Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Recipe: Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate Bark

Tasty sugar-free chocolate bark is a treat!

Updated August 26, 2023:

My son and I both have ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome) and Lyme disease. Back in 2014, we switched to a Paleo diet and got super strict on limiting sugar in an effort to get our yeast overgrowth/chronic thrush under control and to improve our mitochondrial function and energy. It has definitely helped. We do both still have yeast flare-ups occasionally and have to stick to a moderately strict diet--we both eat a modified Paleo diet now, as described in this post, with plenty of variety, including fruits. Research shows this kind of diet to be best for those with immune disorders, which includes ME/CFS and long-COVID. When yeast overgrowth flares up again, we tighten up the diet. This post lists all of the treatments that help to control yeast overgrowth, which is very common in ME/CFS and long-COVID due to our immune dysfunction.

Finding a source of dark chocolate treats with no sugar was a priority for both of us! If you read the labels of most commercial products labeled "sugar-free," you'll see that they contain sugar alcohols (end in -ol). While these are zero-calorie sweeteners, they do still feed yeast (with two exceptions, xylitol and erythritol, which actually help fight yeast). Also, many commercial low-sugar or no-sugar chocolates contain dairy, which we are both intolerant to, as are a full 30% of ME/CFS patients.

If your yeast is mostly under control, and you are trying to maintain that state and limit sugar, then super-dark chocolate is a good option. Chocolate labeled with 86% cacao content or higher contains less than 1g of sugar per square. There are lots of brands available if dairy isn't a problem for you, including Ghiardelli, available in most drugstores and grocery stores. Since I am dairy-intolerant, I enjoy Hu or Theo brands, which are vegan/dairy-free (but stick to the darker varieties and watch your serving size, as the sugar content can add up, even in the 70% varieties).

So, I experimented with making our own dark chocolate bark, starting with unsweetened chocolate (baking chocolate) and adding small amounts of stevia (we like Truvia brand with erythritol) or xylitol (erythritol and xylitol both fight yeast). Here is the resulting recipe (and here is an earlier recipe I posted for Chocolate Sunflower Butter Cups):

Mostly Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate Bark
Easily doubled or tripled

4 oz (1 package/bar) Baker's unsweetened baking chocolate (inexpensive and available in any grocery store on the baking aisle) or any unsweetened baking chocolate, 4 oz.
1/2 tsp coconut oil (stabilizes the mixture to prevent "bloom")
1 tsp (or to taste) stevia (we use Truvia brand with erythritol) or xylitol
1/2 tsp alcohol-free vanilla extract (like Trader Joe's) - optional

Optional Additions:
Nuts, like almonds or cashews
Flaked sea salt (or any sea salt, sprinkled on top)
(go for salted seeds and nuts--good for Orthostatic Intolerance!)
  1. Break chocolate up into pieces and put in a glass bowl or 2- or 4-cup glass measuring cup, along with coconut oil. Microwave in short intervals (30-60 sec), stirring in between, until chocolate is mostly melted (the exact time will depend on your microwave; I usually start with 1 minute, stir, then another 45 seconds).
  2. Stir chocolate with a silicone sptaula (some of the chunks will still appear solid but will incorporate into the melted portion as you stir). Add stevia, Truvia, or xylitol, to sweeten to taste, and stir well. The amounts listed above will give you the equivalent of very dark chocolate. Add more if you like yours sweeter. Microwave for another 30-40 seconds and stir again.
  3. Stir in alcohol-free vanilla.
  4. Add whatever additions you like and stir. I love coconut, so I add lots of unsweetened flaked coconut to mine, plus some sunflower seeds for a bit of salty crunchiness. My son likes a mix of pumpkin and sunflower seeds in his. You could also use some chopped nuts, though seeds are generally less inflammatory than nuts for those with immune disorders. Lately, I have been making one plain batch, with just sea salt on top, and one batch with peanuts, seeds, or nuts.
  5. Spread the mixture out on a piece of foil on the kitchen counter, using the spatula to get as much of the chocolate as possible out, and let cool at room temperature.
  6. When solid, break the bark into pieces. Store in an airtight container or plastic bag at room temperature (refrigerating chocolate can change its taste and texture).

NOTE: Stevia won't affect yeast, and erythritol and xylitol actually help to fight yeast.

© Suzan L. Jackson 2023
(Do not reprint or publish without written permission from the author)

Warm Chocolate Bark after being spread on foil

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