Tuesday 18 March 2008

HotM #13 Spring Chocolate Brownies

Sometimes it feels like in Australia we are truly in the land of topsy turvy! The Canadians complain of snow and we are suffering a heat wave, the Brits celebrate a winter solstice and we are celebrating our summer solstice, the Americans get excited about Spring and here it is Autumn!

So spare a thought for us Australians this Easter Sunday as you celebrate new life and new hope that spring brings. We are celebrating this holy day that Blackadder might describe as being as Springy as a Spring day that is very Springy (or maybe that is just what students who have watched too much Blackadder might say)! But we celebrate as the days draw in, the weather gets colder, and we watch the leaves fall from the trees. No wonder I get confused!

I write this as Easter approaches and a few blog events are asking us to think about Easter goodies. I am very fond of the Heart of the Matter event which turns one year old this month! That is a year of being challenged to think about heart healthy food. This month Ilva of Lucilian Delights is hosting and the theme is Party Food.

Now when it comes to parties, I think decadence and indulgence. I want people to enjoy themselves. But who said you can’t eat healthy and have fun. Just because guests are watching their weight or on restricted diets doesn’t mean they can’t join in the merriment. Party food for me usually involves dry biscuits, dips and crudités, finger food, maybe mini-muffins or grubs and definitely a chocolate cake. Lots of options. But party food at Easter time really demands chocolate! Healthy and chocolate aren’t great mates in most sentences.

Then I remembered a recipe I had been keen to try for some time. It is called Spring Chocolate Brownies. It suits my schizophrenic attitudes. I want to celebrate the spring of new life but to prepare for winter, I want to eat chocolate and still be healthy, I want to have my cake and eat it too! Impossible, you say! But I think these brownies make a good compromise. Sitting on the couch in front of old BBC series Century Falls and eating warm fudgy gooey brownies straight from the oven, the answer seemed to be Yes!

They are vegan, sugarless, full of fruit and still manage to ooze chocolate decadence. Too good to be true? I did a tedious calculation to prove to myself that they aren’t as bad as most. My dodgy result told me that if I have 16 pieces, each will contain approximately 642 kj and 7.24 g of fat. Not bad but not quite virtuous. I did amend the recipe slightly by omitting to spread melted chocolate on top and opting instead to add some choc bits and dried blueberries. (Apologies for the photos - it is so fresh out of the oven I haven't even got it on a plate yet.)

So if you must have chocolate (and there aren’t many who don’t), this is a comparatively healthy recipe. It is light enough for spring, dense enough for autumn and guaranteed to please everyone at a party!

Spring Chocolate Brownies
(adapted from The Vegetarian Society)
Makes 16- 20 squares

225g/8oz dates (I used 190g)
100g/4oz margarine
60g/21/2 oz (generous ⅓ cup) wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
45ml/3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved (I used Dutch cocoa)
1 very ripe banana mashed
75g/3oz pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped (I used 50g)
½ cup dried blueberries
⅓ cup dark chocolate choc chips
5ml/1teaspoon vanilla essence (optional – I forgot)

- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Place dates in a small saucepan and fill with just enough water to cover them. Cook over low to medium heat til pulpy (about 5 minutes). Puree and cool a little.
- Cream dates and margarine (or if you are very impatient like me and the dates are still quite warm you are just melting the margarine in the date puree).
- Stir in flour, baking powder and cocoa, Then add banana, blueberries, choc chips, nuts, and vanilla essence.
- Spoon mixture into a 7 inch square pan and bake 20-25 minutes. I used a 6 inch square pan and had to bake the brownie for 45 minutes and it still was very soft and a little on the gooey side in the centre. Perhaps my 20cm round cake tin might have been better. Use a skewer to check when cooked but beware melted choc chips!

On the Stereo:
The Sound of White: Missy Higgins


  1. As George would say to Edmund, well cover me in eggs and flour and bake me for forty minutes!

    Vegan, sugarless, full of fruit AND still manages to ooze chocolate decadence, you say? I must say it does rather sound too good to be true, but I'll take your word for it. Recipe duly noted! :)

  2. Okay, so this Canadian won't complain about winter now--I'll whine instead about not being able to taste that brownie!! Your photo captures the gooey, chocolatey goodness perfectly. I will have to bookmark this one for when I'm back to eating chocolate. . . *sigh*.

  3. Oh my goodness. These sound delicious. I like that you used blueberries! I will try these for sure. Thanks for this recipe.

    Happy Easter!

  4. Sounds wonderful. I love chocolate but rarely ever eat it which means that we still have Easter eggs standing around waiting to be transformed into cakes. Perfect to replace the chocolate chip cookies in your recipes. Not sure I can find dried blueberries in Rome, though.

  5. Yes, it's confusing enough all the Northern Hemisphere/Southern Hemisphere stuff. Then Autumn here turns into Summer and now I'm completely lost...

    Don't apologise for the photographs, Johanna - these look incredibly good. Did you see Heidi at 101 Cookbooks clever little recipe for black bean brownies? Well, yours are infinitely more appealing!

  6. Great idea to bring dessert to the HOTM roundup! This is my kind of brownie and I wouldn't feel the least bit guilty if I skipped dinner and just had a couple (or 3 or 4) of these.

  7. Ohh yummy these look divine. So squishy and chocolty and only sugar from fruit - I'm sold!
    As they are made with lots of fruit does that mean I can have two pices? ;)

  8. Oh with 4 days off, it may just be the time for baking, thanks it looks great!

  9. That looks so delicious! You have fruit in there so I think that makes it a healthy recipe! They look really gooey and I bet the dates make it really nice and sticky. Dates are one of my favourite ingredients but I never thought to try them in brownies before.

  10. thanks MM - it's very sweet with the dates but very moreish

    thanks Ricki - this is definitely a brownie for you when you rediscover the delights of chocolate (but you don't want to know how addictive it is)

    thanks Lisa - happy easter to you too - it is the first time I have used dried blueberries and they are deliciously tart.

    thanks Nathalie - I have never even seen dried blueberries before but they are great if you can find them - if not you could use sultanas, other dried fruit or just leave it out altogether - and then you will still be able to use up those leftover easter eggs

    thanks Lucy - was nice to have a perfectly lovely sunny autumn day today - I did see Heidi's brownie and hope to try them some time - they looked lovely but thanks for the compliment

    thanks LisaRene - these brownies definitely feel more healthy than most I have made, although quite sweet, but it does make it just so easy to justify eating quite a few :-(

    Thanks Katie - you can eat two pieces - just don't get carried away :-)

    Thanks Kristy - enjoy your time off and hope you get to do some great baking

    thanks Helen - if you like dates you will love these brownies.

  11. OMG - these look anything but vegan, sugarless and fruity!! I love brownies but usually avoid them because of the calorie and fat count, but it now looks as though I can fly the brownie flag again using this recipe.

  12. I'm glad I found your blog!

    The brownies look great.

  13. Ooh - I like the idea of adding the dried blueberries!

  14. Dates, bananas, blueberries and chocolate!!! Oh my, gotta have some! Just came from Heidi's spot and she has brownies made with black beans!!! I say I will prefer the fruit!
    Happy Easter Johanna!

  15. wow, wow wow! Those are amazing! I seem to be stealing your recipes all the time and I am having this one too!

  16. thanks Cakelaw - indeed you should fly the brownie flag if you are after brownies at the healthy end of the brownie scale :-)

    thanks Karyn - glad you like them

    thanks Monika - the blueberries were an inspired choice that came to me as I lay awake late at night thinking about food instead of sleeping!

    Thanks Deb - I think I prefer fruit to beans in my brownies too

    thanks Holler - always happy to share recipes (actually I regret to say that E would probably leave this recipe on the footpath hoping someone would steal it but it just means all the more for me - and I am not complaining!)

  17. I'm very intrigued by this recipe! I wonder if the margarine could be replaced by applesauce without much changing.

  18. Mmmmmm...! And healthy, too? Does it get any better?!

  19. thanks Ashely - I did wonder about apple sauce or even prune puree instead of the margarine - would be interested to hear from you if you do as I think it would be possible.

    thanks Ann - healthy goodness indeed!


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