The brownie universe isn’t exactly full of surprises. The combination of sugar, butter, flour, chocolate, eggs, a few extraneous ingredients, plus a little oven time, inevitably leads to some form of brownie action. Of course, the resulting degree of deliciousness is all in the details — just talk to the adamant nut-adders, the chocolate chip enthusiasts, or the “fudgy” versus “cakey” people that can seemingly never agree. Yet, by and large, the language of brownies is pretty much the same: delicious chocolate squares that just about everyone loves. Including me.
But I have a secret. With the exception of chocolate (which can be profoundly beneficial in its unprocessed form), I don’t use any of the “conventional” ingredients in my homemade brownies. In fact, I don’t even bake them. (I know — what a rebel.) Instead, by using exclusively natural, whole foods, the inherently gorgeous flavor of each healthy ingredient does all the sweet singing — without needing the crutch of sugar or butter. Undercover health benefits like antioxidants, good omega fats, potassium, magnesium (and more) nutritionally rank this dessert as more of an energy bar than an “extra 20 minutes on the treadmill indulgence.” Best of all, five ingredients plus five minutes is all it takes to go from zero to brownie.
No Bake Brownies
Somewhere between a brownie, a fudgey square, and an ‘oh my god’ exclamation, lies this fantastic dessert. Yet made with just fruits, nuts, and pure cacao, this treat is nutritionally on par with a natural energy bar or trail mix — what a deal! Not that you actually needed an excuse to eat a brownie.
Makes about 2 dozen small squares
1 cup (packed) soft Medjool dates (about 10 or 11), pits removed
1 cup raw walnut pieces
½ cup cacao powder
pinch sea salt
1 Tbsp – ½ cup Cacao Nibs (use quantity to taste)
Place walnuts in a food processor and grind for a few seconds to form a coarse flour. While the machine is running, add pitted dates, cacao powder, and salt, processing until a moist, crumb-like dough has formed. Depending on the natural moisture of the dates, you may need to add a touch of water—a teaspoon at a time—to get the crumbs to “stick” when pinched together.
Spread the crumbs into an 8 × 8-inch pan, sprinkle with cacao nibs, and press firmly into a solid brownie layer. Cut into bite-size squares and serve. Alternately, press and roll brownie dough into small balls to make brownie bites.
Reprinted with permission from Superfood Kitchen © 2012 by Julie Morris, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by Julie Morris.