Um, so, I am about to change your life. Ready?
The Raw Brownie.
I guess I haven’t mentioned it yet, but I am now working as a chef in the premier raw food restaurant in Copenhagen. Yes, I still have my other restaurant job and I still love “cooking”, but it was time to immerse myself in something new to learn more and deepen my understanding of how food can come together. Boy, am I getting an education! Having absolutely no training in raw-food preparation, the learning curve is somewhat steep. Trying to bring out the flavours in food without using heat can be a serious challenge, but the ride is fun, I must admit.
It seems the one area I am not confused about or having any difficulty with is the dessert menu. Nope, I am pretty clear and confident when it comes to raw sweets. It could be because they seem to whip up so quickly and easily with remarkably few ingredients, that they taste beyond incredible, but the kicker is that they are healthy. I get such a kick seeing the look of total ecstasy and complete shock cross someone’s face right after they’ve taken their first bite of a raw cheesecake. Ha! Fooled you again! It’s also fun to make raw desserts for people because I feel that they are a very good way to introduce more raw foods into the diet – they truly open up one’s mind to new possibilities. Convincing in their lusciousness and ability to boost one’s energy (instead of sitting like a brick in the stomach), I like to call them “the gateway food” of the raw world!
The Raw Brownie is no exception. In fact, we have a staple version on our café menu because customers come back time after time to gobble them up. And then sometimes they skip dinner.
You will be totally surprised at how incredibly rich and satisfying these are, with a complex flavour that remarkably, comes from only five ingredients. That being said, those five ingredients should be of the best quality you can find, as the true taste of each of them shines through in a big way.
Medjool Dates – I should certainly mention that we are total date snobs over at our restaurant, using only the best ones we can find – Medjool dates. A cornerstone ingredient in many raw desserts are dates, often of the Medjool persuasion, because they are incredibly sweet, tender, exceptionally large, and versatile. Medjool dates can replace sugar or honey, they taste like caramel, and unlike agave nectar, which is also popular in raw desserts, these have a deeper, more complex flavour. I find adding agave to anything just makes it taste sweet and kind of flat, whereas Medjools are rich and layered.
From a health standpoint, Medjool dates (and dates in general) are a good source of fiber and contain high levels of potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Yes, they do contain a significant amount of fruit sugar, but this makes them an excellent alternative for those wanting to cut back on simple-sugar desserts and confections.
To select the best Medjool dates, look for ones that are organically grown and not treated with sulfur, which some companies add to preserve their colour (you can read more about that here). Medjools tend to have wrinkly skin, but should still be quite dense and soft to the touch. Medjools will sometimes form a white powder film in the skin–the natural sugars coming to the surface, which does not affect the flavor. I find Medjools so rich and satisfying, just half of one (no joke) will surely satisfy my sweet tooth. I often carry a couple in my purse just in case – they will go into combat with low blood sugar any day!
Cacao – I have already tooted this horn extensively (here), but to sum up raw cacao is one of the best sources of magnesium found in nature, in addition to containing high amounts calcium, zinc, iron, copper, sulfur, and potassium. Cacao contains many chemicals that enhance physical and mental well-being, including alkaloids, proteins, magnesium, beta-carotene, leucine, linoleic acid, lipase, lysine, and some neurotransmitters such as dopamine and anandamide. Holy cow – superfood!
Walnuts – Walnuts are my friend because I think they are the most delicious, vegetarian way of getting Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Why are they essential? Because your body can’t make them, they must come from the food we eat. I’d also like to think they’re essential because Omega-3s reduce cholesterol, lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, boost the immune system, control viral infections, improve brain function, and relieve symptoms of inflammatory condition such as arthritis. No biggie.
Almonds – High in essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, almonds also are a very good source of healthy, monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. Almonds also containt two important trace minerals, manganese and copper – essential cofactors of a key oxidative enzyme called superoxide dismutase. Superoxide dismutase disarms free radicals! Nice one!
Yes, I could go on and on about the amazing health benefits of The Raw Brownie (can you believe you just saw the words health and brownie in the same sentence? You’re welcome.), but what really gets me is the outstanding flavour and consistency. They are light and cakey when you first bite into them, and then somehow melt and get all gooey, like a good brownie should! I have tried several raw brownies in my day, and I often find them too dense and heavy. These on the other hand are actually incredibly cakey thanks to the walnuts. In this recipe walnuts sort of act as the flour, and the secret is to grind them up until they are light and fluffy. So amazing! Then you throw in the heavenly cacao powder and caramel-ly dates to create this rich, dark, chocolate bomb that knocks your socks off!
All this adds up to one important question: why would I ever eat a baked brownie again? I mean, what’s the point?
Why would you?
Because there are so few ingredients in this recipe, I would highly, highly recommend purchasing top-quality and organic if possible. The flavour of each element plays a strong role in the final outcome, so they all need to be the best you can find. If you are worried about cost, cut the recipe in half – these bad boys will still turn out amazing.
The Raw Brownie
2 cups whole walnuts
2 ½ cups Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw cacao
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ tsp. sea salt
1. Place walnuts in food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground.
2. Add the cacao and salt. Pulse to combine.
3. Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like cake crumbs, but that when pressed, will easily stick together (if the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates).
4. In a large bowl (or the pan you plan on putting the brownies in), combine the walnut-cacao mix with the chopped almonds. Press into a lined cake pan or mold. Place in freezer or fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are very cold). Store in an airtight container.
So that’s it. I just changed your life. Go and make The Raw Brownie and maybe get back to me to let me know how it turned out…but just so we got things straight, do not send me any marriage proposals, I am already taken.
Flowers will do just fine, thank you.
Guest Photographer: Erik Sellgren