Finding ways to make more traditional recipes healthier is having a massive surge in popularity at the moment so this fudge is my nod to that. I am a baker however and have a business based on cake so can't be too harsh a critic against sugar, flour, butter and all these things that have been part of our lives (as most of us know it) for, basically, ever. I am all about moderation and try to eat a healthy diet outside of the cake universe I dwell in the majority of the time. And I am completely open to trying new ingredients and making entirely healthy fudge. Especially one that tastes this good.
Okay, so here's the breakdown of the ingredients and my personal view on them.
Walnuts & Almonds
I think we all know these are good for us. They are full of nutrients, protein and essential fatty acids. Eating walnuts apparently improves the sperm quality of healthy young men. I didn't know that until now. I'm guessing you probably didn't either. They are good for your heart, your brain, your skin. That's my understanding. I believe nuts are good.
Raw Cacao Powder
My research into this hasn't convinced me that I need to spend $15 on a small bag of 'raw cacao'. The way I see it, 'raw cacao' comes from the exact same 'cacao' bean that cocoa comes from. The cacao bean being the basis of chocolate. It seems that it may be down to how the cocoa/'cacao' is treated/processed that matters, yet no one website can really firm that up for me. Possibly they are one and the same and the 'raw cacao' is a marketing ploy. I'm just saying 'possibly'. If you don't want to use raw cacao just use regular cocoa.
I like these based on their name alone. Dates are the oldest cultivated fruit and medjool dates can usually be found in the fresh fruit section of your supermarket. They are bigger and softer than standard dates you find on the shelf. Dates contain essential nutrients, are high in potassium and have a low-mid GI meaning they release energy slowly as opposed to giving you a sugar 'rush'. They are needed in this recipe to add sweetness and to bind the ingredients.
If you are gluten free or coeliac it's best to leave these out as they may not be 100% gluten free. Oats are a whole grain said to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve immune defences. They digest slowly keeping you fuller for longer and, similar to Medjool dates, won't give you a spike in blood sugar levels. Oats are good and just writing this made me want some.
Coconut & Coconut Oil
Another health food ingredient that is everywhere at the moment is coconut oil. For many years experts said it was bad for us, now they have changed their minds. Apparently it can do EVERYTHING. I'm not joking, the number of things listed online that this oil can do is ridiculous! From giving you glowing skin and shiny hair, making you lose abdominal fat, lowering bad cholesterol and increasing good, aiding digestion, boosting your immune system and cleaning your entire house. I've used it as a dairy substitute in baking with good results. I'm leaning towards liking this product, with just a dash of skepticism.
These little black or white seeds don't taste like much so are easily added to almost anything. Sprinkle them on a salad, put them in bread, add to your cereal etc. They swell up when they come in contact with liquid and turn into a gel. It's cool. You can make them into a pudding, like sago. They date back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. 'Chia' means 'strength' and they are eaten for their energy boosting qualities. For such a little seed it sounds like they have a lot to give including omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fibre, antioxidants and calcium. I like them.
Cinnamon is said to increase your metabolism. Even if only for a short time I am all for this. It's also said to help control your blood sugar levels. I'm a big fan.
Pure Maple Syrup
Please don't buy the 'maple-flavoured' syrup. Just don't. Have honey instead if you don't want to pay for pure maple syrup. Thank you. Real maple syrup actually comes from the sap of the maple tree, so it's less refined than white sugar and contains more nutrients. It is however, still a sugar (containing sucrose, glucose and fructose), albeit with a slightly lower GI, and is high in calories. It is sweeter than sugar therefore you can get away with using less.
Just a reminder, these are my opinions only and are based on very top-line research. I like to maintain a healthy level of skepticism towards most things. If you have an opinion on any of the above feel free to share it in the comments below but please be nice :) Otherwise, make this fudge and enjoy it!!
Fudge that's good for you
Published in the Bay of Plenty Times, Weds 19th June 2013
Currently in my cupboard is an excess of fresh walnuts that my mum and nana very kindly foraged for me a few weeks ago. I’ve been shelling them, which has led to a newfound appreciation for the work that goes into the bags of nuts we buy at the supermarket! Don’t get me wrong; I’m not under the impression these nuts are shelled by hand, but still!
This week’s recipe is for Health Spa Fudge. Not the greatest name, but it is great for you. It’s FULL of energy, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But most importantly it tastes AMAZING. It’s intensely cocoa-ey, has a soft, slightly crunchy texture and will satisfy any chocoholic.
I used organic ingredients but please don’t fret about this if it’s out of your budget, you can substitute standard products and still enjoy many of the health benefits. Also, if you don’t have things like chia seeds simply leave them out and you can swap raw cacao powder for standard cocoa (which is already high in antioxidants). This fudge is vegan, dairy free and, if you omit the oats, gluten free. Don’t let this put you off! Try this fudge, you won’t be disappointed.
Health Spa Fudge
1 cup walnuts
1 cup whole almonds
½ cup raw cacao powder
10 medjool dates, pitted
½ cup oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 TBSP chia seeds
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
3 TBSP coconut oil
1 TBSP real maple syrup
½ cup real maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil, softened
½ cup raw cacao powder
Place walnuts, almonds, cacao powder, pitted dates and oats (if using) into a food processor. Whizz up until finely ground. Add the coconut, chia seeds, cinnamon, coconut oil and maple syrup and whizz again until you have a fudgy consistency. Add a splash of water, or more maple syrup, if it’s too dry. Once you have a firm, fudgy consistency, line a baking tin and press the fudge into the tin. To make the ganache, whiz the maple syrup, coconut oil and cacao powder together. Smear onto the fudge and chill in the fridge for an hour to set.
Weekly Tip: Not all maple syrup is created equal. Buy the best you can but please don’t use ‘maple flavoured’ syrup. It’s not maple syrup.