Yep, you heard me right: A week without sugar. Can a girl who has eaten brownies for dinner really give up sugar? Better yet, why would she even try? I have no idea. Hehehe. Okay, to be completely and embarrassingly honest, I ate an entire buttermilk cake by myself… over two days. Well, technically over about 16 hours, but it was only a single eight inch layer. And it had cherries in it (cherries are healthy). But in addition to the cake, I also ate a handful or two of marshmallows with chocolate (think s’mores minus the graham crackers and fire). And all of this was really just the culmination of several months of carbo-loading in the form of pure refined sugar (and a little butter of course).
You see, I am addicted to the white stuff. So in a moment of weakness strength, I gave it up. That’s right, cold turkey. I reasoned that I needed to reset my sugar cravings. Kind of like the recasting Mireille Guiliano recommends in French Women Don’t Get Fat except without the leek soup weekend and only concentrating on my biggest offender: sugar. I’ve been working out more and seeing progress in how my clothes fit, but my weight hasn’t budged. And in this moment of clarity I thought maybe, just maybe, eating a bit less butter and sugar might help. Maybe. I wasn’t convinced but thought it could be possible. So there I was, resolute and determined… and on Monday, I declared that I would cut out refined sugar from my diet for an entire month. Fruits and naturally occurring sugars are fine… and some natural sugar substitutes are okay in moderation (I mean, I have to have something sweet. I might implode if I have no sweets at all).
Then on Saturday, Dan and I had a couple of friends over for dinner. And they brought dessert: a chocolate cake called “Black Magic” with strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar. So I had a piece (or two)… it would’ve been rude not to have some. Did I mention the maker of this Black Magic is a pastry chef named Christine who also makes fabulous truffles? I’m not just saying this because I know her… NeoCocoa truffles are decadent and delicious just like truffles should be. I’m only human, people. What would you have done? That’s right, the sugar-free streak bit the dust. And it was totally worth it.
But enough about my weakness. Let’s focus on something positive. I did manage six days without refined sugar and I was feeling pretty good. But I needed chocolate. Sugar-free chocolate made with sucralose or whatever the artificial sweetener du jour is… well, it just sounds gross to me. So I made brownie bites sweetened with agave syrup. I was skeptical, but hopeful. The results weren’t bad. Were they the best brownies I have ever eaten? No. Were they extremely chocolaty and taste good? Yes. The texture is not really what I would call a brownie. I’m a fudgy-chewy brownie girl. These bites were cakey and really dense. Almost like flourless chocolate cake. And packed with a nice dark chocolate flavor (thanks to the extra unsweetened chocolate I added in addition to the cocoa).
I started with the cocoa brownie recipe I’ve used before in the peanut butter brownie bites. I did a bit of research about how to use agave syrup as a sugar substitute. Most of the reading I did repeated the same guidelines:
* Substitute 2/3 cup agave for 1 cup of sugar
* Reduce the baking temperature by 25 degrees because the syrup speeds the browning process
* Reduce the total liquid in the recipe by about 1/3 cup (since the agave is a liquid)
Following these guidelines, here is my modified cocoa brownies recipe:
Cocoa Brownies sweetened with agave syrup
(adapted from The Good Housekeeping Baking: More Than 600 Recipes for Homemade Treats)
5 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup agave syrup
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease mini-muffin pans (makes 24-mini cups).
2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the chocolate cut into chunks, stir just until melted. Remove from heat.
3. With a wooden spoon, stir in the agave syrup. Stir in eggs, 1 at a time. Add vanilla.
4. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
5. Stir flour mixture into saucepan until blended. (You can add nuts now if you like, I skipped them).
6. Spoon the batter into the mini-muffin cups.
7. Bake 10-12 minutes.
8. Enjoy and share with your friends who don’t or can’t eat sugar.