Sugar-free Gluten-free Coconut Macaroons

A taste for sweets is acquired through exposure (just like a preference for spicy food) and thus can also be tamed, by gradually reducing how much sugar you ingest. I routinely cut the sugar in recipes, especially when I see that it is not needed for structure. For instance, a friend recently sent me an apple cake recipe cut from a magazine that called for a cup of sugar to 1.5 cups flour, plus only one egg and a stick of melted butter. It was leavened with baking soda, like a muffin recipe. Whoah! Why make an apple dessert and cloud it with that much sugar? Why not use the sugar for structure? I suggested he reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup, cream it with the soft butter, use 3 separated eggs (i.e. whip the egg whites for natural leavening), reduce the flour to 1 cup, and use baking powder instead of soda. This produced a more refined cake with better nutrition and flavor.

If you want to try reducing sugar in what you bake, look at similar recipes and see what the standard amount is in relation to the flour. You might notice that European recipes use less sugar. Often you can cut 20% and sometimes as much as 50% as in my example above. When the sugar is reduced, other flavors become more prominent.

Another way to reduce sugar calories is to substitute sugar alcohols such as erythritol and xylitol (a common sweetener in chewing gum because it does not cause tooth decay). Plant-derived sugar alcohols are much more expensive than sugar and they can cause bloating and diarrhea if consumed in excess, but they do not require insulin and thus do not spike your blood sugar. Their flavor is closer to sugar than the sweetening provided by stevia or monk fruit.

These macaroons would be appropriate for folks trying to reduce their sugar calories or counting carbohydrates (each macaroon has about 3 grams of carbs, from the coconut and the erythritol). They taste chewy and rich, and to my taste much better than commercial or other homemade macaroons which contain so much sugar. Other recipes use sweetened coconut and then add even more sugar in the form of sweetened condensed milk. These macaroons are naturally gluten-free.

I like the contrast between the bitter chocolate and the sweet coconut, but the topping is optional. The recipe makes about 25.

6 egg whites

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered erythritol, depending on how sweet you like your sweets!

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 tsp. vanilla extract

8 ounces unsweetened coconut flakes

1-2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

Beat the egg whites with salt until foamy, then add the erythritol and the extracts. Stir in the coconut flakes and let the mixture sit for 20-30 minutes to allow the coconut to be hydrated.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Use a small ice cream scoop (or teaspoon) to make mounds on parchment. Bake in preheated oven 15-18 minutes or until lightly brown. Let cool.

If desired, temper 1-2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (melt, stir, and bring temperature to 110 degrees, then cool to 80 degrees) before drizzling on the macaroons.

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