Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Grain-Free Squash Bars

Even though I've had to give up grains I have not been deterred from giving up all treats. I do eat them less often, which is a good thing, but occasionally I experiment and come up with something tasty. 

Not only am I not eating grains but am also not eating nuts or much coconut so almond and coconut flours are out. Coconut is a weird flour to bake with anyway. Plantains to the rescue! 

Plantains look like giant bananas but are firmer and only eaten cooked. Dead ripe, with a black skin, they are usually used as a dessert: fried, baked, mashed, all sorts of recipes. On the other end of the spectrum, green plantains are a neutral starch, good for replacing flour in various recipes. Depending on the individual plantain and the recipe, there can be a hint of banana taste or absolutely none at all. The greener the plantain, the less banana flavor. A more complex recipe also hides small amounts of banana flavor. 

My first experiments with plantain were with plain plantain muffins. Pretty good, but they tended to be wet in the middle. I fixed that by making mini muffins so they could cook through more easily. Next, I played around with pancakes. I got closer and closer to what I wanted, then just used my old reliable recipe, subbing plantain for the flour, and it was wonderful! 

Thanks to Pinterest and Preparing it Paleo I've found that, in many recipes, I can sub one plantain per cup of flour. I haven't measured this by weight or volume to find an exact amount, but so far have used forgiving recipes such as pancakes. Someday I'll stop and measure and take notes! 

My biggest accomplishment yet was to adapt a recipe that I had already adapted to significantly change the flavors. I love Winter Squash Bars from Simply in Season and wondered if I could make them with summer squash puree instead of winter squash. Or immature winter squash (which is first cousin, if not sibling, to summer squash).  

Baby pumpkin or round zucchini? (baby pumpkin)
Summer squash, with some flavor adjustments, makes a fabulous substitute for winter. It needs to be drained very well, as it tends to be wetter than winter squash. For flavoring I used lemon peel with a hint of ginger and cloves.

This, however, was all with flour. Granted, the flour type did not seem to matter too much: white, whole wheat, or a combination all worked. But what about plantain? This is a moist bar and I wasn't sure if plantain would take it over the top. After a few tries I can confidently say it works, though I have to make sure drain the puree well and use a little less squash.

Working with green plantain is a little tricky. It needs to be pureed and it's tough! I recommend a sturdy blender (I use a vintage Oster with a new blade) or heavy-duty immersion blender. I understand a food processor will work but it does need to be pretty strong to get a fine puree. I begin the process with just the plantain, add the butter, then the eggs. In addition to on Preparing it Paleo, find tips for working with plantain from the Paleo Mom and The Paleo Secret.

Plantain on the left, white flour on the right

You can see that the plantain bars are darker, at least than a white flour version of the bars. I was surprised, as plantain pancakes taste and look just like white flour pancakes. The bars are sweeter, too, so perhaps it's extra sugars browning. I'll probably experiment with less sugar in the future, too. 

For the regular flour version, see the Main St. Farmers Market blog

Grain-Free Summer Squash Bars
Adapted from Winter Squash Bars from Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert

Whisk together:
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbs poppy seeds
Set aside

1 green plantain with, first:
⅜ cup (6 Tbs) butter, melted, then:
2 eggs

Mix together in a bowl:
generous 3/4 cup summer squash puree (about 1lb fresh squash, immature winter squash, or spaghetti squash)
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Stir in plantain mixture, then salt, soda, and seeds

Pour into greased 9” x 13” pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes and cut into bars when cool (or cool-ish!).

Printable recipe

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