Despite the fact that I haven’t finished raking the leaves in my yard, we have a solid layer of snow on top. The only thing that keeps me moving forward is that as the weather gets colder, the beverages get hotter. I’ve always been a sucker for hot chocolate, tea, coffee, anything warm and delightful, but it’s a real downer having to skip the marshmallows on top (except on the rare occasion I get my hands on vegetarian marshmallows). When I saw amazing looking chocolate chip marshmallows this season, I knew something had to be done to keep me from going crazy with envy. That’s where the idea for cookie croutons came in. Josh and I have been arguing over whose idea these were, that’s how good they are. Josh never tries to take credit for any of my creations. Hot chocolate is already packed with calories and cookies, unfortunately, are not as low calorie as marshmallows, so I knew I had do something to bring the calorie counts down. I’d heard of but never tried Monk Fruit in the Raw. When I received some for the Show Us Your Sweets recipe contest for The Recipe Redux, I knew these croutons were the perfect place to try them out. It’s a natural, zero calorie sugar replacer that measures cup for cup just like sugar. The package recommends not subbing out all of the sugar in baked goods, so I paired it with maple syrup for a naturally sweetened treat. Unlike cookie crumbs in a glass of milk, these babies actually float! Even better, they maintain crunch for a LONG time in a glass of hot cocoa. These would also be great over ice cream, with yogurt, mixed into a fruit salad, or just grabbing a handful to satisfy a sweet tooth.
4 tbsp flax meal + ½ c water (See note for substituting eggs)
2 tsp vanilla extract
⅓ c pure maple syrup
⅓ c unsweetened applesauce
3 oz high quality chocolate, chopped, or ⅔ c chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare a baking sheet by spritzing with nonstick spray or lining with parchment paper.
Combine flour, powder, salt, Monk Fruit in the Raw, and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, mix the flax with the water and let sit for a few minutes. Add the extract, syrup, and applesauce and stir until well combined.
Add the wet to the dry and stir until almost just combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir to distribute, being careful not to over stir. The dough will be a little thick, but all flour should be incorporated (add a little extra applesauce if necessary, but not enough to make the dough sticky or wet).
Shape the dough on the cooking sheet so that it’s approximately 4 inches wide, 22 inches long, and a little less than an inch thick.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the edges begin to brown. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes.
Using a sharp knife, cut the loaf into ¾ – 1 inch strips (cutting 20-something strips along the long edge is easiest). Cut those strips into 5 – 10 pieces, depending on how large or small you want your croutons.
Put the pieces back on the baking sheet and spritz with a little nonstick spray. Bake for 5 minutes, turn, and return to the oven. Repeat until the pieces have baked a total of 20 additional minutes, adjusting the time as necessary so as to get crunchy pieces but not burnt. They will crisp a little more as they cool.
Serve with hot cocoa, ice cream, fruit, or eat on their own.
Because I intended these to pair with other sweet things, the croutons themselves are only mildly sweet so as not to be overwhelming. For a more indulgent cookie flavor, increase the amount of sweetener. If increasing substantially (more than half of a cup), use regular sugar. Monk Fruit in the Raw measures cup for cup compared to sugar and can be wholey swapped out for traditional sugar if it’s not available. If you’d rather use eggs, swap out the flax and water for four eggs. This will add additional moisture, so decrease to ¼ c of applesauce and increase if necessary. Makes Approx 110 croutons, serving size: 5 croutons
I received free samples from Cumberland Packing Corp., maker of Monk Fruit In The Raw. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Cumberland Packing Corp. and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.