as sweet as what I am used to, but how does it taste…is the chocolate flavor more noticeable… do I like this texture… can I taste the nuts and how do they taste in combination with the fruit and the chocolate?” Take time to eat that first scary bite…let the chocolate melt in your mouth for a few seconds. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it and how little you miss the sweetness.
A word of advice: I really hope this goes without saying, but unless you wish to be even more despised than the house that gives out the Halloween apple, do not – and I cannot stress this enough – DO NOT think for one second this is a suitable Halloween “treat.” No. This is an adult treat for grown-ups who are trying to incorporate super cool (read “healthy”) habits into their lives. No one needs to be making this kind of choice for some poor, little unsuspecting child dressed in a Spiderman costume. Don’t be that house. 😉
Here is my “recipe” for this non-sweet chocolate bark.
Unsweetened Chocolate Bark with Raw Nuts and Dried Figs by annelovescoffeemore
4 oz. unsweetened* chocolate
1/2 cup of raw nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, etc.)
4 dried figs, sliced
a sprinkle of sea salt
* If you really don’t want to do unsweetened, you can use 4 ounces of 70%, 85% or 90% chocolate – it will work just as well.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. I don’t have a double boiler and so I put my chocolate in a 1-cup sized wide-mouth mason jar and placed that in a pan filled with about a 1 1/2 inches of water (the water heats up and melts the chocolate without breaking the glass). Again – important – low heat.
While the chocolate is melting, slice the dried figs and spread them out on a piece of parchment paper. Do the same with the raw nuts. Contain the nuts/figs mixture to an area on the parchment that is about 3 inches by 7 inches (the size of a large chocolate bar). When the chocolate is melted, pour it evenly over the nuts/figs to cover them completely. Sprinkle with sea salt, if you like. Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes and then finish cooling in the refrigerator to completely harden the chocolate.
So what do you think? Does the idea of no-sweet chocolate bark seem crazy? So crazy that you’ll give it a try? Let me know… 🙂
City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.