I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t really like brownies – at least not all that much. Generally, I find them too rich and that ‘mmm gooey – yum!’ thing that everyone seems to adore just translates as ‘heavy, sweet and undercooked’ to me.
Don’t get me wrong; if they’re dressed up correctly, with enough nuts added and served alongside a good dollop of vanilla ice cream, then it makes a nice dessert. But given the choice, I probably wouldn’t…you know…choose it.
What I do love about them, however, is how bloomin’ easy they are to make – and not just easy, but relaxing and mindlessly soothing. Lots of therapeutic melting and stirring, then whacking in the next ingredient and stirring still more. Ahh, it’s the kind of baking I imagine doing with my little man, when he decides to emerge (and when his hand-eye coordination is up to scratch) neither of which has happened yet.
I was given a wonderful gift, The Little Book of Chocolat by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde, at Christmas and have enjoyed perusing its beautiful pages over recent weeks. It’s a compilation of quick recipes celebrating the magical ingredient that is Chocolat (natch) from drinks and truffles to cakes and desserts. Being a bit of a sucker for artful food photos, I was won over by a simple brownie recipe that involved blackberries and minimal ingredients, but – given my general disappointment with the average brownie – decided that a bit of customisation was in order.
What if, instead of butter I used coconut oil? (that’s gotta make them healthier, if nothing else, right?) And, whilst I’m at it, why not ramp up the tasty coconut flavour with some coconut milk and coconut shavings? Surely this would counter some of the intense sweetness that usually puts me off.
I also wanted to add cocoa powder – for a more intense chocolate flavour without additional sugar – and ground almonds for a more interesting crumb, so I substituted these ingredients for some of the flour. I’m just a little devil really.
The first batch I made had two different toppings: half with slices of banana and half with a scatter of frozen raspberries. I thought they were both delicious – the tartness of the raspberries being a good contrast to the sweet brownie and the aromatic almost rum-like taste of the cooked bananas complementing the coconut flavour. Furthermore, the texture was moist but definitely more cakey than gooey. This is clearly where my preference lies on the brownie spectrum, so if you too are of the cakey persuasion, then this is definitely one to try.
Matt preferred the banana half, so I decided to stick with that for this post. I’d happily make these brownies with any number of different toppings, though…customisation is the true appeal of this recipe!
Recipe loosely based on Joe’s Blackberry Brownies from The Little Book of Chocolat
- 120g dark chocolate
- 100g organic unrefined coconut oil
- 100ml coconut milk
- 2 medium eggs, beaten
- 125g caster sugar
- 100g light brown muscovado sugar
- 70g self raising flour
- 30g ground almonds
- 10g good quality cocoa powder, sifted
- pinch of sea salt
- 30g coconut flakes, plus extra to sprinkle on top
- 1 banana, thickly sliced
Line an 18cm square shallow tin with baking paper and pre heat your oven to 180 deg/160 FAN/ gas mark 4.
Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together in a large saucepan over a low heat. Remove from the heat while a few lumps of chocolate remain and stir until the mixture becomes fully liquid in the residual heat.
Add the two sugars and stir well, then pour in the coconut milk and stir again.
Whisk the eggs together before adding to the mixture and stirring until fully combined. (Remember all the stirring I mentioned above? Well, here it is!)
Next sift in the flour, salt and cocoa and add the ground almonds, then fold through the mixture until the batter is smooth.
Finally, stir in the coconut flakes to un-smooth the batter – texture is good, after all – and pour into the prepared tin. Place the banana slices on top along with a scatter of flaked coconut pieces.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, then leave to cool. Cut into squares and eat with gay abandon…or just a cup of tea.
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