Brownie points

I’m making some big claims - I want to share with you the two best brownie recipes ever. Coming soon, my ultimate brownie, with all the indulgence you can imagine. It’s one or two iterations away from, dare I say, perfection. Unfortunately that means I need to spend a week (or more?) making more brownies, eating them all, and trying to stave off diabetes whilst making the final improvements. Taking one for the team, as usual.

Meanwhile, I am sharing my sweet potato brownie recipe. Whilst I am all for cake being cake and treats being treats, I also really LOVE to eat cake, like all the time. So it’s quite nice to have some ‘healthy’ish bakes to intersperse with the more indulgent ones, and ensure a continuous feeding of my cake addiction. These brownies, along with my fennel & cardamom cookies and super banana bread are recipes I am super proud of - they’re full of whole, natural foods, lots of nutritious ingredients, nothing weird or processed and all the while extremely yummy. It’s still cake so these aren’t weightloss foods. But they are perfect everyday treats that don’t come with a side of deprivation and sadness or stick your lips together because they are essentially 99% nut butter. I also live with a bona fide tree hugging hippy and fitness freak, and I have embraced the world of nutritious baking after years of her nagging.

The other motivation behind the brownies is that suddenly sweet potato brownies are everywhere. And without butter and eggs, it’s hard to technically replicate a classic brownie without using lots of soy or weird chemically substitutes. So you’re often left with a chocolatey sweet potato cake or really sweet, one dimensional mouthfuls of squishy sweet potato mixed with maple syrup and a hint of chocolate. Having tried a few out and recipes at home, the thing that really struck me is that without the buttery eggy fatty goodness, there is no lingering on the palate, no depth of flavour, no teeth sticking gooiness.

So here is my attempt to make the ‘healthy’ sweet potato brownie actually like a brownie whilst maintaining it's credentials over its naughty, old school counterpart - I’ve replaced the qualities and flavours of the missing magical animal products and cane sugar with spice, full fat coconut milk and one very strange technicality which makes all the difference to the texture of the end product. It’s also really important to bake the sweet potatoes instead of boiling them. It’s actually a lot less effort, and really concentrates the sweetness and fudginess of the potatoes and doesn’t dilute the whole mix by water logging them. Yes, you are intrigued.. you should humour me…

The best sweet potato brownies

Makes 1 18x30cm tray

Ingredients

650-750g raw unpeeled sweet potatoes, medium / large in size, washed

100g pitted dates

100ml boiling water

125g full fat coconut milk

125ml water

60g 100% cacao solids

50g coconut oil

50g aquafaba (the liquid from a tin of chickpeas, use organic and unsalted ones or at the least ones that have no preservatives and the only ingredients are chickpeas and water)

90g unroasted / raw cacao powder

50g date powder / date sugar (or you could use coconut sugar or light muscovado sugar)

90g buckwheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp ground cardamom

A pinch of chipotle chilli powder

A pinch of salt


Method

Preheat the oven to 180C (160 fan), grease an 18x30cm brownie tray and line with baking parchment

  1. Place the unpeeled whole sweet potatoes into a baking tray and bake for 30-45mins until completely soft. They’ll start to burst and you’ll see caramelised liquid on the bottom of the tray. You wanted the potatoes to be really squishy. As soon as they’re ready take them out of the oven and let them cool.

  2. Meanwhile, place the dates in a heatproof bowl, pour in the boiling water, and cover. Let stand for at least 10mins so that the dates soften.

  3. In a small saucepan, place the coconut milk, water, 100% cacao and coconut oil. Heat gently over a low flame, stirring frequently so that the mixture melts and blends together. As soon as it’s warmed through and melted, remove from the heat.

  4. Sieve all of the dry ingredients, including the date powder / sugar into another bowl.

  5. As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, squeeze them out of their skins into a bowl and mash to a puree with your hands or a fork / masher. A few small lumps are fine, but nothing too chunky. You want around 500g of mashed potato.

  6. Mash the dates to a rough puree with your hands, and mix this into the potatoes. Add the aquafaba and cacao / coconut liquid and mix well.

  7. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

  8. Now the important bit - place the batter into the greased tin and DON’T spread it with a spatula / flatten it all neatly. Just push it into the tin gently with your hands, patting it and encouraging it to spread evenly in the tin. (We discovered this by accident - the first time I made it there was some extra mix which i just baked free form, splodged onto a tin. The actual tray was nicely spread and flattened with a spatula. The difference in texture was really bizarre and incredible. The splodged one was moister, fudgier and more brownie like altogether. And again, less effort, better result - win!)

  9. Bake for 20-22 mins until risen and just starting to crack at the edges. A skewer inserted would come out mostly clean with the odd moist crumb or potatoey smear.

  10. Leave to cool in the tin, on a wire rack, then cut into squares when totally cooled. You should be able to cut it just fine, but if not, refrigerate it for half an hour to help.

  11. There’s a lot of veg in these so they spoil pretty quickly - store in the fridge to avoid disappointment or eat them within 48 hours. They also freeze really well. Enjoy!