These Fudgy Chocolate Brownies have a lovely soft centre and are the perfect healthy paleo treat. They are gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. I've reduced the amount of almond meal in this recipe and adding in coconut flour for those wanting to reduce their nut consumption. You can dress the brownies up by drizzling with extra dark chocolate and they can be served as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla coconut yoghurt or dairy-free ice cream.
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Preheat oven to 170c (fan-forced) and line the base and sides of a 27 x 17cm slice/bar tin.
Add the almond meal, coconut flour, coconut sugar, cacao powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt to a food processor. Blend the dry ingredients for 10 - 15 seconds to create a finer texture.
Place the cashew butter and chocolate into a small saucepan and heat on low. Stir often until the mixture has melted and combined then remove from the heat. Add the coconut oil and stir until it melts then add the maple syrup and vanilla.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients then add the eggs. Blend for 20 seconds, scrape down the sides of the processor bowl and then blend for a further 5 seconds.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and use a spatula to roughly spread out. The mixture will be very sticky so I recommend you rub a little coconut oil over your fingertips then use them to spread the mixture into the corners of the tin and to smooth the surface.
Bake for 15 minutes until the top is set but we want the middle to be fudgy. Allow the brownies to cool in the tin then remove to a chopping board and cut into pieces using a large shape knife (wipe the knife between cuts). I find it's easier to slice after chilling in the fridge for a couple of hours and then bring back to room temperature before serving.
Optional, serve drizzled with 80% dark chocolate or top with vanilla coconut yoghurt.
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 flour is made by drying and grinding the meat of a coconut to a fine texture. Coconut flour is a low-carb flour that's an excellent source of dietary fibre and protein. It's a good grain-free and nut-free alternative but does require a larger amount of liquid than normal when used for baked goods. When replacing in a recipe that calls for wheat flour (or almond meal), use this guide; 1 cup of regular flour = 1/3 cup coconut flour, add an extra egg and an extra 1/3 cup of liquid. It can be used in soups, gravies and stews as a thickener and adds a boost of nutrition. Coconut flour may promote stable blood sugar levels and a healthy heart. In addition, it may have antibacterial properties and aid digestion and weight loss. There are now quite a few brands of coconut flour available and they all seem to perform differently depending on how coarse the texture is. In my recipes, I used Organic Coconut Flour from 'Let's Do Organic' and 'Red Tractor Foods' I like their finer texture.
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.
Also known as Bicarbonate of Soda or Sodium Bicarbonate and is used as a rising agent in baking, it contains no gluten or grains. I use Bob's Red Mill baking soda as I find it rises better than other brands I've tried.
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.
Cashew butter/spread is made by blending cashew nuts down to make a smooth paste. I also like to add a little pink Himalayan salt and a drizzle of macadamia oil to produce a delicious nut butter. You will find a recipe in my cookbook on page 306. Cashew butter has a neutral taste, which makes it perfect for adding to recipes to give a creamy texture without affecting the recipes flavour. If you are purchasing cashew butter/spread, make sure it contains 100% cashews, with not unhealthy oils, gums or thickeners.
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.