Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti (Paleo & Vegan)

Paleo Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti:: PaleoSpirit.com

Living in Italy many years ago I first became acquainted with biscotti. It was long enough ago that biscotti were not well-known in the United States. After returning home, I hosted a feast for my extended family that included an authentic almond biscotti recipe. It was something new for my family. The recipe I used was from an Italian cookbook I had purchased in that country and the resulting confections were quite crunchy and dense. In fact, I will never forget how my great aunt Ann enjoyed them. She enjoyed them in spite of the fact that she might have popped her jaw out of place trying to crunch one!

The recipe I have for you today is quite different. This is a grain-free, paleo and vegan recipe for chocolate pistachio biscotti. It uses almond and coconut flours and the resulting cookies are nicely crunchy but not so dense and hard that you will break a tooth or hurt your jaw. My great aunt Ann has passed away now, but I’m quite sure she would have enjoyed these biscotti even more than the “authentic” version.

Paleo Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti:: PaleoSpirit.com

School is back in session for us this week. After school my boys and I enjoy having a snack together and talking about our day. Taking the time to connect with loved ones is important. But it is also important to nourish other friendships by spending time together. Sharing food and drink can be an important part of bonding. It is also a great way to show hospitality – something that seems almost a lost art these days.

I love the poem “A Time To Talk” by Robert Frost. It reminds us of a simpler time when life had a more leisurely pace. It speaks of a man working in his field but taking time to enjoy the company of a good friend who had stopped by. He forgets, for a little while, his responsibilities and chores and simply enjoys spending time with his friend. We should all take a little “time to talk” with people we love and maybe even open our homes in hospitality to someone new, someone who might become a friend.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

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Paleo Chocolate Cheesecake

Paleo Chocolate Cheesecake is a bit of a misnomer because the Paleo Diet, by definition, does not include dairy products. Cheesecake, obviously, has LOTS of cheese which may have you scratching your head.  In strict Paleo Diet circles this recipe would probably be referred to as “Faileo” instead of Paleo.  But here’s the deal, my husband had a birthday a few weeks ago and he requested cheesecake.  He and I have been “paleo” for a few months and while I generally avoid dairy he does indulge in full fat Greek yogurt and heavy cream for his coffee.  I searched around for a recipe in the “paleosphere” and did not find very much so I decided to come up with my own.

I started out with Nigella Lawson’s recipe for chocolate cheesecake and modified it to be as close to Paleo as humanly possible.  Voila’, Paleo Chocolate Cheesecake!  My goal was to ensure the recipe would be completely gluten free, have a low glycemic index, contain full fat, organic cheese, pastured butter and omega-3 rich eggs.

Instead of the graham cracker crust in Nigella’s recipe, I used almond meal in order to eliminate the gluten and increase the nutrition.  Full fat Greek yogurt was used in place of sour cream to increase the protein content and thicken the cheesecake without having to resort to custard powder or cornstarch.

The original recipe called for bittersweet chocolate but I used unsweetened dark chocolate to eliminate as much processed sugar possible.

I substituted 1 Cup of Coconut Crystals for the 3/4 Cup of fine sugar called for in the original recipe.

Coconut Crystals is a sugar replacement (not an artificial sweetener) made from the sap of coconut blossoms.  It is very low glycemic (GI of only 35), diabetic-friendly, contains 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C and broad-spectrum B vitamins.  By adding a full cup I compensated for the sugar missing in the unsweetened chocolate while keeping the overall glycemic level of the cheesecake fairly low.

Ingredients

Cheesecake base:

  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal (or use a food processor to grind up raw almonds)
  • 1/4 cup butter (chilled ghee or coconut oil)
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp coconut crystals
  • Dash of salt (especially if almonds and  butter are unsalted)

Cheesecake filling:

  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped small
  • 2 1/2 cups cream cheese
  • 1 cup coconut crystals
  • 3 large Omega-3 eggs
  • 3 large Omega-3 egg yolks
  • 7 oz container of Greek style yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa, dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sauce:

Special Equipment: 9-inch springform pan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the base, in a food processor combine the almond meal, butter, cocoa and coconut crystals until it makes damp, clumping crumbs and then tip them into the pan.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan to make an even base and put into the freezer while you make the filling.

Put a kettle on to boil.

Melt 6 ounces of the unsweetened chocolate either in a microwave or double boiler, and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the cream cheese to soften it, then add the coconut crystals, beating again to combine. Beat in the whole eggs and then the yolks, and the Greek yogurt. Finally, add the cocoa dissolved in hot water, the vanilla extract and melted chocolate and mix to a smooth batter.

Take the springform pan out of the freezer and line the outside with a good layer of plastic wrap, and then another layer of strong aluminum foil over that. This will protect the cheesecake from the water bath.  Pour the cheesecake filling into the pan.

Fill the roasting pan with just boiled water to come about halfway up the cake pan.  This will keep the oven moist and the cheesecake from cracking.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The top of the cheesecake should be set, but the underneath should still have a wobble to it.  Peel away the foil and plastic wrapping and sit the cheesecake in its pan on a rack to cool. Put in the refrigerator once it is no longer hot, and leave to set, covered with plastic overnight. Let it lose its chill before unspringing the cheesecake to serve.

To make the chocolate sauce: very gently melt the chopped chocolate, cream and coconut crystals. When the chocolate has nearly melted, take off the heat and whisk it to a smooth sauce. Let it cool a little, and pour it over the chocolate cheesecake on its serving plate.

 

For this recipe I used very “high end” ingredients in order to max out the nutritional content and keep the GI very low.  If I were to add up the cost it was probably on the expensive side.  For me it was worth it for a special occasion and I wanted to experiment with these ingredients to see how close to strict Paleo I could get.  But please don’t feel like you can’t try this recipe if you are not going to splurge on the same ingredients I used.  It would be fine to use regular cream cheese and eggs and unsweetened chocolate.  Obviously you can substitute regular sugar for the coconut crystals if you prefer.  In my opinion the most important change was the use of almond meal instead of graham crackers in the crust.  For anyone trying to remain gluten free this is extremely important.

The Paleo Chocolate Cheesecake recipe was a bit of an experiment and I am pleased it turned out so well.  We had a visitor from Australia with us the weekend I made it and he, in spite of not having an interest in eating Paleo, was very complimentary of the final product.  It is an extremely rich dessert and I recommend eating smaller slices and then freezing any leftovers for future falls off the non-dairy wagon.

Enjoy!

Find more Paleo Dessert Recipes

Spiced Apple Compote

Spiced Apple Compote

This compote recipe started out as a way to “spice up” a family favorite. My kids love applesauce. I have always served them unsweetened applesauce and they don’t seem to mind, but when it comes to dessert they expect something a little more exciting. For this recipe I used ghee, which is clarified butter. (Learn how to make your own ghee in the oven.) Ghee is useful in a strict Paleo diet because the milk solids have been removed. It adds a pleasant smoothness and richness to the dish. You can substitute extra virgin coconut oil or pastured butter if you prefer. We tried it with coconut oil but, while the compote was still delicious, the ghee provided that unmatched butter aroma and flavor. The spiced apple compote can be served hot or cold, as a dessert or a side dish.

Ingredients

  • 6 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried cherries (unsweetened if possible)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest

Directions

Combine apples, water and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until apples are tender. Stir in the dried cherries, apricots, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg and cook 5 more minutes. Add the ghee to the hot mixture and stir until melted. Finish with lemon zest. Serves 6-8