Nearly Guilt-Free Cocoa Brownie

Brownie - GFCFMy food philosophy is one of balance and variety.  I love rich, decadent foods and sweets, but I also adore healthy meals.  Salads, fresh fruits and vegetables are my mainstay and I cherish the way my body feels after drinking a freshly made smoothie.  I also savor being satiated with frivolous and sinful tastes of indulgent perfection from luscious and soul-warming duck confit to subtly gratifying chestnut soufflé.

My kids?.. Not so much.  They wish all foods contained a predictable amount of chocolate and they aren’t convinced that every meal needn’t end with some sort of rich dessert.  Again, preferably chocolate.  Trying to find a balance for them is a daily challenge.  I think they should enjoy sweets, but all within moderation.

Enter this cocoa brownie recipe which I’ve adapted from Terry Walters’ cookbook entitled Clean Start.  My master recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free.  Shockingly, however, no one will guess that it isn’t full of bad-for-you ingredients.  It utilizes maple syrup (which I prefer to agave) – but much of the sweetness comes from apples, dates and banana.  I prefer to add in some chocolate chips before baking or pipe some tempered dark chocolate on top after, but neither are necessary.  So I leave it up to you.

This brownie will satiate your sweet-tooth without taxing your guilt-quotient.  Is it the same as eating a still-warm homemade chocolate éclair?  No.  But not everything need be so over-the-top.  This recipe whips up in minutes, is surprisingly devoid of bad-for-you-ingredients and extremely popular with my kids.  In my book, that’s a win-win-win.

For the brownies (makes about 15 servings):
3/4 cup/80 grams Grated apple
9 Pitted dates
1 Ripe banana
1/2 cup/120 ml Maple syrup
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1/4 cup/30 grams Coconut flour
3/4 cup/75 grams Almond powder
3/8 cup/45 grams Cocoa powder
2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp Salt
Optional:  1/2 cup chocolate chips or tempered chocolate glaze.

**If you opt to use regular flour, adjust the recipe slightly.  Use 1/2 cup/~60 grams of apple, 1/2 cup/60 grams of flour and 1/2 cup/50 grams of almond powder.

For the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF/175ºC and lightly grease, then line with waxed paper a long loaf tin (28cm x 10cm).  You can use a 8in x 8in (20cm x 20cm) baking square, but I prefer every brownie to boast the crusty surface that comes from edging the pan while cooking.

In a food processor, combine the apple, dates, banana, maple syrup and vanilla until nearly smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift and combine the dry ingredients.  Pour the fruit mixture into the dry ingredients and mix just to incorporate.  If you want to add some chocolate chips, do so now.  Transfer to the prepared loaf tin and bake for 20 minutes (with fan), about 25 minutes without.  The top will appear dry but the cake should still have some moist give to it.

Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin (on a rack) before removing (and piping chocolate if you want) and cutting the brownie.  I prefer to slightly under-bake my brownies and then store them in the refrigerator before cutting.  The coolness of the fridge firms the cake crumb and makes it a lovely chewy, gooey texture.

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