I would consider myself a fairly traditional baker. I suppose I had to be really, because I started this blog in my student days when my kitchen kit comprised of a cheap mixer, a scratched plastic bowl and an old fashioned set of spring scales. It was a kitchen of bare essentials, the real tool being my hands. Butter would be rubbed through my fingers for crumbles and pastries; I employed the two-fold whisking technique to ensure my arms didn’t stiffen. Everything was sight and sound and making do and I quite like that about baking. Just how you yourself make the recipe without the need for gadgets to help you along the way. Honest baking.
It therefore seems sacrilege that I have become ever so slightly obsessed with my food processor. I had entertained the idea of buying one for a while, but things like ASOS dresses and H&M jumpers always seemed to take precedent. And besides, I liked making pastry by hand and bashing digestives with a rolling pin. But I was gifted a second hand one and I approached it with trepidation. I was like a caveman when I finally managed to switch it on, jumping about three feet in the air when it whirred into action, chopped and cutting and pulsing so precisely in seconds I wondered how I would ever live without one.
And so, it seems like a betrayal of my hands that I bring you a wholly food processor recipe today. But I have to admit, it’s too damn good to ignore. After all the excesses of the festive period, it finally feels good to be eating well again and these healthy brownies are no exception. They are gluten, dairy and sugar free, the only sweetness coming from a healthy portion of finely chopped Mejool dates and a smidge of cocoa powder. Essentially a traybake, two types of nuts are pulsed in a machine, mixed with a teaspoon of fresh coffee and cocoa then whirred with dates to create a fudgy, sweet brownie without an egg, block of butter or pound of brown sugar in sight. I’d probably call them an alternative to cereal bars, like a health food that shouldn’t be healthy and so far I have resisted two birthday cakes in the office in favour of two of these sweet brownie thins. This is like baking magic.
A couple of things to point out – for aesthetic purposes I pressed my brownie mix into a 7 by 7 tray but it does yield rather thin brownies. Personally I like the size, but if you would prefer them thicker, you can double the recipe or press into a smaller tin such as an 18cm sandwich tin. The original recipe also extols the virtues of raw products, but I couldn’t find any cacao powder or almonds that hadn’t been blanched. I doubt it makes much of a difference but if this falls in line with your diet then go for it, I’d love to hear the results.
I do feel like I have betrayed my natural instincts to get my hands dirty with this recipe, but I am quietly excited as to how this new gadget will change my baking routine. But I can’t see myself giving up making pastry by hand. I like interspersing the traditional with the contemporary.
Recipe slightly adapted from The Minimalist Baker
You Will Need
90g whole almonds (not blanched if possible)
20g cocoa powder (or cacao if you can find it), plus extra for dusting
1 tsp freshly ground coffee or espresso powder
200g Medjool dates, pitted
Tip the almonds and 40g of the walnuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the cocoa powder and coffee and pulse again until crumb-like. Pour the nut mixture into a bowl and set aside.
Place the pitted dates into the bowl of the food processor and whizz until paste-like. Remove and place in a separate bowl then re-add the nut mixture to the food processor. With the processor running, add clumps of the dates through the chute until you have a soft dough. Squeeze the mixture in your hand – if it clumps together its ready. If not, add a couple more dates or a splash of water and process again.
Prepare the tray you wish to use by lining with baking parchment – I used a 7 x 7 square tin but for thicker brownies use a loaf or sandwich tin. Tip the brownie mix into the tin and add the remaining walnuts. Stir with your hands to combine then press down the mixture evenly with your knuckles. Place the tin in the fridge to allow the brownies to harden for at least two hours then remove and cut into squares or wedges. Dust with cocoa powder and serve. These brownies will last for about a week and a half in an airtight container in the fridge.