These fudgy Christmas Brownies contain a little Christmas spice, cranberries and macadamia nuts to make them deliciously festive. They can be served chilled from the fridge or at room temperature, dusted or plain.
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Preheat oven to 170c (fan-forced). Line the base and sides of a 27 x 17cm slice/slab tin with baking paper.
Add the almond meal, coconut sugar, cacao powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt to a food processor. Process for 15 - 18 seconds to combine well and create a finer texture.
Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat until just melted. Pour in the maple syrup and the vanilla and stir to combine into the chocolate mixture.
Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients in the food processor and process for 12 - 15 seconds to combine.
Add the eggs and blend for approximately 12 seconds to incorporate them well into the mixture.
Remove the blade and stir the cranberries and macadamias through the mixture, distributing them evenly.
Spoon over the base of the prepared tin. Wet your fingers well and press down on the mixture spreading it out evenly and smoothing the surface (don't worry if you get a little water on the top).
Bake for 15 - 18 minutes. You just want the surface firm but still a fudgy centre. Allow to cool in the tin, then place in the fridge to chill, as this will make it easier to cut the brownies without sticking to the knife.
To serve, cut the brownies into squares. Optional, dust with a little coconut flour or icing sugar using a small fine sieve before serving.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for 3 months.
The most favoured gluten/grain free flour substitute in my kitchen is almond meal. It is finely ground blanched almonds and is also known as almond flour. It has a slightly sweet flavour so you don’t have to add as much sweetener when baking with it. Almond meal/flour is rich in manganese which helps the body heal after injuries and also helps the body break down carbohydrates. Almond flour is also rich in magnesium, which can help control your blood sugar levels. It's rich in vitamin E and other antioxidants, which may help reduce the risk of serious health conditions like cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Almonds are also a good source of calcium.
All kinds of nuts can be ground down to make a meal and are excellent for raw cheesecake or pie bases. Nut meals/flours are best stored in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer to prevent them going rancid.
Coconut sugar is produced from the sap of the flower bud of the coconut palm tree and is a natural food sweetener. I use it when a dry sweetener is required. It has the benefit of a low glycemic index (low GI 35 compared to sugar at 68) and nutritional content. Use in baked goods as an occasional treat but don't overindulge. For a finer texture, add your coconut sugar to the small bowl of a food processor or blender and blend for 8 seconds or until it reaches a fine powder. The colour will lighten once ground.
Raw cacao powder and cocoa are made from the same source but are so different. Cacao powder is raw, unsweetened and in it's natural state, it has a stronger flavour and you would use less than cocoa powder. It is so good for you; high in dietary fibre, iron and is a good source of magnesium and antioxidants. Cocoa has been heated and processed, the high heat when processing kills all the minerals and vitamins.
I am sure you will notice as you read my recipes that cinnamon appears quite frequently. It lends itself to savoury and sweet dishes. I have used ground cinnamon in my recipes if not stated otherwise. The best cinnamon to use is Ceylon (Verum). It has huge health benefits in regulating blood sugar levels. Cinnamon has antifungal properties and candida (yeast overgrowth) cannot live in a cinnamon environment. Added to food it inhibits bacterial growth, making it a natural food preservative and these are just a few of the benefits.
Allspice is a dried fruit and gets its name from its flavour, which seems to be a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The fruit is picked when green and ripped in the sun, when dried they are brown and look similar to a peppercorn, it is then ground for use in cooking.
Organic unbleached, unrefined organic Celtic sea salt or pink Himalayan salt is my salt of choice as these contain healthy minerals and trace elements that our body needs. Regular table salt has been bleached, refined and processed leaving minimal health benefits. If you choose to use regular table salt in my recipes you will need to reduce the quantity or the end result will be to salty.
In some of my recipes I have used Paleo approved dark chocolate drops/chips, they are dairy, soy, and gluten-free (my favourite brands are, 'Absolute Organic' or 'Chef's Choice' certified organic 70% cacao, purchase online or from health food stores). I also used 70 - 85% organic dark chocolate blocks, they can be broken into pieces or melted for recipe. I also make my own chocolate from: cacao butter or coconut oil, raw cacao powder and sweetened with 100% maple syrup, pinch of sea salt and vanilla extract.
Coconut oil is one of the most nutritious fats to cook and bake with. Use organic extra-virgin coconut oil which is unrefined and unbleached from non GMO coconuts. Coconut oil has a high smoking point and it is slow to oxidize due to its high saturated fat content, thus, resistant to going rancid. Some studies suggest coconut oil helps with digestion, including irritable bowel, tummy bugs, candida and parasites due to this oil containing short term medium-chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs), which is a healthy form of saturated fat.
Maple syrup is an earthy, sweet tasting amber liquid that is produced by boiling down the sap of maple trees. Use organic 100% maple syrup which is a natural food sweetener, not a flavoured maple syrup. Pure maple syrup contains a decent amount of some minerals, especially manganese and zinc, some traces of potassium and calcium but it does contain a whole bunch of sugar. I try to reduced the amount of sweetness in each recipe to the lowest possible without compromising taste. Feel free to adjust to your liking. I use maple syrup in place of raw honey when I don't want the strong honey flavour coming through in a recipe. I have paleo cookies and desserts in my cookbook made from whole food ingredients with natural sugars but please don’t overindulge. Use as a treat only for special occasions.
Use an organic vanilla extract (not an essence) or vanilla powder. Vanilla makes a big difference to the flavour of a recipe, I recommend keeping to the quantities I have stated in a recipe. I prefer Madagascar pure vanilla extract manufactured by ‘Simply Organic’ and for powder, Vanillamax 100% pure, finely ground Madagascar vanilla beans produced by Bulletproof.
I have used large free range or organic eggs from a 700g carton in my recipes. Eggs are one of the few foods considered to be a complete protein because they contain all 9 essential amino acids, also studies have shown that lutein (yellow colour) in egg yolks protects against the progress of early heart disease.
Choose organic dried cranberries that contain no preservatives (sulphur). Cranberries have a tangy sweet flavour and deliver a big healthy dose of antioxidants. My favourite organic brands are Edan or Dr Superfoods, which can be purchase from health foods stores or online.
Macadamia nuts are tree nuts that have a subtle, butter-like flavour and creamy texture. The Macadamia tree is indigenous to Australia. Macadamias are full of heart-healthy fats, they have more omega 3 fats than any other nut. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. There is no need to soak macadamias like many other nuts and they make a very creamy delicious dairy-free milk.