You can still have 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 topping the fingers with a drizzling of dark chocolate.
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Preheat oven to 160c (fan-forced). Line a 27x17cm slice/bar tin with baking paper and set aside.
Finely chop the pecans and roast them on a baking tray until just changing colour, set aside to slightly cool.
Add the almond meal, arrowroot flour, baking soda and salt to a food processor. Process to mix and produce a finer texture, approximately 15 seconds.
Add the ghee and maple syrup, process until the mixture is smooth and comes together.
Transfer the dough to a bowl and add the cooled roasted pecans, mix well to distribute them evenly throughout the mixture.
Press the dough evenly throughout the lined slice tin. Place a small piece of baking paper over the mixture and use a glass to roll over the top to create a smooth surface. 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 the 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 golden, turn once while baking for an even colour. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove to a chopping board and cut through the scored marks while still slightly warm. If decorating with chocolate, allow the fingers to completely cool before drizzling over the chocolate.
Melt the dark chocolate in a double saucepan. Place the shortbread fingers on a lined tray and drizzle or pipe the chocolate over the fingers. Place the tray in the fridge to set the chocolate.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge and serve at room temperature. Suitable to freeze.
The most favoured gluten/grain free flour substitute in my kitchen is almond meal. It is finely ground blanched almonds and is also known as almond flour. It has a slightly sweet flavour so you don’t have to add as much sweetener when baking with it. Almond meal/flour is rich in manganese which helps the body heal after injuries and also helps the body break down carbohydrates. Almond flour is also rich in magnesium, which can help control your blood sugar levels. It's rich in vitamin E and other antioxidants, which may help reduce the risk of serious health conditions like cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Almonds are also a good source of calcium.
All kinds of nuts can be ground down to make a meal and are excellent for raw cheesecake or pie bases. Nut meals/flours are 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 a lactose-free ancient superfood. It is made by slow cooking and clarifying butter to remove the milk solids and lactose, it's pure butter fat. 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 brands are Organic Valley Purity Farms or Puresoul grass-fed. It is also very easy to make yourself. Ghee has a high smoke point 485F/250C.
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 drops/chips, they are dairy, soy, and gluten-free (my favourite brands are, 'Absolute Organic' or 'Chef's Choice' certified organic 70% cacao, purchase online or from health food stores). I also used 70 - 85% organic dark chocolate blocks, they can be broken into pieces or melted for recipe. I also make my own chocolate from: cacao butter or coconut oil, raw cacao powder and sweetened with 100% maple syrup, pinch of sea salt and vanilla extract.