These paleo blondies use a base of chestnut flour and finely ground almond flour plus a hint of maca for its naturally graham-like, caramel-like, butterscotch-like taste. Chestnut flour is a fun flour alternative when it comes to gluten-free, grain-free baking. It is starchy and fairly high in carbohydrates, making it less dense than other nut flours, and less heavy and absorptive than coconut flour. Essentially, it’s a great way to “lighten up” a grain-free recipe! I purchase my chestnut flour locally (we have chestnut festivals in my neck of the woods), but you can also purchase it online on sites like nuts.com and amazon.com (I’ll link a high-rated brand in the recipe below).
If you’re interested in gluten-free and grain-free flours, check out this awesome flour comparison chart:
Although not listed in the above chart, chestnut flour would fall in the “occasional use” or the “use rarely” categories, between light rye flour and oat flour. But you’ll notice that it’s still lower in carbs than unbleached white flour and pastry flour made from wheat!
While Chestnuts are technically tree nuts (and therefore people with tree nut allergies should take care… you may or may not have a reaction to chestnuts!), Chestnut Flour is quite different than the flours/meals of other tree nuts, such as Almond Flour or Hazelnut Flour. To start, chestnut flour is very low in fat; in fact, chestnuts have a starchy profile that makes their flour more similar to typical grain flours in its nutritional (and functional) profile than the typical nut flour. By way of comparison,
- 1/4 cup almond flour contains 160 calories, with 6g carbohydrate, of which3g are fiber, 6g is protein and 14g is fat
- 1/4 cup of chestnut flour contains ~95 calories, with 21g carbohydrate, of which <1g is fiber, 1g protein, 1g fat*
- 1/4 cup all-purpose white (wheat) flour contains ~114 calories, with 24g carbohydrate, of which <1 is fiber, 3g protein, <1g fat
While chestnut flour is still considered a high glycemic index food (the source I consulted rated it a ~65 on the index; a food must be 50-55 or lower to be considered ‘low’), it is still considerably lower on the GI scale than typical flours used for baking, glutinous and gluten-free alike, such as white rice flour (GI=~95), potato starch (GI=~95), Arrowroot starch (GI=~85) and white (wheat) flour (GI=~85)**. To be sure, it’s considerably more expensive (and hard to find), but for those of you looking for lower GI, GF substitutes for the white rice flour in your recipes, chestnut flour could be a good option… so long as you’re not allergic to tree nuts, that is.
Maca is a starchy tuber native to the Andes mountains that has been used for thousands of years by native Peruvians as a food staple, but also to increase stamina and fertility. Today, maca is sold as an “herb” (even though it’s actually derived from a root) and is often touted as a “superfood.”
What are the health benefits of maca?
Maca is considered an “endocrine adaptogen,” which — as stated by Katie, at wellnessmama.com — means that it does not contain any hormones, but rather it contains the nutrients necessary to support normal hormone production. Maca has been reported to balance hormones including thyroid hormones, stress hormones, AND sex hormones.
What do balanced sex hormones mean? Less period pain and PMS, a reduction in symptoms of menopause, increased fertility, and improved libido. Maca has earned the reputation of “nature’s Viagra” as it has been shown to enhance libido in men when 1500 to 3000 mg of maca is taken (by mouth) daily in 3 divided doses.
What do balanced thyroid and stress hormones mean? More energy, possible recovery from (or prevention of) adrenal fatigue, mental clarity, improved ability to handle and be resilient to life’s daily stresses, as well as a better handle on weight and appetite control.
Maca is naturally high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, carbohydrates, protein, and essential fatty acids making it an all-around fabulous whole-foods dietary supplement.
Maca has also been reported to help with “tired blood” (anemia), improving energy and athletic performance, improving memory, decreasing depression, preventing osteoporosis and boosting the immune system among other things…
Unfortunately, more evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of maca for most of these uses. But just like so many other ancient herbal remedies, if Peruvians have been using maca for thousands of years with great success, I think it’s certainly worth a shot!
Who should avoid maca?
It’s difficult to say. Traditional cultures ingested large quantities of maca in its whole food form with no reported side effects.
However, since compounds in maca mimic human estrogen, women with hormone-sensitive conditions such as endometriosis, breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, or uterine fibroids should avoid maca. Of course, this blog post does NOT contain medical advice — you should always speak with your healthcare provider — but please do note that if you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, the use of maca may be problematic for you.
Also, it is NOT KNOWN how maca affects women who are pregnant and breastfeeding. It is very difficult to do research on the pregnant and breastfeeding populations, since babies obviously can’t speak for themselves and “consent” to being a research subject! Thus, although maca may be safe for pregnant and lactating women, science is just not sure. Speak to your healthcare provider, functional medicine specialist, or naturopathic doctor for questions and concerns specific to YOU.
And now, for the paleo blondies recipe!
Admittedly, the butterscotch chip addition isn’t exactly “Paleo.” Well hell, none of this recipe would have actually been whipped up by a paleolithic caveman (or woman). But my paleo blondies ARE grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. They’re rich and sweet and delicious… The perfect indulgence that just feels so YUMMY as the days get colder and crisper and summer turns to Fall…
Paleo Blondies with variations… Butterscotch highly recommended!
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, slightly softened (but not liquified)
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup Chestnut Flour
- 1/2 cup finely ground blanched almond flour
- 1.5 Tbsp organic Maca Powder (if you don’t have maca, you can substitute 1.5 Tbsp of chestnut flour)
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup of any of the following (or a combination): semi-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, or chopped toasted walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease or parchment-line an 8 x 8″ or 7.75 x 7.75″ baking pan. (Parchment-lining is recommended, as greasing the pan can make these feel too oily.)
Stir together coconut oil and sugar. Add egg and vanilla; mix until smooth and completely combined.
Combine dry ingredients (flours, maca, baking soda, and salt) and then pour into wet mixture. Stir well to combine.
Fold in your yummy add-ins (chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, PB chips, and/or walnuts). Batter will be very thick.
Turn into prepared baking pan. Use a spatula to “pat out” until even, smoothing the top as best as you can.
Bake for 18-22 minutes until golden and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes. Cut into small squares and serve. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers. Makes 12 – 16 bars.
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