Earlier in the year we started growing some Stevia plants - Stevia is allegedly 100 times sweeter than sugar and we felt that being able to contribute to our sugar demands locally was another step to sustainability.
So heres how we progressed and potentially found the answer to the age old dilemma of cake lovers everywhere - "can I justify another slice?". Now you can as its a health food!
Worrying out potential frosts we recently decided to harvest our stevia plants and dry the leaves to make a powder we could use as a substitute sweetener.
We took a few cuttings first in the hope that we can propogate new plants which will survive the winter and provide next years crop. There is a simple video with a good tip on using ziplock bags by Growing Herbs here.
After washing well the leaves went into our dehydrator and it was a simple task over the next 4 hours to achieve a fully dried product. In the absence of a dehydrator an oven on the lowest setting with the door ajar could also do the trick or possibly a handy shelf above a radiator could come into play.
The final part of ther process was grinding the leaves to a fine powder in a small coffee/spice grinder. The overall yield was rather dissapointing but on tasting we realised that it is indeed very, very sweet. The literature suggests that the Stevia powder in this form is 50-100 times sweeter than sugar.
Tasting the finished Stevia was an interesting experince - no more than a few grains gave a sweet kick but also a definite flavour which is not apparent in refined sugar. So what to do with it. A look on-line lead us to this recipe which we have adapted slightly. We loved the taste of the finished cake - not sweet so reminiscent of a very dark chocolate given some interesting textiure from the chocolate chunks. And light in texture too. An interesting variation would be to separate the eggs, whipping the whites before folding in for a mousse or souffled texture.
Chocolate Brownie Cake - is this the Holly Grail of the Healthy Cake?
2 teaspoons stevia powder
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 c cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease lightly 13x9" baking tin. Stir together the stevia, flour, cocoa, soda, and salt and set aside. Mix the melted butter, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add flour mixture and stir until moistened. Fold in chocolate chunks. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.