Sunday, March 6, 2011

Best Cocoa Brownies (Sugar-free)

For some reason I decided to take an unannounced hiatus from this blog. All of February felt like it was lacking inspiration and I was just waiting for the month to end. Now that March is here and spring looks like it might be approaching soon, I feel like I am getting motivated again to create new things.

I spent most of the month taking photos of my cats, and while I find them very cute, that's not really the point of this blog.

I made an attempt at a few things since I last posted, but only a couple of those are really worth writing about, so that didn't give me much motivation to put anything up. The good news is that I am still keeping up my sugar-free lifestyle and I am finding it easier and easier each day. I am also finding that (chain) restaurant food tastes more awful each time I go. I don't know how I was able to stand the insane amounts of salt restaurant food contains, but I can really taste it now. Thankfully Toronto has an unimaginable amount of restaurants, so I'm sure I will be able to find a few that serve really great food (on top of the couple that I already know about).

I spent the whole month basically being lazy by eating mostly salads and sandwiches, meaning that there really wasn't much to write about. Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love those two things, but they are not very interesting to write about, especially when they are always the same.

Anyhow, today I felt excited and eager to make something. I have been circling around the idea of making brownies, but as I mentioned, my last attempt at making "healthy" brownies went terribly wrong. So this time I decided to take a regular ol' brownie recipe and just replace the sugar in it with date paste.

Mmmmmmm.... Brownie!
One of the reasons that I haven't tried doing this until now was simply because I don't like dates and I didn't rush to the store to pick up any. I rationalized though that I had to at least try them in baking, otherwise I would run out of things to write about very quickly.

Date Paste

The result is incredibly delicous! I am fairly certain these are the best brownies I have ever made.

So without further ado, here is the recipe.

Best Cocoa Brownies (Sugar-free)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Makes: 30 small squares

  • 1 1/4 stick or 141 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups dates
  • 3/4 cup or 82 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup or 66 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Blend the dates into a paste in the food processor. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, date paste, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a pot of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. Deb at Smitten Kitchen suggests that this step could be done in the microwave, but I wouldn't recommend it. The double boiler method allows the dates to further blend with the other ingredients and as a result, creates a smoother consistency.

Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for a few minutes. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter - about 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board and cut into squares.