Moist and Fudgy (sugar free/gluten free) Keto Brownies

Hey everyone. I’m sure a lot of you have heard of the Keto diet, or know someone personally who is following that way of eating.  Myself, I have been on it for about 50 days now and loving how I’ve been able to incorporate it into my life rather easily and still lose weight. One of the things I enjoy most about being a baker is the creative process of recipe development; it’s one of the reasons why I went to pastry school so that I could learn the science behind what works in a recipe. There are so many options now for sugar substitutes than say ten years ago. Sure, I still love to make regular desserts-that has not changed and it will never change. This is just another role play in my arsenal of becoming a better baker and what I can offer people.

I was intrigued with the whole sugar substitute thing and ways I could incorporate it into a brownie recipe as the Keto diet has become all the rage. This is my first foray into recipe development with replacing both sugar and flour. I’m no stranger to almond flour as a replacement for wheat flour as I’ve used it many times before. I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this brownie recipe. They came out fudgy and full of flavor and no weird aftertaste.

If you’re following a Keto diet, I hope you give these a try. There is a baking company called (Lillys click here) that makes chocolate chips and bars (my fave is the milk chocolate salted almond)  that use Stevia, and you would be amazed at how they taste! You cannot even tell a difference in the taste- there is no weird aftertaste at all!! They definitely cure a chocolate craving for sure!

Fudgy Keto Brownies 

1 stick (1/2 Cup) unsalted butter, melted

1/3 Cup Lily’s brand chocolate chips

4 oz. softened cream cheese

3/4 Cup Lakanto “classic” monkfruit sugar substitute* (see below)

2 large whole eggs, + 1 yolk

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 Cup almond flour

2 Tbsp. Hersheys (or another brand of natural) cocoa powder

2 Tbsp. black cocoa powder  (I use King Arthur brand)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 bar Lily’s milk chocolate caramelized and salted, coarsely chopped

*Note: Since my original post I’ve updated another version of these; I now use 1/4 Golden Lakanto sweetener, 2/4 Classic Lakanto granulated sweetener, and in place of vanilla I use 2 tsp. of bourbon. To the batter I add in 2/3 Cup milk chocolate Lily’s chips instead of the chopped caramelized salted Lilys bar. When I first  created my recipe the milk chocolate chips were not out yet. Enjoy~ 

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Prepare an 8×8 inch pan by spraying with nonstick spray and lining one side with a parchment sling.

In a large bowl microwave the butter until melted. Toss in the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Add in the softened cream cheese and stir to combine. Add in the sugar substitute and whisk to combine-note it will not melt like regular sugar and appear grainy (this is normal). Add the eggs one at a time and mix to combine, then stir in the vanilla.

Place a sifter over the bowl and add in the dry ingredients, then whisk gently to combine. Fold in the chopped “milk chocolate caramelized and salted Lily’s bar”.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the batter with an offset spatula.  Bake until a few moist crumbs appear once pierced with a toothpick, and the top no longer appears wet; about 25-27 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool completely over a wire rack in the pan, then pull out the entire slab using the sling and cut into squares.

Lavender Macarons

lavender macarons filled with lavender ganache

Lavender macarons with white chocolate lavender ganache

There is a sad fact about macarons- and I’m sure you’ve already figured it out. Sometimes these cute, delightful, little suckers just don’t come out right. You scratch  your head and wonder, “What in the heck did I do wrong?” Well, you are not alone. Even though I have made thousands of them, Lord knows, I  have a bad macaron day every now and then. As a result I’m constantly searching out new ideas and ways to master these little gems. I recently spent a good part of a day playing with different techniques and recipes and played around by adding in some dried egg white powder. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome- they came out delightfully chewy and had the perfect texture. Now that I live in Arizona and the climate is dry I am playing around with different (French method technique) recipes as the humidity here is not as much a factor, although it is still monsoon season here so lately the humidity has been high. Adding in some dried egg white powder can help with humid weather conditions.

I highly recommend the book “Les Petit Macrons” which includes several recipe methods for macarons that includes great photos and trouble shooting tips as well. Plan ahead and make the lavender ganache the day before if you have time, as you will need the extra time to allow the lavender to steep to develop flavor.

Lavender Macarons

recipe adapted from “Les Petits Macarons” by Kathryn Gordon & Anne McBride

165 g ( 1  1/4 C) almond flour

165 g  (3/4 C) confectioners sugar

1 tsp dried culinary (food safe) lavender

115 g  (1/2 C) egg whites (from about 4 egg whites)

150 g  (3/4 C) granulated sugar

1 Tbsp (5 g) powdered egg white

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

purple gel food coloring

1. In a food processor bowl place the almond flour, confectioners sugar and dried lavender, and pulse about 4-5 times to combine. Sift through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl and set aside. Note; you can pick out any pieces of the lavender left in the strainer and add back into the almond four mixture. Prepare a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a Silpat. I prefer parchment. Note- try to pick very flat and not warped pans. If your pans appear a little warped sometimes lining with both Silpat on the bottom and then laying parchment paper on top can help.

2. In a stand mixer bowl place the powdered egg whites and granulated sugar and whisk with a hand whisk. Add in the egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk again. Fit the mixer with whisk attachment and mix on medium speed for about 10-11 minutes until a stiff peak stage. Stop the mixer when the white are about 90 % mixed and add in the gel food coloring and continue to mix gently until desired color. Note: to test if whites are at the correct stage- you can turn the bowl upside down and check; if the meringue does not shift or slide in the bowl then they are perfect!

3. Using a spatula quickly add the whites to the almond flour mixture and fold until mixture falls off  in sheets, when the spatula is lifted. To test a shell- place a small amount in a piping bag fitted with a round 1/2 inch circular tip and pipe out a round onto the parchment paper. If a peak forms but does not collapse after a minute or so, then the batter is too thick. Squeeze the batter back into the bowl (do not mix batter) but rather refill the piping bag and repipe the shells. Pipe about 1 inch size shells leaving an inch and a half in between each shell to allow for spreading. Lift the pan about 6 inches off the counter and let the pan slam onto the counter about 4 times to remove any trapped air bubbles. Set the pans on a flat surface and allow to sit for 30 minutes or until the top of the shells are no longer tacky when touched.

4. Preheat the oven to 300° F and bake for about 17-18 minutes turning pan hallway through front to back until shells appear firm at the foot if wiggled. Allow to cool completely over a wire rack. When cooled lift off carefully and pipe with ganache filling.

Lavender White Chocolate Ganache

1/2 Cup heavy cream

1 heaping tsp. dried (culinary) lavender

10 oz. good quality white chocolate (NOT white chocolate chips), chopped fine

Heat the heavy cream to just a boil and place in a small bowl with the lavender and let it steep for several hours (5-8 hours is ideal) stored in the refrigerator. Place the chopped chocolate in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade and pulse to chop the chocolate fine. Reheat the cream to a boil and strain out and discard the lavender. Add the hot cream to the chocolate in the  food processor and allow to sit for one minute, then turn on the processor and mix until combined and smooth. Store in bowl in the refrigerator until firm. Once firm, stir vigorously until smooth and place in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe filling between two macarons to sandwich.

Fourth of July Meringues and Red White & Blue Parfaits

Happy Birthday America.

On Independence Day you MUST wear something red white and blue as well as try to eat something red white and blue. I’ve got you covered with the last one. The rest is up to you.

An extra special Thank You to all the Men & Women in our Armed Forces for your selfless and brave service.

fourth of july meringues

fourth of july meringues 2

Fourth of July Meringues 3

Eton Mess with red white and blue meringues

Red White & Blue Parfait:  Layer sweetened whipped cream, top with macerated raspberries and macerated blueberries, drop in some crumbled meringues, top with whipped cream and repeat…

Fourth of July Meringues

yield: about 16 meringues


3 large egg whites

3/4 Cup superfine sugar

large pinch (1/4 tsp.) cream of tartar

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Sweetened Whipped Cream 

1-2 Cups heavy whipping cream

1-2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar


In the bowl of a clean stand mixer bowl place the egg whites and sugar. Place over a saucepan that has about 1 inch of water. Bring water to simmer and whisk whites and sugar until sugar granules are no longer felt when you feel with two fingers, and mixture is warm. Whisk in cream of tartar and salt. Place bowl on stand mixer with whisk attachment and whisk on medium speed until meringue forms and is stiff peak and glossy; about 7 minutes; towards the last minute pour in the vanilla while whisking.

Take a disposable pastry bag and fit with a round large tip (such as 804 or 805 Ateco). Using a bamboo skewer use gel paste food coloring and make a stripe of red color down one side of the inside of the bag. Do the same with blue gel coloring on opposite side of the bag. Make sure the stripe of color is fairly thick. Place the pastry bag inside a large glass or tumbler and fold the cuff of the bag over the glass to keep the bag in place. Carefully use a large spoon and drop dollops of meringue down inside of bag being careful not to disturb the sides of the inside of bag as much as possible.

Pipe decorative swirls of meringues going about 4-5 turns onto prepared sheet pan. Bake in a 200 degree F (preheated oven) for about 1 hour and 15 to 1 hour and 20 minutes (depending on the humidity and size baking times will vary) or until meringues are dry. Rotate baking sheet half way through baking time. If meringues are taking long to become crisp you can turn off the oven and keep door propped open and let meringues cool the rest of the way inside the oven.

Meringues will keep for several days in an airtight container.

Serve meringues crumbled over ice cream or with sweetened whipped cream and macerated berries to make the parfait.

To make the sweetened whipped cream; for every cup of cream add 1-2 Tbsp. sugar; depending on how sweet you like it and with a hand mixer or a whisk whip until you get stiff peaks. Assemble parfaits right before serving. Serve cold.

Chocolate Strawberry and Neapolitan Macarons

I am having a total 70’s flashback today (in reference to my childhood) thinking about Neapolitan ice cream. In the 70’s it was still the cheap square cardboard boxes when it came to ice cream, and you didn’t have a million flavors like we do today. Somewhere along the line we transitioned into circular ice cream containers. What’s up with that?

Neapolitan ice cream was a frequent in our house growing up. I loved the first glance of those perfectly proportioned lines of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry when you first lifted the lid on the container. I was a naughty girl and always scooped from the strawberry stripe only. I’m sure my Mother figured it out. If not-she is certainly right now- reading this. For some reason I was not much interested in the chocolate or vanilla. Today I have grown out of my strawberry obsession and am an equal flavor opportunist.

Neapolitan macarons. You get all 3 wonderful flavors at the same time. Give it a try….

I did a couple variations on flavors. You could use vanilla swiss meringue buttercream to fill all or also choose to divide some of them and fill with chocolate ganache or even strawberry buttercream.

neapolitan macarons

strawberry choc and neapolitan macs

neapolitan macaron closeupstrawberry mac and neapolitan macs

chocolate with neapolitan macs

Chocolate Macarons

200 gms almond flour, sifted

200 gms confectioners sugar, sifted

2  Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

76 gms egg whites

200 gms granulated sugar

50 gms water

75 gms egg whites (room temp)

pinch of cream of tartar

1. In a large bowl combine the almond flour, and confectioners sugar and cocoa powder. Add the 75 gms of egg whites, and stir to combine. Set aside.

2. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment combine 75 gms of egg whites and the cream of tartar and begin whipping them on medium-high speed.

At the same time combine the 200 gms of  granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan on high heat; bring to 240° without stirring while whipping the egg whites on your mixer simultaneously. You want the cooking sugar syrup to reach 240 degrees at the same time your whites reach stiff peaks. To time this; keep the stand mixer next to the stove so you can peek at the whites while still watching your cooking syrup. If you notice the whites starting to get too stiff before the sugar is done; slow down the mixer to low-speed.

3. Once the syrup is at 240 degrees, stop/take off the heat and start pouring the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl slowly with the mixer running on slow-medium at the same time; careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk to prevent hard syrup forming. Once all the syrup is in, crank up the mixer and whip the whites until very glossy and stiff.

4. Take the whipped meringue and place on top of the almond mixture and start to  fold gently until all of the meringue is incorporated; careful not to deflate the mixture. You are looking for a thick consistency like lava. Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and pipe the cookies on parchment lined sheet trays; leaving at least an inch space between cookies. Take the trays and rap them hard on the counter to release any air bubbles. Let the trays sit out anywhere from 30-60 minutes; as long as it takes until when you touch the top of the cookies they are dry and no longer tacky to the touch.

5. Bake the cookies double panned (placing one empty tray underneath the piped cookies) one tray at a time in a 325° oven for about 15-18 minutes until the cookies are no longer wet on the bottom and appear dry. Sacrifice one if you have to test. Let the cookies cool on the tray. Sandwich with the filling. Store the cookies in the fridge covered loosely for 8 hours or overnight; this helps the cookies become even more chewy as the moisture from the filling helps the texture of the cookie.

Strawberry Macarons

Follow the same recipe as above except substitute the cocoa powder with 2 Tbsp. dried strawberry powder and add a few drops of deep pink food coloring gel in step one.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

4 egg whites

1 cup granulated sugar

4 sticks  unsalted butter

2 tsp. vanilla

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add vanilla and and beat until smooth. Use a generous 1 tsp. full to fill macarons.

Note: any leftover buttercream may be frozen. Store in an airtight container. To use: thaw at room temperature and rewhip with paddle attachment. You may also make strawberry buttercream by dividing adding in some seedless strawberry jam and whipping to combine.

Assembling Neapolitan Macarons: match up one chocolate and strawberry mac cookie and fill with vanilla buttercream. As an alternative you may fill some with chocolate ganache.

Small batch chocolate ganache

4 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped fine

3 oz. heavy cream

In a medium bowl place the chopped chocolate. Heat the heavy cream on high until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for one minute before stirring to combine thoroughly. Place the ganache in the fridge while you make the cookies.

Happy Valentines Day: White Chocolate and Raspberry Pudding Parfaits

White chocolate and raspberry are a classic combination. The slightly tart but still sweet raspberry plays well off of the sweet mellow white chocolate. I love this combination for a pudding. I layered the flavors in dessert shooter glasses for a sweet looking parfait.  If you don’t have access to fresh raspberries you can use frozen for the raspberry layer; just thaw and drain the berries first.

H♥ppy V♥lentines D♥y!

White Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Parfaits

 Valentines White Chocolate Rasp Pudding Parfaits

White Chocolate Raspberry Pudding

yield: 4-6 servings

Raspberry Layer:

12 oz. fresh raspberries, rinsed and let dry (if using frozen; let berries thaw and drain first)

1/4 Cup granulated sugar

2 tsp. corn starch

1 tsp. water

1. In a small saucepan (2 Qt.) combine the raspberries and sugar over low heat and heat until sugar starts to dissolve. Increase the heat to medium and stir until berries until they break up and bring to a boil. Boil gently for 5 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and with a rubber spatula press the berries through a fine mesh sieve placed over a small bowl. Scrape the bottom of the sieve to make sure you get the thickened puree into the bowl. Return the puree to the saucepan and begin to heat again over low heat. Meanwhile; stir together the corn starch and water in a small cup to form a slurry. Add the slurry to the pan and increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil until it becomes thick. Pour the mixture into a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface and refrigerate until ready for assembly.

White Chocolate Pudding:

1/4 Cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch

pinch of salt

1 Cup heavy cream

1 Cup milk

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

3/4 tsp. vanilla

3 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped

1. In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add cream and milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; cook and stir with a wire whisk 2-3 minutes more or until thickened.

2. Remove from the heat. Stir about 3/4 Cup of the hot mixture into egg yolks; return to saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and chocolate until melted. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over surface of the pudding and chill in the refrigerator until ready ready for assembly.

For Assembly:

Alternate pudding and raspberry filling layer in decorative glasses. Serve chilled.