My first experiments in gluten-free and egg-free baking resulted in less than edible results. These experiments took place long before the blogging and Instagram world exploded which, is probably a good thing because in retrospect, those initial attempts were neither pretty nor tasty. My confidence in baking didn’t waver too much though as I had very supportive and loving friends who thought that the results were delicious.
Sticking to my training, it’s been a long time since I have tried recipes that use alternatives to wheat. Since the new year began, my husband and I have had a goal to try two new recipes in the kitchen every week. We both enjoy cooking immensely but also wanted to continue to add variety to our diets and get out of the weekday food rut that we have found our family in at the end of 2016 (admittedly, this involved too much expensive take-out food). To reach our goal we have taken to rereading some of our classic cookbooks and consulting our favourite blogs for recipes and inspiration. As a blogger who bakes though, I also permit myself to purchase a recipe book every so often. When purchasing books, I am mindful of the lessons learned from Marie Kondo, who is famous for developing the "KonMari" Method and is the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I don’t want to feel as though my home is over-flowing with books so I only purchase those that are carefully researched and from my favourite chefs, bakers and bloggers.
For the past several weeks, I have been reading the brand new The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright. Laura is the author, recipe developer and photographer of the beautiful, Niagara-based food blog, The First Mess. One of her savoury main dishes is up on the docket next week for my family but I couldn’t let another week pass without baking something from the book. Enter nut-butter brownies which also happen to be gluten-free (made with coconut flour) and egg-free. I am delighted to report that this recipe is a keeper! They are chocolatey and fudgy with a bit of crunch (I added a sprinkle of fine-grained sea salt on top too), this recipe will satisfy your chocolate craving plus, the recipe is a snap to make! I should also add that you may even feel healthy eating them... if there is such a thing as "healthy brownies".
Fudgy Nut and Seed Butter Brownies
Reprinted with permission from The First Mess Cookbook, by Laura Wright, copyright © 2017, published by Penguin Random House Canada.
Makes: 16 brownies
Time: 20 minutes prep + 30 minutes baking time + 2 hours cooling time
¾ cup (175 mL) smooth nut or seed butter (roasted almond, hazelnut or sunflower butter)
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (50 mL+ 30 mL) pure maple syrup
¾ cup (175 mL) unsweetened applesauce
1 ½ tsp (7 mL) pure vanilla extract)
½ cup (60 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp (45 mL) coconut flour
¾ tsp (3 mL) baking soda
½ tsp (2 mL) fine sea salt
½ cup (125 mL) vegan chocolate chunks or chopped chocolate from a 70% dark, dairy-free chocolate bar, divided*
3 tbsp (45 mL) whole nuts or seeds (almonds, hazelnuts, or sunflower seeds)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line an 8-inch (2 L) square pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving an overhand on the two opposite sides.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the nut or seed butter, maple syrup, applesauce, and vanilla.**
3. To the nut butter mixture, add the cocoa powder, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine, ensuring that there are no dry lumps of cocoa in the batter.
4. In a double boiler, melt half of the chocolate chunks.*** Vigorously stir the melted chocolate into the brownie batter until fully incorporated.
5. Scrape the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan. Smooth the batter out evenly with a spatula, pushing it into the edges and corners of the pan.
6. Scatter the reserved chocolate chunks and rough-chopped nuts over the top. Slide the pan into the oven, and bake the brownie until the top is slightly firm and appears dry and lightly cracked, about 27 to 30 minutes.
7. Cool the brownie completely in the pan set on a wire rack. Then, cover the brownie and place them in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. This step is crucial. The brownie will not cut neatly unless they get adequate cooling time.
8. I recommend running a chef’s knife under hot water and dying it off right before slicing the brownies.
Serve with ice cream or your version of whipped cream (dairy-free or regular). We enjoyed them simply with a glass of almond milk (for myself) and regular milk for my girls.
* I used regular chocolate for this as I didn’t have vegan or dairy free chocolate on hand.
** My hazelnut butter was quite chunky and a little separated so I used a hand-mixer to smooth it out.
*** If you do not own a double boiler, place a heat-proof bowl in just simmering water and put the chocolate chunks in the bowl to slowly and gently melt them.
If you tried making this recipe, let me know! Tag your creations on Instagram using the hashtag: #lindenandlavender