The co-owner of Sweet Laurel shares her best tips for low-sugar, grain-free baking

Sweet Laurel baking tips
Photo: Instagram/@sweetlaurelbakery
Sweet Laurel
Photo: Clarkson & Potter

Keep it simple. That’s the biggest piece of advice Laurel Gallucci, co-owner of the beloved Sweet Laurel bakery in Los Angeles, has to give to bakers looking to replicate her gluten-free goodies at home.

Gallucci started baking grain-, dairy-, and refined-sugar-free desserts for herself after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune disorder) in 2012. By cutting those foods from her diet, she was able to completely manage her symptoms, which her team of doctors hadn’t been able to achieve through prescription medicine. Gallucci saw a space in the market for the wholesome cakes and cookies she was making for herself and began building what’s become a mini-empire of gluten-free (and sometimes vegan) baked goods with her friend and business partner Claire Thomas.

This month the duo released their first cookbook, Sweet Laurel, a collection of mega-yum recipes for everything from grain-free crackers and Southern-style biscuits to s’mores pie and tres leches cake. The best part? The ingredient lists are shockingly miniscule.

“I didn’t want to have 45 ingredients in my pantry so I narrowed them down to five: almond flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, Himalayan pink salt, and eggs.” — Laurel Gallucci

“This is really about my personal healing journey through food. I didn’t want to have 45 ingredients in my pantry, so I narrowed them down to five core ingredients: almond flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, Himalayan pink salt, and eggs,” says Gallucci, who adds that you can swap any nut flour for almond flour (or coconut flour, but then you need to add extra moisture). You can also use vegan eggs instead of the regular, chicken kind in all but a small number of custard-based recipes in the book. “You need eggs for a custard,” she says.

Many vegan cakes call for “eggs” made from mixing a tablespoon of either flax, chia, or psyllium husk and three tablespoons of water, but Gallucci and Thomas’s cookbook drills down a little further, recommending flaxseed for a gooier texture and nutty flavor, chia for when you want amped up health benefits (including essential fatty acids) and psyllium husks for helping to bind and rise quick breads and lighter colored cakes. Gallucci’s other hack? “Often I do a fifty-fifty flax and chia mixture. The aftertaste can be strong if you use just one or the other,” she says.

Keto fans will be happy to know that Sweet Laurel will soon be selling a line of ketogenic baked goods made with monkfruit instead of the maple syrup Gallucci uses in most of her non-keto treats. “Fat is what fuels me,” she says.

That, and maybe some cake.

Keep reading to get the recipe for Sweet Laurel’s chocolate caramel blondies.

Chocolate Caramel Blondies

Gallucci says blondies were a mainstay of her childhood along with chocolate chip cookies. She loves this "wonderful cookie bar" in particular because it uses her recipe for vegan caramel (made with dates, almond butter and a few other ingredients), which she discovered when "trying to make a cake that tasted like a Girl Scout Samoa."

Instructions

  1. Make the vegan caramel. Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper, letting it hang over the sides for easy removal.

  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Stir until a dough comes together, then add a half cup of the chocolate chips. Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan.

  4. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until firm but not quite golden. Remove from the oven and, holding two sides of the parchment, lift the blondies in one piece from the pan. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Pour the caramel evenly over the blondies, and let set. If it’s warm out, set the blondies in the fridge to help the caramel firm up.

  5. To make the chocolate drizzle, melt the remaining half cup chocolate chips in a glass bowl, either in a microwave (zap for 15-second increments on low power, stirring in between) or in a double boiler. Use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate over the blondies and let set. Once the drizzle is set, cut the blondies into squares and serve. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to five days, or in the freezer indefinitely.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted from Sweet Laurel: Recipes for Whole Food, Grain-Free Desserts. Copyright © 2018 by Laurel Gallucci and Claire Thomas. Photography by Claire Thomas. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. For more vegan baking ideas check out this antioxidant-supercharged carrot cake with coconut frosting or this red velvet cake made with apple cider vinegar.

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