I consider chef Chloe Coscarelli to be a culinary genius. I’ve posted before about my love of her first cookbook (all vegan!), Chloe’s Kitchen, which is quickly becoming one of those beloved cookbooks of mine — joining the ranks of the other tattered, torn and food-splattered but frequently used books in my collection. I love her recipes because she has a knack for not only making things taste amazing, but making them super simple and un-daunting, which is a daunting task in itself! And while many (but certainly not all) of her recipes call for gluten-containing ingredients, they can easily be adapted to be gluten-free. In fact, she has a section in the front of her book all about gluten-free substitutions. Personally, I’ve made many of her recipes substituting gluten-free ingredients, including her baked macaroni (which I made with quinoa and corn mini shell noodles and brown rice flour for the roux), with stellar results.
But Chloe is perhaps most famous for her dessert recipes (she won Cupcake Wars on Food Network, and was the first all-vegan chef to do so), many of which I have sadly not had the chance to make because of the sugar factor (she indicates in her book that many of her dessert recipes can be made with gluten-free flours). I’ve found that it’s one thing to substitute gluten-free flours, but things get really tricky when you start messing with the sugar.
As many of you may know if you’ve been following this site for awhile, I avoid refined sugars due to a history of candida albicans and health problems which can be exacerbated by sugar intake. In fact, I believe that consuming refined sugars, while probably OK in moderation, can wreak havoc on anyone’s health when done to excess. With candida, I must be even more careful, especially after being on antibiotics for over a year. I went through a period of not eating any fruit or sugar, then slowly adding back non-refined, low glycemic sweeteners on occasion. Otherwise, I use stevia if I need a sweetener. I have also been advised to avoid fructose due to Lyme, which is why you will notice that agave nectar, while a staple of my baking in the past, is no longer used in my recipes. I tend to have the same attitude toward agave as I do toward regular sugar — fine in moderation, but problematic in excess, or even if consumed daily. However, these sweeteners can be especially problematic for people with health issues such as candida or Lyme, and should therefore be avoided.
For these reasons, Chloe’s desserts have both tempted and haunted me since I’ve had her book. Not to mention the fact that she has a new dessert book out, Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, which I have purposely not bought knowing it will just taunt me to no end.
This weekend, I finally succumbed to my temptations and decided to tackle and modify a Chloe dessert recipe using a gluten-free flour and a sugar substitute. While I don’t even bake with unrefined sugar substitutes much anymore, I figured if I was going to bake something, it might as well be very, very good. In the end, I went with her Chocolate Chip Banana Cake recipe, which is on her website. Now, if any of you are also vegan, gluten-free and trying to avoid refined sugars, you’ll know that finding chocolate chips that meet your dietary requirements is completely impossible. They just don’t exist. So I usually try to avoid recipes calling for them, or use something else such as nuts or dried fruit — which sometimes (OK, probably most of the time) just doesn’t hit the spot in the way gooey chocolate does.
The reason I decided to go with a recipe calling for chocolate chips, however, is that I recently discovered what I imagine is a somewhat new product from the brand Coconut Secret, their Peruvian Crunch chocolate bar. It is simply dark chocolate, coconut and organic coconut crystals (dried coconut nectar). And it is TO. DIE. FOR. I almost felt like it was a waste of such an amazing chocolate bar to chop it up and mix it with other things. In fact, few recipes would actually justify such an act. But I felt that chocolate chunk banana bread had to be one of those recipes. And it was totally worth it.
I made some other changes to Chloe’s original recipe in addition to my flour and sugar substitutions. Many of the changes were based on what I had on hand. I used olive oil instead of canola oil (I don’t ever have the latter on hand) and unsweetened almond milk in place of canned coconut milk (same thing — I always have almond milk on hand, almost never canned coconut milk). I also decreased the amount of chocolate chunks because I wanted to keep it to only one bar — otherwise, it could start getting ridiculously pricey just to make banana bread. I also omitted the salt, just to experiment for those trying to watch their salt intake whether it would make a difference. It was still amazingly tasty and flavorful. Though it would be interesting if someone did a taste-test to compare the salted and non-salted versions side-by-side. Finally, I had run out of ground ginger so omitted that from the recipe, and it was still extremely flavorful and well-spiced. I could also easily see this recipe being good with shredded coconut (it’s already in the chocolate bar, so it adds a nice flavor punch), chopped walnuts, or even some orange zest if you’re feeling super adventurous.
Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread:
Adapted from the amazing Chloe Coscarelli’s recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Cake at Chefchloe.com
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 2 large bananas)
1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond or coconut milk to be soy-free, soy or rice milk will make it nut-free)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for greasing pan
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon, I had just run out)
1 chocolate bar such as Coconut Secret Peruvian Crunch, chopped (yields about 1/2 cup)
1. Lightly grease a 5×10″ loaf pan with olive oil. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, xanthan gum, coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda and spices.
3. In a separate bowl, gently whisk together mashed banana, oil, milk, vinegar and vanilla extract. Slowly add to dry ingredients and whisk until just combined, being careful not to overmix.
4. Fold in chocolate chunks. Pour batter into pre-greased load pan and bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (no wet batter). Remove from oven an let sit for about 1/2 hour. Then remove from loaf pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.