I was first introduced to spelt flour almost a year ago while visiting friends up North. I was breast feeding my son at the time and he was throwing up… a lot. I mean, “pass the baby” at family events made for an intense wet t-shirt contest.
In an attempt to bring his puking down a notch, I cut dairy, processed wheat and sugar out of my diet for a 3 month cleans. So I was hesitant when my friend announced that the tall stack of steaming Norwegian pancakes served at breakfast was made from spelt flour.
He politely informed me that spelt is not only a whole grain, but it is also easier to digest than wheat. And though spelt flour is not a gluten-free flour, many people who are gluten-intolerant can digest spelt flour without the bad side-affects. I was elated and ate Norwegian pancakes gluttonously. And that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship (between me and spelt flour. But I like my friends, too).
I was curious about spelt flour and started digging for more information when we got home. I found out that spelt is a very nutritious grain. For instance, spelt is high in fiber and manganese. This means that it helps your body maintain normal blood sugar levels, promotes optimal functions of your thyroid gland and keeps your bones strong. Spelt also helps your body utilize key nutrients.
With all these joyful perks in mind, I keep a stash of spelt flour the cupboard at all times for those dreary, “this calls for brownies!” days and those all-too-often, “heck… I want to make a pound cake” days. I have swapped out all-purpose wheat flour for spelt with pizza dough, biscuits, cookies, muffins and quick breads galore. It is an easy 1:1 swap, though I have found that spelt does absorb a little more liquid than all-purpose white flour. Sometimes I add a little extra milk, water or oil, depending on the recipe.
. . .
I was skimming the internet for snack-time inspiration the other day when I found these chocolate-coconut blondies. I was instantly smitten. The only little problem was large quantity of sugar (1 whole tightly-packed cup!) to flour ratio. I decided a bit of tinkering was in order.
If you have never substituted maple syrup for brown sugar, consider this the day to do so. Though maple syrup is still a high-calorie sweetener, and you should by no means be guzzling it down like a silver bullet or start dunking your bananas in it like shrimp in butter (because I never do this…), maple syrup does have some nutritional value. Not to the extent of other natural sweeteners, like raw honey, for instance. But the perks are there:
Maple syrup, in fact, has high mineral content. It contains zinc and manganese which help ward-off illness. It also contains calcium and potassium. Maple syrup is loaded with plant-based compounds called polyphenols which work as powerful antioxidants. And like raw honey, maple syrup may help prevent inflammatory diseases like cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s.
Lastly, swapping maple syrup for processed sugar in baked goods may leave you less likely to experience that gas and bloating we are all too well familiar with.
. . .
Sometimes I refer to maple syrup as liquid gold because it is very delicious, and also very expensive. I wanted the blondies to be sweet but I didn’t want to pour a whole cup of maple syrup into them. So I comprised and took the sugar amounts down a notch and split them evenly. I was really pleased with the results.
The brown sugar offered the blondies a tender, cakey crumb. The maple syrup yielded a crackly, sheeny surface and filled my kitchen with the aromas of the gods.
And the coconut. Its not the taste… it’s the texture! is what my husband shouts whenever I add my beloved unsweetened flaky coconut to baked goods. I keep hoping he will just give in and like it. The past 4 years have proven my hopes futile.
And it’s a shame. Because dry, flaky coconut, though high in fat, does contain some fiber. A better source of the nutritional value of coconut would be coconut meat, oil or milk. But he doesn’t have to know that.
So, here you have it. Blondies in all their nutritional goodness: Spelt, maple syrup and coconut. Throw in some bittersweet chocolate for more antioxidants, and if you ask me, keep the butter just the way it is. I like to bathe in real butter every now and then.
Yields 12-16 blondies
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/3 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 pure maple syrup
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup spelt flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- ½ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving two flaps hanging over the edges of the pan. Butter and flour the parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar and maple syrup. Whisk in the egg and beat by hand until mixture is slightly pale, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add all at once to the butter and sugar mixture and stir until just incorporated. Fold in the coconut, chocolate, and walnuts.
Spread batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Scatter the remaining chocolate and walnuts across the top. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Blondies will be golden brown.
Remove pan from oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing blondies from the pan. Slice into pieces lengthwise and crosswise, making them as large or small as you like.
*You could also throw in ½ cup or so of chopped walnuts or pecans.
*I would venture to add even less brown sugar next time I make these. They were plenty sweet. If you try this, let me know how it goes!
*My blondies were soft and a little crumby. I might add another egg the next time around.