One of the growing problems I see with the use of the word “paleo” is that a lot of things get called paleo these days that aren’t really paleo. What I mean is, people can find a way to make junk food out of just about anything, even in the absence of gluten, grains, and dairy. But the absence of those things does not make the item healthy, nor does it make it authentically paleo. Dessert is dessert, no matter what you make it out of.
In that regard, I find the secondary title to The Paleo Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook more appropriate: “80 Gluten-Free Treats for Breakfast & Dessert.” That much is definitely true – these are gluten-free treats indeed. Written by Kelly Brozyna, founder of The Spunky Coconut blog, this cookbook contains eighty grain-free, legume-free, and dairy-free recipes in the following categories:
- Puddings and Pies
- Ice Cream
- Savory Dishes
Through the use of paleo ingredients, the recipes in this cookbook are protein and fat dense, while staying relatively low in sugar by using stevia as a sweetener. That does not mean the recipes are not calorically dense, though, nor does it mean they are completely free of natural sugars like honey. So, eater beware. And to be fair, Kelly herself says these recipes are not meant to be consumed regularly, but to serve as treats for those afflicted with food allergies, celiac disease, autism, and auto-immune disorders where “cheating” is simply not an option.
One thing I enjoyed about this book was gaining an education in chocolate. Early on the book dives into the history of chocolate, the science of how it’s made, and the ethical issues involved in its production. Those who love chocolate but who have not as of yet totally geeked out on the topic will likely find this an interesting section of the book. I found it highly informative as to the choices I would make going forward in the grocery store, both as someone interested in taste and in supporting good business practices.
The recipes themselves range in level of complexity, from simple muffins to some elaborate-looking cakes and concoctions. Personally, I think this makes the cookbook more appealing as bakers of all different experience levels could find it useful. I made a few of the dessert recipes and found them enjoyable, but I was also pleasantly surprised at the savory recipes. They were not overly chocolaty, but simply quite flavorful. So, really, this book gives you an excuse to eat chocolate at any time of day, which for some people will be a great attribute.
In addition, the graphic design and photography in this cookbook are both well thought out and beautiful, with each recipe including a full-page photo. The book does fall victim to what seems to be a common issue with paleo cookbooks, though, which is that it is lacking a useful contents listing or index. For example, despite the fact the book has an entire section dedicated to cookies, the word “cookies” is not listed in the index, and there is no one place in the book where all the recipes are listed. I would suggest that when you first get the book you put some sort of tabs or markers on each section’s recipe list so you can at least flip to those easily for perusal.
In the end, I would definitely put The Paleo Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook under the category of “specialty” cookbooks. If you’re new to paleo, then this is not a must-buy item. But if you’ve been at paleo for a while and want to expand your recipe library – especially if you’re a chocolate lover and particularly if you want recipes for special occasions – then this could be a great resource for you. To frame it another way, if you’re at your goal body composition and you want to treat yourself from time to time, this cookbook is a great source of fabulous recipes. If you are not at your goal weight, you shouldn’t even open this cookbook because it will be sheer torture looking through the beautiful recipes and photos.
“The Paleo Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook” is available for $22.09 at Amazon.com.
Want a taste of this cookbook? Try these recipes for Salted Caramel and Salted Caramel Bacon Bark:
- 1 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
- 1 cup (156 g) coconut sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- In a heavy-bottomed pot that is about 7″ wide x 3″ deep, add the coconut milk, coconut sugar, and salt.
- Whisk to combine the ingredients, and turn on the heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, watching carefully so that it doesn’t boil over. Boil over medium heat for 15 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, watching carefully to make sure that it doesn’t burn. If it begins to burn, the edges will turn dry and black.
- Wear gloves to pour the caramel into a small bowl, and stir periodically as it cools to room temperature. Don’t wash the pot just yet; you may need it again.
- If the caramel isn’t thick (similar to molasses) when it reaches room temperature (after about 20 minutes), pour it back into the pot, and let it simmer over the lowest heat possible for another 3-5 minutes.
- Wear gloves to pour the caramel back into the small bowl, and stir periodically as it cools to room temperature. Store covered at room temperature.
- To reheat leftover caramel (such as for dipping apples or pouring over ice cream), put the dish of caramel in a larger dish of very hot water, and cover it for 15 minutes. If needed, add more hot water, and repeat.
Makes about 1 cup.
Salted Caramel Bacon Bark
- ½ batch of Salted Caramel (above)*
- 6 ounces dark chocolate
- 4 strips of crisp cooked bacon
*Make the whole batch of caramel, but use only half in the bacon bark.
- Make the Salted Caramel, and let it cool almost to room temperature.
- Line an 8″ x 8″ dish with a piece of unbleached parchment paper big enough to cover the bottom and go up the sides. Pinch the corners to help it stay in place, and set the dish aside.
- Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate, and pour it into the prepared dish.
- Allow the chocolate to cool to room temperature on the counter.
- Then place it in the freezer until hard.
- Drizzle the caramel over the chocolate, and sprinkle the top with crumbled crisp bacon.
- Freeze the candy until it is hard enough to break into bark. You can then store it in the freezer or the refrigerator.
Makes 8 servings.