Naturally sweetened dessert recipes

Once you get away from high-sugar desserts or the sickenly sweet treats made with artificial sweeteners, your tastebuds will appreciate the natural sweetness from fruits and sugar alternatives. Honey, maple syrup and syrups derived from barley malt and brown rice give desserts just enough sweetness to satisfy your sweet tooth and the peace of mind that your sweet treat is without sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Desserts can be made pleasingly sweet with natural sweeteners such as fresh or dried fruit, fruit juice concentrate, honey, molasses, barley malt syrup and brown rice syrup. Natural sweeteners are a better choice as compared to sugar and artificial sweeteners and, with a few modifications, can produce an equally moist, delicious and even decadent desserts.


Whipped Chocolate RicottaWhipped Chocolate Ricotta
Serves 6

Nicely sweetened with honey, this light creamy dessert is a must-have after a spring or summer meal. Serve in wine glasses or champagne flutes with fresh raspberries and fresh mint to impress your guests.

1 (15-ounce) container of ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 orange, unpeeled, sliced
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

In a large bowl, use an electric hand blender to beat ricotta, vanilla, cocoa powder, honey and cinnamon until smooth and fluffy. Spoon into wine glasses and garnish with orange slices and toasted almonds.

Energy BarsNut and Fruit Energy Bars
Serves 8

A chewy-good homemade energy bar just waiting to be taken on an afternoon hike or packed along for a picnic treat. This recipe uses dates, apricots and currants but you can use any delectable dried fruit you have on hand. The fruit is sweet enough that you don’t need a lot of additional sweetener.

1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried currants
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds

2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, combine fruit, juice and zest of the orange and water. Bring to a simmer and cook mixture for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool while you make the crust.

Place the oats, pastry flour, salt and nutmeg in a food processor. Pulse to lightly blend ingredients and break up oats just a bit. Add the butter and pulse to cut into the oats. Add water and process to combine. Do not overmix. Press half of this mixture into the greased baking pan. Transfer the remaining mixture to a small bowl and set aside

Place the cooked fruit mixture and the almonds in the bowl of the processor and process to break up almonds and purée fruit. Spread fruit mixture onto the oat crust in baking pan.
Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture evenly over the filling and press lightly. Drizzle with maple syrup.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes to cook and lightly brown crust. Cool before cutting into 8 bars.

Five-Spice Tea CookieFive-Spice Tea Cookies
Makes 3 dozen

A spicy cookie with citrus hints, sweetened with rice syrup and barley malt. Grab a cup of green or black tea and give a couple cookies a nibble.

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
1/4 cup barley malt
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons five-spice powder
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 cup minced unsweetened coconut

Combine oil, rice syrup, barley malt, water, vanilla and orange extract in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together salt, baking soda, five-spice, flour and coconut, and gradually add to the liquid mixture. The dough should form a mass that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add more flour if necessary. Cover the bowl and chill at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out dough 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick on a floured cutting board. Cut the dough with cookie or biscuit cutters that have been dipped in flour to prevent sticking. Transfer the cookies to an oiled cookie sheet. Roll up remaining scraps of dough and roll out again to cut more cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Note: Dough can be rolled into a log, wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to three months. When ready to bake, let thaw and use a sharp knife to cut into discs. Bake as directed.