This is a healthier version of those classic cream cheese candies which are staples in weddings and other romantic occasions. Sugar-free and colored with natural beetroot juice, they are perfect for guilt-free Valentine’s Day.
Serve these gems as cute, pink treats or coat them with dark chocolate to create an unbeatable combination of mint and chocolate.
|Nutrition information||Protein||Fat||Net carbs||kcal|
|In total:||1.1 g||9.0 g||1.4 g||114 kcal|
|Per candy if 12 candies in total:||0.1 g||0.8 g||0.1 g||9 kcal|
|Per candy if 24 candies in total:||trace||0.4 g||0.1 g||5 kcal|
|Per candy if 36 candies in total:||trace||0.3 g||trace||3 kcal|
|Per candy if 48 candies in total:||trace||0.2 g||trace||2 kcal|
(Not coated with chocolate.)
|Nutrition information||Protein||Fat||Net carbs||kcal|
|In total:||8.4 g||55.3 g||17.5 g||624 kcal|
|Per candy if 12 candies in total:||0.7 g||4.6 g||1.5 g||52 kcal|
|Per candy if 24 candies in total:||0.3 g||2.3 g||0.7 g||26 kcal|
|Per candy if 36 candies in total:||0.2 g||1.5 g||0.5 g||17 kcal|
|Per candy if 48 candies in total:||0.2 g||1.2 g||0.4 g||13 kcal|
(3 oz = 85 g dark chocolate with 86 % cocoa solids used for coating.)
Tips for making the candies
These are not really hard candies, they remain a bit soft and mealy unless you let them dry at room temperature for several days, and even then they are not going to be really hard. Please note that the chocolate covered candies don’t harden as the chocolate keeps the inside moist.
I recommend to use powdered sweetener which dissolves easily and completely. I’ve found the powdered ZSweet to be the best one in the market, but unfortunately it’s still not very widely available. Last year you could buy it from Amazon and Netrition, and the sweetener was supposed to be back in stock in the beginning of this year. However, I haven’t seen it and the company doesn’t seem to answer my mails and FB messages. That’s a pity. It’s not the first sweetener company neglecting customers and behaving badly.
Earlier I have used powdered pure erythritol — SukrinMelis — but that tends to feel gritty in non-cooked desserts. So, I can no longer recommend it.
If you cannot find beetroot juice, you can use cooked and pureed beetroot. Actually, I would expect that any exceptionally colorful fruit, berry or vegetable juice will do. I didn’t try out pomegranate juice, but I would expect that it would also work as it has really powerful red color.
I know there exist also natural food colorings, but I don’t have any chance to get them here in Finland. Also, if you are not afraid of using artificial food colorings, you can use those, but personally I cannot recommend anything artificial.
The cream cheese works mainly as binding agent, so please don’t be disappointed if you don’t taste much of cream cheese in the ready candies.
If you are not that big fan of peppermint flavor, you can use other flavorings instead. Please keep in mind that erythritol (and especially xylitol, if you happen to use that) has quite strong cooling effect which definitely feels here as we are using plenty of sweetener. So, my point is that the flavor of peppermint covers nicely the cooling effect of the sweetener, and in fact goes pretty well with it.
What is also important is, that the more fluid (i.e. colorings or flavors) you add, the more you need to use sweetener to reach the right consistency for the dough.
With this recipe the yield is quite small. If you need more candies, simply multiply the ingredients. Somehow I’ve used to the fact that when low-carbing, you don’t need that much sweet stuff. Also the sweeteners are so expensive that you cannot afford making huge batches of sweet stuff.
I recommend to make quite small-sized candies: not only hold they better together but also taste more delicious. These are extremely powerfully-flavored candies and a little goes a long way.
What comes to the dough, reaching the right consistency might need some practice. So, in case you are going to serve these treats on Valentine’s Day or give them away, I recommend to prepare a couple of test batches before that.
As a rule of thumb, the easiest way to prepare these candies is to take tiny balls from the dough and flatten the balls either with fingertips or with fork. The next difficult way is to press the dough into molds and the most challenging and time-consuming way is to roll out the dough and cut out heart shapes with a small cookie cutter.
But let’s take a look how to prepare these cute little gems:
Combine cream cheese, peppermint oil and beetroot juice in a small bowl.
Mix with spoon until well mixed.
Sift the sweetener. Add the sweetener 1/4 cup (60 ml) at a time…
…and mix well after each addition.
When the mixture is so stiff that you cannot mix it anymore with spoon, knead in the rest of the powdered sweetener, adding it little by little and kneading well after each addition.
Keep adding more sweetener little by little and kneading after each addition until you have reached the right consistency. The dough has the right consistency when it’s like Play-Doh, so you can mold it easily and it’s not sticky, on the other hand it’s not too hard and crumbly.
Take tiny balls from the dough.
The easiest way to proceed is to place the balls on a parchment paper or waxed paper and flatten them with a fork dipped in powdered sweetener. You can also flatten them with fingertips.
You can also take a plastic mold and make really neat heart shapes out of the dough. This is a little bit more challenging than just flattening the balls with fork or fingertips.
Roll a tiny piece of dough well in powdered sweetener. That prevents the dough from sticking to the mold.
Press the ball into the mold.
Repeat until the mold is full. Put the mold in the freezer.
On the next day, take the mold from the freezer…
…turn it over and press gently so that the heart-shaped candies pop out of the cavities.
If you crave for more challenges, instead of using plastic mold you can roll the dough out on a parchment paper or waxed paper and cut out heart shapes with a tiny cookie cutter.
It’s a good idea to sprinkle some powdered sweetener on the dough…
…and spread it gently to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. Be sure to use silicone rolling pin.
If the rolled dough is too thin, it’s difficult to cut out heart shapes and the candies will be fragile. For me 0.15 inches (4 mm) was the perfect thickness.
Just cut out heart shapes with a tiny cookie cutter.
Whichever way you decide to make your candies, the best place to let them harden is the freezer. You can store the ready candies either in the freezer or in the fridge.
I highly recommend to coat the ready candies with dark chocolate. Not only complements the chocolate the powerful peppermint flavor in a most fantastic way, but the coating also covers the possible cracks on top of the candies in case they happened to get too dry after getting too much sweetener.
It’s best to dip the frozen candies in melted chocolate, so don’t let the candies melt. The coating sets immediately on the frozen candies and it’s just easier to coat a hard than a bit softer candy.
After coating the candies with chocolate, the best place to store them is at room temperature or in the fridge, if you prefer harder consistency.
My sugar-free cream cheese candy experiments
I was browsing some ideas for Valentine’s Day. I have collected my favorite recipes from Allrecipes. There were two quite similar recipes for cream cheese candies, this one and this one. I’ve never made or tasted cream cheese candies before, but the idea sounded so ingenious and perfect: there were only a few ingredients needed.
So, I wanted to make some cream cheese candy experiments, naturally without sugar. Because of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make pink candies. Since artificial food colorings don’t belong to my repertoire, I had to think of a natural option. Beetroot juice was natural and it had strong, dark color, something with pink and magenta.
Instead of icing sugar I needed powdered sweetener. I took my favorite one, ZSweet. I believe pure powdered erythritol or xylitol would also do.
Luckily I had a small bottle of peppermint oil. I wanted to use that instead of peppermint flavor. First of all, I needed just one or two drops and secondly, the flavor was more authentic and more intense.
Since I hadn’t made cream cheese candies before, first I made an experiment using real icing sugar. Actually, the experiment was very close to this recipe, I just halved the ingredients and colored the mixture with a couple of dashes beetroot juice.
All I can say that the dough was too soft — I realized that on the next day when I tried to get the candies out of the heart-shaped plastic molds into which I had pressed them.
Some of the molds I had put in freezer, some of them in the fridge and the rest I left at room temperature for overnight. I couldn’t release the candies from any of the molds without breaking the candies — they hadn’t hardened at all. Then I realized that the dough had been simply too soft. I should have added more icing sugar to make the dough firmer. Moreover, I should have rolled the balls in icing sugar before pressing them into the molds for easy release.
I was still planning to do one experiment with icing sugar before moving to more expensive sweeteners, but the time was tight and I thought I simply have to succeed with powdered ZSweet.
I checked the two recipes again and started pondering amounts for my first sugar-free cream cheese candy experiment. I didn’t want to make too big batch — it would have been indeed nasty if the result had been rubbish and I had to throw all the expensive stuff in the garbage bin.
I took 1 oz (30 g) cream cheese and put it in a deep and narrow bowl. I added also 2 drops peppermint oil and 2 ml (a bit less than 1/4 teaspoon) beetroot juice. I wanted to mix everything with an electric mixer, but since it was late and my son was sleeping, I didn’t want to cause too much noise but just ended up mixing everything with a spoon.
That worked wonderfully. When the mixture was smooth, I started adding the sweetener 1/4 cup (60 ml) at a time, mixing well after each addition. When the mixture was so stiff that I couldn’t mix it with spoon anymore, I kneaded the dough with my hands.
I had added 1 cup (240 ml) sweetener when I thought the dough had reached the right consistency. It was exactly like Play-Doh, easy to mold and holding very well together. It felt really nice and soft in the hands and I was already thinking of all kinds of funny figures I could make out of it.
However, I decided to resist the temptation to shape those funny figures and instead I took tiny balls from the dough, rolled them in powdered ZSweet and pressed the balls into heart-shaped plastic molds. Rest of the balls I placed on a plate and flattened them with fork.
I placed one mold in the freezer, left one mold at room temperature and put the flattened balls in the fridge.
On the next day I started releasing the candies from the molds. They were extremely easy to release! All of them popped out neatly and nicely, I didn’t have any difficulties with the candies sticking to the molds.
Phew! That was a lot easier than thought. I prepared some more candies for the photos and some for fun. Nobody else in our family likes peppermint flavor, so now I have plenty of candies for myself! Well, I don’t mind, I don’t know anything better than the flavor-match-made-in-heaven dark chocolate and peppermint!
Tips for variation
If you are not a fan of peppermint flavor, please feel free to experiment with other flavors. However, like said, peppermint covers nicely the cool aftertaste of erythritol or xylitol. Moreover, if you use more flavor — like one teaspoon vanilla extract or some other flavor — you also need more sweetener to reach the right consistency.
You can naturally color the candies with some other color — or leave them white. I have already plans for St. Patrick’s Day to make green, clover-shaped candies. I think I try either spirulina or chlorella powder for the green color.