So healthy you’ll *want* to know what are in these brownies – both of them!
Brownies are not really what I dub as “summer” food, but when my friend Sarah linked me to these zucchini brownies, well…what’s more summer than finding an ingenious baking recipe for that zucchini glut? We figured the zucchini brownies could easily be made vegan (the recipe used two eggs), and we were right. Sarah upped the applesauce and baking soda, making for a really lovely fruity brownie that whispered of cherry. The zucchini seemed to dissolve effortlessly into the mixture, simply helping these stay moist and delicious. While warm these were super soft and melty, chocolatey but not over-the-top sweet. I’m already thinking of other vegetables you could use in place of the zucchini (carrots? beets? parnsips?) for different seasonal variations. For the recipe, hop on over to Sarah’s new food blog, Gin and Juniper.
Just in case turning on the oven is on your thumbs down list though, we also made some raw vegan brownies (okay, so I bastardised them a little with the ganache). I like to think we’ve covered 99% of the world’s food allergy problems with these two offerings. While the zuc brownies were baking, we whizzed up the raw brownies (ok, so more of a walnut chocolate slice), with a few alterations (which are expressed in the recipe below). They were quite surprising, because although the mixture looked dry and crumbly, they were actually chewy and moist. Since the crumbliness made things a little difficult to eat though, we changed the date-to-nut ratio and drizzled in some honey to keep it together a bit more. I would encourage you to further taste and tweak to adjust the mixture to your heart’s desire – if you think the mixture is too sweet, add a bit more cocoa. If you want to try different nuts, go for it (harder/drier nuts like hazelnuts or almonds should probably be whizzed to a fine grind before proceeding though, and may need more honey to stick things together). If you’re not eating these as part of a raw food diet, roasting the nuts a little will really bring out their flavour as well.
Since I love walnuts, these were a perfect marriage of convenience (since you don’t have to roast them) and flavour. They were also a bit aerated yet also fudgy, sticky, and moreishly nutty throughout. We shared a few pieces and everyone was pleasantly surprised that these had dates and no butter in. These brownies really don’t need it – this is still pretty full on and rich without tasting just of cocoa and baking soda (hate to generalise, but a lot of chocolate vegan baking suffers from this). Plus, they’re ridiculously easy, and have a very short ingredients list. You don’t need to have the pantry of a vegan or a raw foodist to make these.
Raw brownies, or walnut chocolate slice
makes one 9x4x3″ loaf tin
- 1c freshly shelled walnuts*, see notes above about using other nuts
- 1 1/3c pitted dates (have more on hand)
- optional: 1-2 tsp honey (use an extra date or two if you don’t have honey)
- 1/3 c good quality cocoa** (because you’ll really taste the difference here)
Whizz in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine crumbs (see Shannalee’s photos here for reference). Press into loaf tin lined with baking paper or foil to make a smoothish top. Place in freezer while you make the topping (Shannalee uses an amazing looking avocado, honey and cocoa icing, but we didn’t have any soft avos, so I bastardised this slightly for the raw foodists with our chocolate honey ganache).
- about 200g good quality chopped dark chocolate (if your brownies are almost too sweet, use a higher cocoa content). Make sure you like eating it as it is! We used 50% Fair Trade stuff.
- honey to taste, or 50-100ml cream if you’re not vegan and want to keep these less sweet (you could also use nut milks instead of cream, or coconut cream, but only use a few Tablespoons)
Melt chocolate on low heat in a saucepan (never so hot you can’t leave your hand on the pot). Stir through the honey/cream/milk until everything is blissfully incorporated. Spread over the slice and let set (in the fridge if you’re in a hurry). Serve at room temperature.
EDIT: A light sprinkling of sea salt or cacao nibs over the ganache before it sets would be super yum. Just sayin.
*As with all my recipes which call for walnuts, I strongly urge you to crack them fresh before using. Walnuts go rancid incredibly quickly, and the shelled versions at many supermarkets are often pretty off-tasting well before their best before date. Alternatively, get the shelled version from a place you already know sells really fresh walnuts. You can sometimes tell if the walnuts are off since the white flesh (where the kernels are broken apart) will have gone translucent and yellow. They also have a fairly unpleasant smell. **My favourite cocoa that is not super expensive is the stuff from Piko in the paper bags, but get whatever brand you trust. Good cocoa tends to be a really beautiful reddy purple brown, not necessarily almost-black but not so pale it starts to resemble cheap milk chocolate!