I used to be a staunch believer that it was not possible to make a decent tasting healthy treat. This was back in the days when I would attempt to “health-ify” a cake or cookie recipe by using low-fat spread instead of butter, artificial no-calorie sweetner and other modified products. The end product ended up being dry and flavourless, occasionally too sweet, and more often than not would leave that horrible artificial sweetener flavour in your mouth after eating.
These days I am much more in tune with my body, and focused on good nutrition and healthy eating, rather than aiming to reduce calories through using chemically-modified and processed ingredients. I realise that my attempts at making a healthy treat back then probably resulted in an even unhealthier treat in the end.
So enough of that, lets talk about this brownie! Everybody has their ideal type of brownie – some prefer a cakier texture, others need that fudgy centre. Some like walnuts or pecans mixed through, or maybe a berry or caramel swirl (or, my favorite – a salted caramel swirl… drooooool!) For me, the perfect brownie has to be fudgy in the centre, yet crisp on the outside, and unashamedly rich and chocolatey.
There are quite a few “healthy” brownie recipes out there that use a range of whole ingredients and have varying results, but I wanted one as close to a traditional brownie as I could get. I decided to start with Deb’s recipe for Best Cocoa Brownie, which I have made a few times in the past and is a definite crowd-pleaser. I made a few tweaks and the end result was perfect – decadent and fudgy with a deliciously rich chocolate flavour. I didn’t quite nail the crisp top – I’m guessing I may have to use chocolate to achieve that, but it ticked two out of the three boxes, which made it a winner in my eyes.
A few notes on ingredients here – I have used a mix of hazelnut meal and teff flour here. Hazelnut was an obvious choice for me as it goes so beautifully with chocolate, and I wanted to use a nut meal in place of some of the flour to increase the fudgy texture. Teff flour is a gluten-free whole grain, ground to be very fine (hence the fudgier texture) and also has a faint earthy chocolate taste that works perfectly for these brownies. If you cant find teff flour, I assume you could use another flour (coconut may work well here) or more hazelnut meal although I haven’t tried either option myself so I cant confirm this. Also, make sure to use a good quality raw cacao (I use Loving Earth) this really adds to the flavour. I would advise against using standard cocoa, you want the really good, dark raw cacao here to get maximum flavor benefits. I have also added a little coffee to really draw out the rich chocolate taste.
And also a disclaimer – even though this brownie recipe uses less refined ingredients and healthier fats than a traditional brownie recipe – it is still a brownie, and should be consumed as a treat (no “it’s healthy so I can eat the whole thing” excuses here – although once you taste these fudgy little beauties you may struggle to stop at just one!)
The ultimate cacao brownie
Adapted from Best Cocoa Brownies by Smitten Kitchen
140g coconut oil
120g coconut sugar
2 eggs (cold)
40g teff flour
40g hazelnut meal
1 tsp coffee granules
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 170 C || 340 F
Melt coconut oil in a medium sized saucepan over low heat, and then stir in coconut sugar, cacao and coffee. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
Allow to cool slightly, and then add in the eggs one at a time stirring well after each one. Then add the hazelnut meal and teff flour and stir a minute or so until mixture is smooth.
Pour the mixture into a lined 8x8inch pan and bake half an hour (start checking after about 25 minutes – the brownies are done when an inserted knife or skewer comes out almost clean – it should have a slight bit of batter, but not be completely coated).
Allow the brownies to cool in the pan 10 minutes or so, and then remove and cool completely on a cake rack.
Slice into squares and store in a sealed container at room temperature.