Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Smoky walnut and zucchini chocolate brownie

I made my first foray into smoky chocolate treats earlier this year when I made chocolate bark with coconut bacon.  It combined two of my favourite flavours.  So no surprise that it was an amazing experience.  The chocolate bark disappeared far too quickly.  It was only a matter of time before I tried the combination again.  Enter a tub of smoked walnuts and a fat free vegan zucchini brownie recipe.  I was inspired!  And most pleased!

Where do I start to tell you about this wonderful brownie?  Let me start with some generosity towards those of you who aren't convinced that chocolate can benefit from a hint of smokiness.  The smoked walnuts aren't strictly necessary.  I only sprinkled walnuts over half the cake.  Sylvia chose without.  I was pleased enough that she tried the brownie, despite knowing it was made with zucchini.  (She said she couldn't taste it.)  She is only young.  There are many years ahead of her to learn to love smoky chocolate flavours.

Even without the walnuts, the cake was beautifully soft and intense.  My changes made it less healthy but nevertheless it is on the healthy end of the scale.  I added more sugar, found it too sweet so then I added more cocoa and salt.  I also used oil rather than applesauce.

I had some oven problems.  Halfway through baking I discovered that I hadn't put on the fan.  In my slow oven that makes quite a lot of difference.  So it probably baked at the equivalent of 160 C for 25 minutes and then more at 180 C minutes.  It was a little on the cakey side around the sides but dense and fudgy on the inside.

Next let me tell you have much I loved the chocolate frosting.  I would go as far as to say it is life changing.  It is incredibly simple, easy and delicious.  I loved that it just used milk rather than cream and it only made enough for the cake.

I seem to constantly be confronted with a chocolate ganache frosting using oodles of chocolate and cream.  This frosting is mostly chocolate with just a few spoonfuls of milk and nut butter.  It is soft and sticky and tastes as good as any ganache.  It doesn't set much so if you want a frosting that will not stick to the roof of a cake tin it might not be for you but if you want a frosting that tastes like melted chocolate, embrace it.  Since making it for the first time, I have made two different versions of it. 

And finally let us return to the surprisingly sweet and smoky nature of this brownie.  When it was hot, the smoky flavours were not overly noticeable.  Once cooled and stored in a cake time, the flavours strengthened.  Taking the lid off, the cake would hit you with smoky scents.  Which feels all wrong as you look at a chocolate cake.  Take a bite and you are hit with the flavour of the smoked walnuts.  Then as you continue to chew on the cake, the sweet chocolate flavours make themselves known.  The sweetness is all the more pleasing for the smoky start.  It is a strange yet exhilarating experience.

The last comment on the cake is a note on cake plates.  As a child we only ever used a round cake tin or a loaf tin.  Perhaps that is why I now only have round or oblong cake plates.  I mentioned to E that I need a square cake plate.  He tells me they are unnatural.  Yet when a cake it this good, it deserves a fitting plate.

I am sending these cookies to Healthy Vegan Fridays #12, hosted by Kimmy of Rock my Vegan Socks and Robin of Vegan Dollhouse.

More vegan chocolate bakes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Zucchini chocolate brownie with smoky nutty ganache topping
Adapted from Fat Free Vegan

1/2 cup pitted and chopped medjool dates (about 6)
3/4 cup hot water
1/3 cup rice bran oil, or other neutral flavoured oil
1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/2 cup cocoa 
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white plain flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 cup finely shredded zucchini (not drained)
1/4 cup smoked walnut pieces, optional*

Chocolate Nut Frosting:

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips*
3 tbsp milk (I used soy)
1 tbsp cashew butter or other nut butter

Soak dates in the hot water for half an hour.  Blitz in blender with oil until smooth and creamy.  I used my hand held blender in a jug.

Preheat oven to 180 C or 350 F.  Grease and line a 20cm (8 inch) square cake tin.

Scoop date mixture into a medium bowl.  Stir in brown sugar, cocoa and salt.  Stir in flour and bicarb soda, then zucchni.  Spread the mixture int the prepared cake tin - it will be quite thick.

Bake cake for about 25 minutes until cooked around the edges and no longer liquid in the middle.  It will still feel quite soft but a skewer inserted in the middle will come out clean.  Cool in the tin.

Tip cooled cake onto cake plate.  Melt choc chips, milk and cashew butter in a small mixing bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds (or melt on the stovetop).  Spread warm chocolate frosting on the cake and scatter with smoked walnuts.

*Note:  I looked up how much this chocolate is by weight, as I often just use a block of chocolate.  It seems to be between 75 and 90 grams.  

UPDATE: I have tried this with coconut bacon instead of smoked walnuts and it worked just as well.  The brownie is great the next day and lasts well for a few days.  Need more experimenting on how long it lasts!

On the Stereo:
Times Aint What They Used To Be, vol 1: Various Artists

This post is part of Vegan Month of Food September 2014.  This year for Vegan MoFo my theme is The Letter S.  Today is S for S for Surprising Wednesdays.  Go to my Vegan MoFo list for more of my 2014 Vegan MoFo posts. 


  1. Sounds great, I have never had a cake with smoky flavours, so I am all curious. I made a brownie in the past, at the cafe with wasabi and I personally liked it, more recently a vegan version with marshmallows, will share in the nx couple of days, still we love a piece of yours.

    1. @shaheen I am much more into smoky flavours than spicy - I find wasabi too spicy for me but was interested to see a black pepper cake that tempeted me recently

  2. You had me at smoked walnuts. This sounds amazing and I love its healthy too. All the more reason for an extra slice

  3. Yesss, smoked sweets! Excellent! I too have a choc zucchini recipe coming up this month, wish I had thought to add something smokey too. I loooove the idea of nut butter for ganache - such a great substitution, I can imagine the texture works so well.

    1. Thanks Caeli - not surprised you didn't think of smoky flavour - it is a flavour combination that is only just coming into its own and is mainly featured as chocolate and bacon but with all the great smoky vegan products it will come into its own I hope

  4. Oooh - this has me very excited! I love zucchini baked goods, and fudgy chocolate goods, and am yet to try smoky flavours in sweet things but am quite sure I'd love them. I will have to look out for some smoked nuts, or perhaps get some more liquid smoke and experiment with that route. Yum!

    1. Thanks Kari - am sure you would enjoy it - you could a vegan bacon (such as coconut - one coming up during vegan mofo) or perhaps make your own smoked nuts. Lots of ways to experiment with smoky and chocolate

  5. I love walnut brownies! They are the best. I would love to try smoked walnut brownies!

  6. I love brownies, and would probably just eat the whole lot! One of my lovely work friends brought in vegan beetroot chocolate brownies the other day. Perhaps I'll make these and take them to work sometime.

    1. Thanks Linda - I think these would go down well at work - love beetroot brownies too

  7. Oh yes please Johanna, I'll have some of that!

  8. Your brownies look amazing. And I love to bake with zucchini as it makes things really moist and no one is aware there's a green vegetable in there. I love the look of the drizzled icing xx

    1. @charlie - I was pleased sylvia said she couldn't detect the zucchini - if it is possible to find it - kids will

  9. Oh yum. I've only made one cake with courgette before and it was delicious, and I bet this was equally so. I love the sound of smoky flavours, in a cake or otherwise - I wonder where I can get my hands on some of those smoked walnuts?

    1. @joey - I've only seen smoked walnuts once but there are lots of other ways of doing the smoky and chocolate - you could make your own smoked nuts or use another vegan bacon like coconut

  10. Oh my goodness - you have outdone yourself with these Johanna.
    I'll be honest - I have no interest in trying chocolate bark with coconut bacon. But I would love to try these =)

    1. @ kimmy the chocolate bark with coconut bacon was amazing! but maybe this is an easier way to come at the flavour combo

  11. Zucchini and chocolate is such a wonderful combination! :-) Will have to give these a try!


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