There are cake people and there are pie people. My husband is a pie person.
When I was young, I was on Team Cake, but, now, I don’t think I am either.
Most cakes are dry and the frosting so cloyingly sweet, you can’t really enjoy much more than choking down a bite. Alternatively, a pie crust can be too thick and then turn gummy with an overly sweet filling. The essential part of the Thanksgiving dessert table, pecan pie, comes to mind.
As I celebrated another year in July, I figured I could play up the birthday week by making a few (too many) new desserts. When I say desserts, you know I mean sweet treats that are always paleo, free from refined sugars and surprisingly, often vegan.
During this brief excuse to be a tad hedonistic, this is one of the recipes that won top billing. Though it is not vegan since it uses eggs, it is paleo and free from refined sugar and it’s neither a cake nor a pie.
Instead, it is everything I love and nothing I don’t. It is moist, not too sweet and loaded with wholesome ingredients. Whether you make this a breakfast treat, snack or dessert, you’re going to love it more with every bite.
The original recipe, Dark Chocolate Almond Joy Bars, comes from Elana’s Pantry and calls for using both chocolate chips and coconut sugar. The first time I made the recipe, I knew that I could cut back on the coconut sugar by 1/4 cup and no one would know. As usual, no one said “it’s not sweet enough,” but rather asked for another piece.
When I made it for a large group of chefs, foodies, nutritionists, dietitians, a marketing maven, art director and budding film school student, everyone wanted to know about the recipe and the nutritionist and the dietitian were torn between who was going to get to take the leftovers home.
And while the chocolate and coconut, hence the name Almond Joy, was originally what attracted me to this recipe, it also got me thinking that the batter without the chocolate chips is a consummate canvas for whatever the season or your pantry presents.
Get creative and replace the chocolate chips with pureed pumpkin in the winter, chopped apples with cinnamon and nuts in the winter, strawberries in the spring and blueberries in the summer.
When Whole Foods recently had big containers of organic blueberries on sale, we stocked up and put them in the freezer for occasions just like this.
And I am so, so glad we did.
Paleo Blueberry Squares
If you love a moist cake and indulgences that are not excessively sweet, these bars will make a quick breakfast, memorable snack, guilt-free dessert or all three. Let the batter (without the blueberries) be a canvas and add whatever you have or is in season. Diced apples, raspberries, pumpkin puree or the original recipe's use of 3/4 cup chocolate chips--1/2 cup in the batter and 1/4 sprinkled on top and then sprinkle the coconut. Alternatively, the topping could become more of a streusel with a combination of 2-3 tablespoons shredded coconut, 2-3 tablespoons chopped or sliced nuts, 1 tablespoon coconut sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
- 4 pastured eggs
- 3/4 cup full-fat organic coconut milk
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla optional
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup organic blueberries depending on the season, you could also use pureed pumpkin, raspberries, peaches, apples, etc.--if using chocolate chips, add 1/2 to the base and reserve 1/4 cup for the topping
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8x8 baking dish.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, coconut sugar and vanilla, if using. Then add the flours and salt and stir well until combined and no lumps remain. It may be helpful to use a small hand-held mixer at this step to ensure all clumps are broken up, but, so far, a wooden spoon has worked fine.
Add the add-in fruit or chocolate chips and stir again. Just before baking, add the baking soda and stir well to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and then sprinkle your topping of choice--shredded coconut, coconut and chocolate chips or streusel.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Test doneness by sticking a knife or toothpick in the center of the dish. It is done when it comes out clean or with just a few crumbs on it.
When it is ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 1 hour.
Cut into 12-16 squares and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers for tomorrow's breakfast, mid-morning or afternoon snack or evening dessert.
*If making the chocolate chip version, you will take 3/4 cup chips and use 1/2 cup in the batter and reserve 1/4 cup for the topping.
*If you want to make a streusel topping, see suggested recipe above as described in the summary.