My family loves brownies. Loves. In fact “love” is probably not a strong enough word to describe Hubs’ deep and profound devotion. I think he even prefers brownies to cookies, which to me is downright un-American. But like a good little wife, I try to accommodate his preferences, at least occasionally. I haven’t done much baking since we did our first #WHOLE30 in April of this year (2016) because (as I’ve noted on a few occasions), we’ve been pretty successful at maintaining the #WHOLE30 lifestyle, even through some tempting and challenging situations.
But Hubs, in his wisdom, anticipated similar if not greater temptations arising when we were invited to a couple 4th of July potluck parties recently. So he suggested I create a paleo-correct brownie recipe we could bring along to those parties, “so I won’t be ‘forced’ to eat a bunch of unhealthy desserts.” Note his use of the word “forced,” as though one is obligated to eat 2 or 3 desserts at every party one attends. I tried to make the argument that he could actually attend the parties without indulging in any desserts, but that argument fell flat. And since we’re not currently doing #WHOLE30 (which would certainly preclude the consumption of even paleo-correct brownies), and because he’s such a wonderful husband, I figured baking a couple pans of brownies was the least I could do. And I set out in search of a paleo-correct brownie recipe I could live with.
Turns out there are many, many Paleo brownie recipes out there in Internet land! My recipe that follows is sort of a mash-up of several I found including this one from Civilized Caveman Cooking and this similar version from Paleo Grubs. The common ingredients are almond butter and cocoa powder (obv.), either honey or maple syrup, an egg or eggs, vanilla and leavening agents.
Instead of using almond butter alone, I decided to try combining 2 butters as the brownie base. I’m always looking for ways to incorporate tahini into my recipes because #1 it tastes yummy (and is a great dupe for peanut butter which I still kinda miss). #2 It’s a single-ingredient food – containing nothing but sesame seeds. I’m a big believer in reading labels and ingredients lists. My stance is, the shorter the ingredient list, the better. And #3, sesame seeds have some really healthful nutrients like copper, magnesium and a surprising amount of calcium. I’ve been reading lots of articles (like this one and this one) lately urging me to eat more tahini and figured this was a great opportunity. I also elected not to melt the chocolate chips but rather to just stir a few into the mixture prior to baking. The resulting brownies have a nice textural balance somewhere between cakey and fudgey (denser and fudgier if veganized). And I’m relieved to report that you can’t really taste the banana at all (I was worried about that).
• 1 cup paleo-correct (unsweetened) almond butter
• 1 cup unsweetened Tahini (unhulled is best if you can find it)
• 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
• 1 very ripe banana, mashed
• 1 cup local honey or pure maple syrup (I used maple syrup)
• 1/2 cup pure dark cocoa powder (I like this one from Navitas Naturals)
• 1/2 tsp. iodized sea salt
• 1 tsp. baking soda (NOT baking powder)
• 3 large whole eggs, lightly beaten (or vegan egg substitute as noted below)
• 1/2 cup Cacao Nibs or Enjoy Life chocolate chips
• nonstick coconut oil spray (I used Pam Nonstick Coconut Oil Spray)
• Measuring cups + spoons
• Large + small mixing bowls
• 9 X 13″ baking dish or pan
• Electric hand or stand-up mixer
• Silicone spatula
1. Preheat oven to 340° (Fahrenheit, or 171° Celsius), and spray 9 X 13″ baking pan/dish with nonstick spray and set aside. Alternatively, you could oil the inside of the pan using a paper towel (coconut oil works best for this). If using egg substitute, prepare now and place in refrigerator until ready to use.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine nut butters, vanilla and mashed banana. Stir until well-combined and mostly smooth. There will still be some lumps, and that’s okay. I used a sturdy fork to combine this part of the ingredients.
3. Fold in honey or syrup and beaten eggs (or egg substitute) and stir to combine.
4. In separate smaller mixing bowl, sift together cocoa powder, salt and baking soda until thoroughly blended with no lumps remaining.
5. Using a spatula, GENTLY fold cocoa mixture into wet ingredients, stirring just until combined.
6. Next using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer set on low, blend ingredients together for about 3 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down sides of the bowl using the spatula.
7. Transfer mixture to prepared baking pan/dish, and spread mixture out evenly in the dish or pan. Then place in preheated oven.
8. Bake for 35-40 minutes if you used eggs and for 40-45 if you used an egg substitute. I recommend testing for doneness using a toothpick or thin knife after shortest baking time (i.e., 35 min for egg recipe and 40 min for veganized recipe). Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting.
• My beef with brownies is that I find them to be too plain (versus cake which has icing/frosting and cookies which tend to have nuts and chips and other goodies mixed in). So I prefer serving these brownies with a sauce of some kind. And for that, I highly recommend this quick and delicious Stupid Easy Paleo Cran-cherry sauce (available here). It also makes for a much prettier (and more impressive) presentation when plated.
• This recipe could easily be #vegan-zed by substituting ground flax or chia seeds for the 3 eggs as follows: Grind about 3 Tbsp. flax or chia seeds to produce 3 Tbsp. meal (you may end up with some extra meal left over). Then combine 3 Tbsp. ground flax or chia seed meal + 9 Tbsp. water. Allow mixture to sit (preferably in the refrigerator) for about 15 minutes before using in recipe. Click to read more here.
You could also use one of the egg replacement mixes available. Bob’s Red Mill makes one as does Ener-G but there are several others. I veganized the 2nd batch I baked of these brownies (using chia seed meal + water for egg substitute). I found the vegnized brownies were denser and fudgier than the brownies made with eggs (which were more cake-like in consistency). I actually preferred the veganized version. But take note, the veganized version did require extra baking time and may have a different texture.
Wisdom for the Day:
“My children, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” ~Proverbs 24:13-14 (English Standard Version) Read more here.
Beauty Resource for the Day:
In my never-ending quest to find and consume the best foods for beauty and anti-aging, I stumbled upon this slideshow from a few years back depicting the top foods to combat aging. There’ve been some controversies surrounding Dr. Oz since then (re product endorsements) but, his educational resources, like this one, have always been grounded in science and evidence-based research. Spoiler – you can check off #7 on the list after you prepare and eat a few of these #cleaneating brownies. Top ’em with my Stupid Easy Cran-Cherry Sauce, and you can check off #3 as well. What a delicious way to combat aging! Foods to Fight Aging from Dr. Oz.com