Dates, nuts, and cocoa powder form a fudgy base crowned with creamy coconut maple ganache for chewy bars of chocolatey bliss.
Here’s a quick, easy, and endlessly satisfying recipe for über-healthy brownies that taste like Nutella. I concocted these a couple of years ago during a little mini-cleanse that I did to try to rid myself of some mysterious neck pain. Hoping the cleanse might kick inflammation to the curb, I swore off dairy, processed grains, refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol for a week. But rather than feel deprived, I indulged in many new-to-me foods – this dip, a lentil and quinoa salad that we lived off of, lots of fun smoothies, and these little chocolate love bombs.
Aside from the newfound ability to move my neck, these brownies were the best thing to come out of that week. The base is lightly adapted from Minimalist Baker (and when folded into this vegan ice cream, they are sublime). I based the ganache topping on the swirl in these cheesecakes, with a little almond milk whisked in to keep it extra creamy. I brought them to a rehearsal for a friend’s band, where the drummer took one bite and declared, “This is the best… FOOD… I’ve ever eaten.”
The brownies stayed in the back of my mind for a while, and after indulging in a similar hazelnut-based treat at Seed+Salt with my niece a couple of weeks ago, I knew I had to share the recipe.
This coming Sunday may not be good for much, but if Valentine’s day serves any purpose, it’s an excuse to make, eat, and share chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
These come together in a snap, and they’ll fit into most everyone’s diet, be it gluten-, dairy-, grain- sugar-free, or all of the above. One thing it’s not free of is flavor. These are every bit as rich and decadent as the most fudgy traditional brownies, with added depth of flavor from toasted hazelnuts, dates, maple syrup and coconut oil. A thick layer of ganache melts into creamy bliss in your mouth, and crunchy cacao nibs and flaky salt form a chunky topping that will have you coming back for more.
**And! If you need a quick chocolate fix, my friends over at A Purified Life are offering you lovely readers a deal on their delicious superfood chocolate. Get 20% off any order from now until midnight PST February 14th with the code ALANNA (that’s me!).**
Wishing everyone a very chocolatey weekend.
- ¾ cup (110 g) whole raw hazelnuts, plus 2 tablespoons (20 g) for topping
- ½ cup (50 g) raw sliced or whole almonds
- ½ cup (35 g) natural cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup (230 g) pitted, slightly packed dates (I use medjool)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) almond or hazelnut milk
- ¼ cup (55 g) extra-virgin coconut oil
- ¼ cup (70 g) maple syrup
- ¼ cup (20 g) natural cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- chopped hazelnuts (from above)
- handful cacao nibs
- a few pinches of flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- To make the brownies, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the hazelnuts on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden and fragrant, 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely, then rub off as much of the loose skins as want to come off.
- Place ¾ cup of the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor, reserving the rest for garnish, and add the almonds, cocoa powder and salt. Process until finely ground, stopping the processor when the mixture just begins to clump, taking care not to overprocess to a paste. Scrape the nut mixture into a medium bowl and set aside.
- Add the dates and vanilla to the now-empty food processor and blend to a paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Scrape up the date paste, add the nut mixture, and process until a clumpy dough-like substance forms. Scrape this mixture into a 8x4 or 9x5-inch loaf pan lined with a sling of parchment paper and pack it into an even layer. Chill until needed.
- To make the ganache, combine the almond milk, coconut oil, maple syrup, cocoa powder and vanilla in a medium, heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water, and whisk until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly to thicken, whisking occasionally, 5-10 minutes. Pour the ganache over the brownies. Chill in the refrigerator until a bit firmer, 30 minutes. Chop the remaining 2 tablespoons of hazelnuts into large pieces. When the ganache has firmed a bit, sprinkle the hazelnuts, cacao nibs, and flaky salt evenly over the top. Chill until completely firm, 1 hour.
- Use the parchment handles to lift the brownie out of the pan, and use a chef's knife to cut into 8 or 10 bars.
- The brownies keep well, refrigerated airtight, for up to 1 week.