You can still have some treats for Christmas when they are healthy like my Pecan Shortbread Fingers. Delicious melt in your mouth shortbread with extra flavour by the addition of roasted pecans and topped with a drizzle of dark chocolate.
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Preheat oven to 160c. Finely chop pecans and roast on a baking tray until just changing colour (don't over roast and dry them out). Line a 27x17cm slice tin with baking paper and set aside.
To a food process, add almond meal, arrowroot flour, baking soda and salt. Process to mix well and produce a fine texture, approximately 15 seconds.
Add ghee and maple syrup, process until mixture is smooth and starting to clump together.
Transfer dough to a bowl, add cooled roasted pecans. Mix well using your hands, dough should come together in a ball with pecans evenly distributed.
Press dough evenly into the lined slice tin. To create a smooth surface, place a piece of baking paper over the mixture and use a glass to roll over the top. Use a knife to score the mixture 3/4 way through, 2 x 8 rows to make 16 fingers.
If you are not decorating with chocolate, you can use a fork to press holes into the dough to decorate and look like traditional shortbread.
Bake for approximately 18 minutes or until lightly browning, turning during baking for even colour. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then cut through scored marks while still slightly warm. If decorating with chocolate, allow to cool completely after cutting.
Melt dark chocolate in a double saucepan. Place shortbread fingers on a tray and pipe or drizzle chocolate over the fingers. Place tray in the fridge to set chocolate.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge, serve at room temperature.
The most favoured gluten/grain free flour substitute in my kitchen is almond meal. It is finely ground blanched almonds and in some countries, it is called almond flour. It has a slightly sweet flavour so you don’t have to add as much sweetener when baking with it. All kinds of nuts can be ground down to make a meal and are excellent for raw cheesecake or pie bases. Nut and seeds meals/flours are all best stored in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer to prevent them going rancid.
Arrowroot is a herb, the roots are cultivated for its starch properties. It is used in my recipes as a thickener and I also like combining it with almond meal to produce a much lighter texture, more like a gluten flour. I find the starch helps to bind the ingredients together. You can substitute tapioca flour, which is made from the dried roots of the cassava plant. Tapioca can be used in baking, it has a slightly sweet flavour. However, I do not recommend thickening with tapioca, as it has a stretchy, gummy texture. Supermarkets only sell in very small containers, which is not cost effective. Purchase from baking specialty stores, health food stores or online. ( When substituting for cornflour in recipes, 2 teaspoons arrowroot = 1 tablespoon cornflour/starch).
Also known as Bicarbonate of Soda or Sodium Bicarbonate and is used as a rising agent in baking, it contains no gluten or grains. I use Bob's Red Mill baking soda as I find it rises better than other brands I've tried.
Raw pink Himalayan salt crystals is unlike common table salt which can be a highly refined industrial byproduct, otherwise know as sodium chloride. Himalayan salt is completely pure and may naturally balance the body's alkaline/acidity and regulate water content. In addition Himalayan salt helps in the absorption of nutrients from food and contains many trace minerals for healthy cell structure. I purchase fine pink Himalayan crystal salt so I can use it in my shaker and for cooking.
Ghee is clarified butter, it is pure butter fat that has had the milk solids removed. You can get the flavour of butter in your cooking without the dairy (please don't consume if you have an allergy to ghee). My favourite brand is Organic Valley Purity Farms which I purchase online from iherb. It is also very easy to make yourself.
Maple syrup is an earthy, sweet tasting amber liquid that is produced by boiling down the sap of maple trees. Use organic 100% maple syrup which is a natural food sweetener, not a flavoured maple syrup. Pure maple syrup contains a decent amount of some minerals, especially manganese and zinc, some traces of potassium and calcium but it does contain a whole bunch of sugar. I try to reduced the amount of sweetness in each recipe to the lowest possible without compromising taste. Feel free to adjust to your liking. I use maple syrup in place of raw honey when I don't want the strong honey flavour coming through in a recipe. I have paleo cookies and desserts in my cookbook made from whole food ingredients with natural sugars but please don’t overindulge. Use as a treat only for special occasions.
Pecans are a rich source of dietary fibre, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and thiamin. Nuts are a great protein snack. Eat them raw or activated and it's best to avoid store bought roasted nuts that have been cooked in canola, sunflower or similar vegetable oils.
In some of my recipes I have used Paleo approved dark chocolate chips, they are dairy, soy, nut and gluten free (the brand is ‘Enjoy Life’ and can be purchased online). I have also used 85% dark organic chocolate and make my own chocolate from coconut oil or cacao butter, raw cacao powder and sweetened with 100% maple syrup or coconut nectar, pinch of salt and vanilla extract.