As I mentioned in my last blog post, I worry about the amount of sugar we consume through what homemade dessert recipes require and through “hidden sugars” in processed foods. However, I also want my dessert to taste like dessert. My personal litmus test is my youngest child the aforementioned pickiest eater also from my last post. I was trying to sneak healthy ingredients past him long before it became a celebrity thing. Here’s a perfect example of just how difficult it is to fool him. I made the Mild Madras Curry, a favorite main course from Ballymaloe, for dinner recently. Given that it’s been insanely hot and humid here, I was literally slaving over a hot stove all day. I added some white eggplant from our garden to the dish, peeling and cubing it to the same size as the lamb, in hopes that he would not notice. As we were eating, he said, “What’s the stuff that looks like meat but isn’t?” My efforts foiled again!
Desserts are the Holy Grail in my “can it taste good and be good for you?” quest. I am always experimenting with sugar substitutes and flours to replace the white, void of nutrition, stuff. Brownies, I think, are the biggest challenge of all because most recipes call for 2 cups of granulated sugar necessary for a moist dark crumb. Substituting with other sugars can result in either a cake-like texture or fake-like sugar taste e.g. when using stevia, which I think results in an overpowering sweetness. I really like date sugar and I have used Bob’s Red Mill Date sugar here, but date sugar alone results in a very dry brownie.
I feel I have finally been successful!! This recipe appeals to me on so many levels. I was using food that I had available in my kitchen on that day. My original plan was to make date syrup (same quest). However, I only had 10 medjool dates in the house, but I also had 11 mission figs, so I made the syrup by combining the two with 500ml (2 Cups) water bringing to a boil then simmering until the dates and figs softened and broke up. I strained the date mixture through cheesecloth over a bowl wringing as much of the liquid out as possible. Then I returned the liquid to the stove and simmered reducing to about half to make the syrup.
At Ballymaloe we learned to use everything, so my first thought after squeezing the life out of the dates and figs was, “What can I do with these?” Brownies came immediately to mind. This recipe is not complicated despite making the syrup. Substitute dried dates and figs for the pulp for similar results. I would typically simply use dates, but my husband really liked the fig addition as his favorite childhood cookie was “Fig Newtons” and there are a hint of fig seeds in these. I reminded him that prior brownie quests had included chia seeds about which he was less than enthusiastic.
Most importantly, my son did not pick out the dates and declared the brownies “Delicious!” I did frost them for his sake but that is unnecessary even though the frosting was damned good, if I say so myself.
Dark Chocolate Date Brownies
3/4 C date pulp or chopped dates soaked in hot water until soft then drained
1/2 t baking soda, sifted
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey’s) https://www.thehersheycompany.com
2/3 C coconut oil
1/2 C boiling water
3/4 Cup date sugar (B0b’s Red Mill Date Sugar) http://www.bobsredmill.com/shop/products
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1/4 Cup monk fruit crystals (or coconut sugar)
2 T chocolate mint syrup (optional)
1 t vanilla extract
1/3 C almond meal (Bob’s Red Mill whole almond meal)
2/3 C sprouted wheat flour
1/2 C dark chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli) http://www.ghirardelli.com/
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 X 13 baking dish.
Combine the the dates, baking soda, and cocoa powder and half the coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Add the bowling water and blend. It will become thick. Then add the rest of the oil, the sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract and blend until smooth. Add the almond meal and flours until just mixed. Lastly, add the chips. Spread evenly in prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes.
Chocolate Mint Buttercream Frosting
1/2 Cup (1 stick) butter
1/c Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 t vanilla
1 C powdered sugar
1-2 T chocolate mint syrup http://www.simplegourmetsyrups.com
Blend in large bowl of stand mixer with whip attachment or mix by hand or mix with hand mixer until smooth and creamy. Add more liquid if necessary.