Recipe Revamping: Saltine Brickle

“Please, can you help me?”

I receive emails from various types of people. Folks who have toddlers with food allergies. Mature adults whose doctors have put them on restricted diets. People who have suddenly developed food allergies after years of eating anything they wanted. Diet conscious folks who want to eat healthier. What all these folks have in common, though, is that they’ve always been adults.

This week I received an email for the first time from a child who had stumbled upon my site. She is ten and apparently really likes saltine brickle, which she had tried at a friend’s house. Her mother, however, had told her it had too much fat and sugar and wasn’t good for her. Like many folks of her generation, she went online to see if there was a solution to her problem.

In her email to me, she wanted to know if I could “fix” the recipe so it wouldn’t have as much fat and sugar but still taste good.

I confess, I found her and her email just too cute! Of course, I had to do what I could to help her out. It turned out that she has both a nut and dairy allergy, so I needed to accommodate those in the revamping of the recipe.

When you google saltine brickle recipes, you’ll find that the recipes call for anywhere from 1 to 2 cups of butter, usually about 1 cup of sugar, and anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips. The first order of business became all that butter. I opted to cut the amount down to 1/2 cup, and for the dairy allergy I used vegan soy free butter. The second item to tackle was the sugar. I could have simply cut the amount, but since I don’t like to use sugar as a general rule, I chose to use agave and cut the amount down to only 1/4 cup of it. For the chocolate, I swapped dairy and nut free dark chocolate mini chips for the regular sized semi-sweet chocolate chips, and I reduced the amount to 1 cup. To make the dessert slightly “better” I used a whole grain cracker instead of the white flour saltines. I tried Market Basket whole grain saltines, Manischewitz whole grain matzo, and Van’s whole grain gluten free crackers. For the final change, I decided to add some protein to the dessert and sprinkled pumpkin seeds on top.

The final creations were all tasty and worth the effort, and the young girl wrote to tell me that her mom let her make my version because she, one, thought it was great that her daughter showed initiative, and two, because she agreed that the reduction in sugar and butter and the addition of whole grains and protein made them “better” for eating.

Saltine Brickle

Ingredients:

40 whole grain saltine sized crackers, your choice of wheat or gluten free (you want to make a 16 inch x 10 inch rectangle; if using the matzo crackers, you’ll obviously use less because they are larger crackers) 

1/2 cup vegan soy free butter

1/4 cup agave

1 cup allergy friendly dark chocolate mini chips

1/2 to 1 cup pumpkin seeds (I used the no salt added version but I tried both roasted and raw and liked both; if you have no allergies to nuts or peanuts, try using those if you don’t like pumpkin seeds; the amount to use depends on whether you just want a few seeds on each cracker or want the crackers to be covered with them.)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a rectangle 17 x 11 inch pan with aluminum foil. Generously grease the foil with your favorite method.
  2. Place the crackers on the foil lined pan to make a 16 x 10 inch rectangle.
  3. Melt the vegan butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently (should take only about a minute). Add the agave.
  4. Carefully pour the butter mixture over the crackers so each cracker is covered.
  5. Bake the crackers in the oven for  4 minutes. Remove the pan and turn off the oven.
  6. Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips over the crackers and put the pan back in the turned off oven for 1 minute.
  7. Using a spatula, carefully spread the melted chocolate so all the crackers are covered.
  8. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds over the top of the chocolate.
  9. Put the pan into the freezer for about 10 minutes until the chocolate has solidified.
  10. Break apart the brickle and enjoy!

Creative Cooking: Dairy Free Dark Chocolate Mousse

“But I want it quick and easy!”

I’ve already confessed to being a lazy cook, someone who likes to make a good meal with the least amount of effort. Now, I confess that I’m also a very impatient cook. If I want to make something, I rarely like to wait the time it takes for something to get cold or to reach room temperature, and I never have patience if I try someone else’s recipe and it fails, making it a waste of my time.

Recently one of my daughter’s really wanted a chocolate mousse, but with my dairy allergy we couldn’t make it with heavy cream. Many online recipes call for using coconut milk which I have done in the past for making a whipped cream. The problem is that it doesn’t always work. Sometimes you purchase a can of coconut milk, put it the fridge, and it doesn’t solidify properly. Other times, the coconut milk tastes a little off, making your mousse not as palatable. And in both scenarios, you’ve had to wait for the coconut milk to chill, only to be disappointed.

So, we then looked at recipes which used tofu, but we found many of those recipes to be too sweet because people wanted to cover the tofu taste and did so with sugar. We also discovered that many of the tofu recipes either still called for the use of heavy cream or used almond milk, both of which I can’t have. In addition, a bunch of the recipes required a wait time for the tofu to get to room temperature or required a complicated process of straining the tofu mousse after making it.

Undaunted, though, I decided I’d make a mousse to my liking in taste, texture, and time spent. So I pulled out two cold 16 ounce containers of silken tofu and went to work. Since the process of straining the mousse seemed to be because people wanted a creamy texture which would be marred by chunks of tofu, I decided that I’d simply puree the tofu completely smooth first with my hand blender. This would eliminate any additional work needed later. And it worked really well.

Next, after looking at the too sweet recipes, many of which called for two cups of chocolate chips for one package of tofu plus additional sugar, I figured that for the two tofu packages, one 10 ounce package of Enjoy Life allergy friendly mini chocolate chips (about one and a half cups)  with no addition of any other sugar products would suffice. I microwaved the chips in a large four cup measuring bowl for one minute, stirred, and then microwaved them for another 20 seconds so that when I stirred the chips, they were melted and smooth.

Because I knew that adding the warm, melted chips to the cold tofu would result in the chocolate becoming solid again, I decided that I’d adopt the tempering process one uses with eggs to the chocolate. I added a couple of spoonfuls of the cold tofu to the warm chocolate and blended it well with the hand blender. I repeated the process three times, and then added the entire chocolate mixture into the rest of the smooth tofu, using my hand blender to completely blend the chocolate and tofu together.

When we tasted the mousse, we realized that while cutting the amount of chips made for a less sweet mousse, it also made for less of a chocolate taste, too, so I added two tablespoons of Hershey’s Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder with 1/2 tsp of gluten free vanilla and blended one more time with the hand blender until everything was smooth and creamy. We divided the mousse among eight dishes and sprinkled chopped dairy free chocolate pieces on top as a garnish.

The entire process from start to finish was less than ten minutes, and by the time we were done eating dinner, the mousse had cooled enough in the fridge to make for a delicious impromptu dessert!

Dairy Free Dark Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:

Two 16 oz containers of silken tofu

10 oz package Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

2 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp gluten free vanilla

Cooking Instructions:

  1.  Puree the tofu completely smooth first with a hand blender. If you don’t have a hand blender, use a food processor or blender. The key is to make it completely smooth and creamy.
  2. Microwave the chips in a large four cup measuring bowl for one minute, stir, and then microwave them for another 20 seconds so that when you stir the chips, they are melted and smooth.
  3. Add a couple of spoonfuls of the cold tofu to the warm chocolate and blended it well with the hand blender. Repeat the process three times, and then add the entire chocolate mixture into the rest of the smooth tofu, using the hand blender to completely blend the chocolate and tofu together.
  4. Add the Hershey’s Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder with the vanilla and blend one more time with the hand blender until everything is smooth and creamy.
  5. Divide the mousse evenly among eight dishes and sprinkled chopped dairy free chocolate pieces on top as a garnish.