Last year, three people gave my husband a tin of gingerbread cookies from World Market. My family loves gingerbread, and they love cookies, so these seemingly innocent crispy little delights soon became like crack for my family. By the time Rob brought home the third tin, I’m pretty sure he sighed “Nooooooooo….”, as he pictured losing control over his late night munchies. Between my two kids and Rob, they polished off all three tins before we left for Santa Fe for Christmas. Sometimes I feel a little deprived in my gluten free life, but after watching the addiction unfolding under my roof, I was actually thankful that trying one of these gingerbread cookies wasn’t an option for me.
I was in World Market last week, and when checking out at the register, two people came up and asked the store clerk where to find the gingerbread cookies. He pointed to no less than five places where four feet tall mountains of the tins were displayed. I decided to ask him how the gingerbread cookie sales were going this year, and I was not shocked to learn hundreds had been purchased already this Christmas season. Crack people, I’m telling you, those things are like crack.
Even though I was deprived the experience of World Market gingerbread cookies, I love to make anything with gingerbread flavor. The signature flavor of gingerbread comes from the type of sweetener used – blackstrap molasses. I LOVE blackstrap molasses – its earthy sweetness and the many nutrients that come along with such a delicious food.
While it’s true that sugar and natural sweeteners in general are not healthy to eat regularly, small amounts of sweet treats are part of life, a part that if missed out on for too long can lead to cravings and binging. Christmas is a particularly tempting time to indulge in sugary foods, but the good news is that it is a short season of the year. My personal way of approaching the sugar that comes with Christmas is to partake in small amounts, making sure to get plenty of healthy veggies and protein too, so I stay grounded and feel good while enjoying the season. And, I also substitute natural sweeteners that do a good job making desserts taste good but at the same time are gentler to my body, giving me a boost of nutrients while my taste buds enjoy.
Blackstrap molasses is a sweetener that has quite a few nutrients that are good for you. Blackstrap molasses is made during the process of refining sugar cane into white table sugar. It is the dark liquid left over after the refining process, and it contains a truckload of important energizing minerals for your body in large amounts. Molasses is known for its high iron content (it contains 20% of the daily recommended amount in just one tablespoon!). Iron is a mineral crucial for maintaining optimal energy, as it is used by your body to make hemoglobin, which is the protein in red blood cells that picks up oxygen in your lungs and carry it to all the cells in your body. Iron is also a key part of enzymes that keep your body producing energy and your metabolism revving. In addition to iron, molasses has quite a bit of calcium, which is important for muscle contraction (including your heart), nerve impulse conduction, and of course healthy bones and teeth. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to indulge and eat something sweet, I feel a whole lot better about choosing something sweetened with molasses than white sugar.
Molasses has a strong, bittersweet taste and can be substituted for other sweeteners in recipes besides gingerbread. Substituting molasses changes the taste of the recipe, as it is a much bolder, robust sweetener. Below are simple substitutions:
1 cup molasses for ¾ cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses for 1 cup corn syrup
1 cup molasses for 1 cup maple syrup
1 cup molasses for 1 cup honey
1 1/3 cup molasses for 1 cup white sugar
I love the aroma of gingerbread almost as much as eating it, so I made this gingerbread pudding cake in my slow cooker, so my whole house would fill with the rich smell. The cake turned out very moist, and I enjoyed it by itself and also as a topping over coconut milk ice cream.
To start, I used a standing mixer to cream together ghee and maple sugar. Ghee is clarified butter that is a casein free and lactose free alternative to butter. If you cannot tolerate ghee, try substituting coconut butter or coconut oil for the ghee. I used maple sugar, but coconut sugar also works well. Maple sugar is made from maple syrup and contains the important minerals manganese and zinc, which is needed for healthy immune function. Maple sugar is yet another natural sweetener that also gives something good to your body.
While the mixer was still on, I added two eggs and vanilla. I scraped the sides of the bowl often until the eggs and vanilla were fully incorporated into the creamed ghee and maple sugar mixture.
Next, I whisked together blackstrap molasses and water and set aside.
For the dry ingredients, I combined almond flour, unmodified potato starch (sweet potato flour works well too), baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and sea salt.
Turning on the mixer again, I alternated adding the molasses-water mixture and the dry ingredients. After the wet and dry ingredients were fully incorporated, I poured the gingerbread pudding cake batter into the greased slow cooker and set the temperature to low. Before covering the slow cooker, I sprinkled the chopped pecans over the top.
About two hours later, I tested the cake with a knife to make sure it was cooked through. I turned off the slow cooker and let it sit for about 15 minutes before scooping out a serving.
slow cooker gingerbread pudding cake
Recipe type: dessert
½ cup ghee
⅓ cup maple sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup blackstrap molasses
1½ cups water
1½ cups almond flour
½ cup unmodified potato starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ to ½ teaspoon sea salt, to taste
½ cup chopped pecans
Using a mixer, cream together ghee and maple sugar.
Add eggs and vanilla to the mixer, and mix together with creamed ghee and maple sugar.
In a small bowl, whisk together molasses and water. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine almond flour, potato starch, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt.
Turn on the mixer, and alternate adding the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients.
Mix together until both wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated.
Grease the slow cooker with coconut oil, and pour the gingerbread pudding cake batter into the slow cooker.
Set the temperature to low, and sprinkle chopped pecans on the top before covering.