Vegan, gluten, grain and sugar free
Have you ever looked at the ingredient listing on the foods in the grocery store? What do you think is the ingredient in almost everything?
Am I nuts or is there basically sugar in everything, even savory things. While I love alternate sugars like agave, honey or coconut sugar, I always have wanted to experiment with sweetening with fruit. It is not an easy thing to do because each fruit has a distinctive flavor.
I tested these a couple of times with different variations of fruits: all bananas, all dates, dates and pineapple, banana and pineapple and so on. Finally I landed on the combo I used here. Add a few special ingredients and you have a completely fruit sweetened, no added oil and vegan brownies.
Want a raisin? How about a date?
First of all, that was my dad’s favorite pick up line in college. It is also the ultimate dad joke.
Dates are the perfect fruit for replacing the sugar. They are super sticky, have a caramel-like flavor and pack a lot of nutrition (antioxidants, fiber, potassium and are low glycemic).
There are two types of dates that I like to use, depending on how I am using them. Medjool dates are the most popular and the ones I use when replacing sugar. Medjool dates are a bit stickier, sweeter and break down a little easier. Deglet-Noor dates are a bit less moist, but still pack the same amount of sweetness. I use Deglet’s more for mixing into cookies, bars and granola/ The Deglet-Noor dates are not as popular and easy to find in stores, but they are a great addition to the pantry and a good thing to snack on.
Banana and (Almond) Butter
Dates on their own work pretty well to sweeten the brownies, but they lack some of the ‘fattiness’ that other fruits have. Bananas are my favorite thing to use as a base for some baked goods. They have a richness and sweetness that gives these brownies just that little bit of indulgence that we need in a brownie.
There is only one problem with bananas: use a lot and everything tastes like banana. I do love banana bread, but I want my brownies to taste like brownies. For these brownies, I only used half of a smaller banana, just enough to get the richness and the sweetness, but not an overwhelming banana flavor.
Next, we need some fat. Every baked good needs a little bit of fat. I didn’t want to use oil or butter, but I do love almond butter. You get protein, fat, and flavor all in one delicious package. Almond butter gives you a toasted flavor that sometimes reminds me of browned butter. Another great option is cashew butter or tahini paste. Each has a buttery flavor that gives these brownie the flavor (and fat) they need.
One day I was perusing the interwebs, as one does, and found this recipe for vegan meringues made with aquafaba, aka chickpea water. Never in a million years did I think that the water I strained from my can of chickpeas could be made into meringue. But it can. Chickpeas are full of starch and protein. Eggs are basically a mix of proteins that bind and build baked goods. Aquafaba is full of starches that can act the same way as eggs in baking. Flax eggs are certainly a great substitute for eggs, but I also find that they can make the resulting batter little bit too sticky and stiff. Aquafaba does not do that. I have tried it as an egg substitute in banana bread, blondies and cookies and have loved the results each time. I have yet to successfully make an aquafaba meringue, but there’s still time.
For 1 whole egg, use 3 tablespoons of aquafaba.
8 medjool dates (119g)
Half a small banana (65g)
14 raw cashews (21g)
Scant 1/2 cup (106g) smooth almond butter
3 tbsp aquafaba
2 tbsp almond milk
1/2 cup (62g) almond flour
1/4 cup (28g) raw cacao powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh raspberries, halved
Handful of super dark vegan chocolate for topping
Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and line an 8 inch square baking dish with parchment.
In a small bowl, add the date and raw cashews. Cover with 1/3 cup boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes.
In a food processor, pour the dates and cashews. Add the almond butter and bananas and blend until smooth. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a couple of times.
Add the aquafaba and almond milk, blend again until smooth.
In a small bowl, sift the cacao powder. Add the almond flour, salt and baking powder, whisk together. Add the dry ingredients to the mix in the food processor. Blend until combined.
Pour batter into the prepared pan, spread into corners with a spatula. Top with raspberries and chocolate (if using).
Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until the edges pull away from the side of the pan.
Let cool completely before slicing. These are the perfect after school snack for kiddos or a healthy dessert.
Store in airtight container at room temperature for 1 week. Freeze in resealable container for 1 month.