I’ve been wanting to post a brownie recipe ever since before I created this blog (I even took a picture of my first flourless brownie, see further down, in anticipation of the day I would start blogging), but I keep putting it off for some bizarre reason because I feel like I haven’t reached the perfect brownie recipe yet. Since even for most highly experienced out-of-my-league cooks, that process can take years, I thought I’d better get over myself already. After all, there will not be ONE brownie recipe but MANY, because we love our brownies too much in life to limit ourselves to just one version.
Especially since, guess what arrived in a special package for me last week? Raw cocoa in its pure, virgin, untouched, unprocessed, unalkanized, straight-off-the-farm form. Right from Ecuador. I also got a handful of 100% organic chocolate bars that I can’t seem to resist munching on lately with a cup of hot tea. I am a lover of very bitter dark chocolate. I find that under 85% is too sweet, and if it can be close to pure form, I find it divine. Hence, you can imagine my frustration with the supermarket candy aisles in Brazil where 50% chocolate is considered “amargo“. Shudder.
These balls of raw cocoa mass are about the size of a large fist each, and are the equivalent of 1 cup of raw unsweetened cacao powder. I understand this recipe calls for getting your hands on something pretty exceptional, so I’ve added alternatives for those who want to make a similar tasting brownie but don’t have a trip to an Ecuadorian cacao farm planned any time soon… If you can find raw, unsweetened cacao powder, this is very close to the solid cacao that you see in the picture below. Otherwise, go with the darkest chocolate you can find.
You get the most nutritional benefits from chocolate when consuming it in its raw, sugar-free form. It is known for being rich in antioxidant polyphenols, essential minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, as well as fiber and essential fatty acids that, among many things, help to reduce bad cholesterol, alleviate stress and depression and lower blood pressure thanks to its antioxidant properties, so eat it without guilt! (Just to be clear, milk chocolate is not concerned here!).
When I laid my eyes (and nose: oh the delightful smell of pure cacao) on the Ecuadorian chocolate, my instinct directly told me to make rich, profound, full-bodied brownies that would sublime the taste and texture of the raw cacao. I served them at a party and they were gone in minutes. I wanted to focus on that deep, bitter, dark chocolate taste so I didn’t use any milk or cream and kept sugar to a subtle level (using dates and a little honey), so if you like your chocolate desserts sweet, I recommend you up the sugar and dairy content of this recipe, though the idea here is to make something that will mentally transport you to the Amazon, not to Walmart’s baked goods aisle. Also, this is not your traditional fudgy, melt-and-crumble-in-your-mouth brownie, and it’s definitely not as light or spongy as chocolate cake… I would describe the experience more like biting into a thick, velvety, dark chocolate treat.
Intensely Dark Chocolate Pecan Brownies (gluten-free, grain-free, paleo friendly)
Makes 25 1.5″ x 1.5″ brownies (4 x 4 cm)
1/3 cup of almond flour
1 cup (130g) of raw cacao powder or raw cacao solids
1/2 cup (115g) of butter
8 dates, soaked
2 tablespoons of honey (or 15 drops of liquid stevia)
1/3 cup (75 g) of dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (60g) of pecans, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Pinch of salt
Cacao powder for dusting
1. Soak the dates in warm water for 30 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven at 350°F (180°C).
2. In a double-boiler or in a glass bowl over boiling water (careful that the bowl doesn’t touch the water but covers the edges of the pan), melt the raw cacao with the butter on low heat, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes. If you are using unsweetened raw cacao powder, this will take much less time than if using hard cacao solids like I did. If the mixture is too thick, add a few tablespoons of warm water until it reaches a smooth paste form. Set aside to cool.
3. In a bowl, mix together the almond flour, salt, nutmeg and baking powder. Blend together the eggs, honey (or stevia), dates (soaking water discarded) and vanilla extract, and add to the dry ingredients. Combine well.
4. Add the cooled melted chocolate mixture to the bowl and stir well. Finally, add the chopped pecans and dark chocolate pieces.
5. Generously grease a 7.5 x 7.5 in. (20 x 20 cm.) square baking pan with coconut oil or butter. Pour in the brownie mixture and bake for 15 minutes. Make sure they are cooked by inserting a knife in the middle and seeing if it comes out clean. Let cool in the fridge for one hour (yeeees, one hour!) and dust with cacao powder to finish.