There is the sweetest little bakery in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) called Bakeri, which I’m sure many of you know. It’s the kind of place that I once fantasized about opening when I lived in London. Coincidentally, the mural on Bakeri’s wall depicting a nymph-like woman holding a tray of cakes is almost identical to what we (my catering business partner and I) had wanted to paint on the walls of our dream location. We were inspired by a mural painted on a mirror in the oldest patisserie in Paris called Stohrer. I first saw the romantic image in a cookbook I still have called Paris Boulangerie Patisserie by Linda Dannenberg. Many of my vegan creations were inspired by pastries in that book and I still love browsing the lavish photographs.
When I saw the painted image on the wall in Bakeri I instantly fell in love with the place. Thanks to my sister’s expertise at sussing out the best chocolate cookies in New York she introduced me to their cacao nib and sea salt cookie. This cookie is as dark as night with an almost silky texture and tangy deep chocolate flavor that is not at all too sweet, rich or heavy. Although these gluten free and vegan chocolate treats are nothing like Bakeri’s little cookies, they were motivated by their flavor and small size.
Gluten free baking is fairly simple without dairy as there are plenty of replacements but omitting the eggs can be problematic. Because of their binding quality the addition of eggs greatly increases the chances of a gluten free baking experiment succeeding. So, with this in mind the first thing I did was put some dates to simmer. These would be my binder while providing sweetness and moisture—I also really love dates! Adding some ground flax to the wet ingredients creates an egg-like consistency. With or with out gluten, I find the addition of nut meals and ground coconut delicious in baked goods. Here the almond meal and ground coconut combined with coconut oil add a delicate sweetness and plenty of moisture. A chunk of dark chocolate baked into the center adds just enough chocolate-y depth. Melting chocolate is of course delicious eaten warm from the oven, but I also enjoyed them served chilled. After a few hours in the fridge the coconut oil solidifies and the resulting texture is firm and deliciously dense. Either way, they’re a lovely treat to make for the loved ones in your life. Happy Valentines Day (aka a wonderful excuse to bake something with chocolate!).
Chocolate coconut bites
Don’t be tempted to make these without cup cake liners, as they will crumble when trying to remove them from the pans. As I mention above, a few hours in the fridge gives them a firmer texture that doesn’t crumble when removing from the paper liners.
Makes about 18 I-inch bites
½ cup deglet dates
¼ cup cocoa powder, plus more to dust
¼ cup warm water
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
½ cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
½ cup almond meal
2 tablespoons brown rice flour
¼ cup gluten free oat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup melted extra virgin coconut oil
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon sea salt
70 to 85% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line mini muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.
Place dates in a small pot and cover with about half an inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower heat slightly and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Cover pot, remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
Place cocoa powder in a small bowl, add warm water and whisk until dissolved. Whisk in ground flax and set aside.
Place coconut in a food processor and grind until fine, about 40 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl and add almond meal and brown rice flour. Sift in oat flour and baking powder and stir to combine.
Drain dates, pressing them to extract as much water as possible. Place them in a food processor with the cocoa flax mixture and blend until smooth. Add coconut oil, maple syrup, coconut sugar, vanilla extract and salt, and blend again. Pour into dry mixture and stir until combined. Spoon into prepared pan, filling all the way to the top. Lightly press a small square of chocolate into each one and bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until tops are firm and chocolate has melted. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Dust with cocoa powder. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.
Print recipe here.