What a bold claim! And I don’t just mean “the best brownies because they are raw, vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free.” No, these are THE Best Brownies that serendipitously happens to be decently healthy.
At its core, a raw brownie consists of dates, nuts (typically walnuts) and raw cacao processed to a buttery fudge. I’ve also had my fair share of energy bar brownies from brands such as Pulsin, Nakd, Larabar and Clif, just to name a few. However, they are dense and heavy, sometimes too sweet or dominant of dates rather than chocolate.
My criteria of a good brownie
While everyone taste buds are different, this is how I like my brownies:
Bitter dark chocolate, not too sweet but enough to accentuate the rich chocolate flavour.
Fudgy yet fluffy, and definitely not stodgy like most energy bars’ renditions of brownies. Raw brownies easily overrun into the thick and fudgy arena (which I will seek to remediate). If you want fudge you should make fudge — not brownies. The brownie needs a little poofiness – tiny air pockets that coalesce in your mouth and create a sensation of bliss.
Moist with a melt-in-the-mouth mouthfeel. If using nuts for crunch, it should not detract from the buttery quality.
Classic vanilla, uplifting warming spices including ginger, cardamom, chili and maca, or cooling mint.
Creating the best raw brownies
The recipe involves more ingredients than your basic date-nut brownie, but each ingredient does have a function that adds to the incredible quality of The Best Raw Brownies. Let me explain:
Oat flour. Oat flour lends a lightness to the brownie. A nut-based brownie tends to be heavy. The best choice will be to make activated oat flour by soaking and dehydrating oats. Otherwise you can grind up rolled oats in a spice grinder or food processor and sift.
Almond flour. Almonds are neutral tasting and high protein. It is recommended to use activated almond flour as raw almonds have a high content of phytic acid and does not digest well. In a pinch, you can also use store-bought almond flour such as Bob’s Red Mill.
Raw cacao powder and cacao butter. Raw cacao powder is required for the chocolate taste, and cacao butter imparts the melt-in-the-mouth quality that we are looking for in brownies. Brownies without cacao butter tastes flat; and coconut oil is no replacement for cacao butter. It is always recommended to use raw cacao products for taste and health benefits. Read more about raw cacao for health in this post.
Desiccated coconut, ground. Coconut, when ground down into butter, is one of the most heavenly substance known to mankind. It is of no wonder why Nutiva calls their coconut butter as “manna!” When used in brownies, coconut adds a floral top note to cacao and a delightful butteriness. It also helps to bind together the ingredients. Yes, you have to grind down the coconut if starting from the desiccated form as the shreds are too coarse for a good brownie.
Coconut sugar and dates. I use two types of natural sweeteners in The Best Raw Brownies. Dates bestow the requisite stickiness and act as a binder. However using all dates can make the brownies too sticky and dense, and this is where coconut sugar comes in, adding to the sweetness while maintaining a light and fluffy texture.
Maca root powder. Since you are already making raw brownies, why not take it up a notch and infuse some superfoods? Maca, known as Peruvian ginseng, is an adaptogen that helps fight stress by balancing the activity of the nervous, hormonal and immune systems. It has a warming nature and malty taste and synergises harmoniously with the health and gastronomic properties of cacao to give incredible lasting energy and stamina. Read more about maca root in this entry. If you do not have maca, feel free to omit, or replace with another flavouring such as vanilla bean or mint (and adjust the amounts accordingly).
Filtered water. In small quantities, water adds moistness and a light texture. As you stream in the water while the food processor blades are spinning, you will see the dough disband into mini airy balls. However, add too much water and the brownie will turn into sludge. The bottom line is stream in the water very carefully, adding just enough for moistness and no more.
If you like your brownies decadent then I highly recommend pairing it with a chocolate avocado frosting (the recipe is also included below).
I served these brownies as a dessert course at Be Live! Raw food workshop held at Memento Patisserie Cafe and the response was great! The venue of the workshop may seem to clash with the plant-based philosophy of Straits Road Kitchen, but nevertheless it was a great location. The interior has a cosy and industrial vibe and at a small corner near the entrance, a future mail concept where you can write letters of gratitude, hopes, dreams or memories. I owe much credit to two people who made this workshop possible, as well as all the attendees who came on a Friday night. As a shy and introverted person by nature, this debut public workshop was a momentous feat and I stumbled for words at many instances. The lesson learnt is that while I love cooking and uncooking, it is a whole new ball game altogether to cater for the public (which involves logistics, marketing, purchasing, making, content creating, transportation and presentation).
- 96 g (1 cup) activated oat flour (or ground from rolled oats and sifted)
- 72 g (3/4 cup) activated almond flour
- 60 g (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) raw cacao powder, sifted
- 60 g (1/2 cup + 1/2 tbsp) desiccated coconut, ground or raw coconut butter
- 80 g (5 tbsp) coconut sugar
- 18 g (4 tsp) maca root powder or 1 tbsp Darth Force Blend (optional)
- 60 g (6 no) medjool dates, peeled and pitted
- 60 g (1/4 cup) filtered water, or as needed
- 45 g (4 1/2 tbsp) cacao butter, melted
- 60 g (7 tbsp) walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped
- 120 g (1 medium) avocado
- 60 g (1/4 cup) nut milk or full-fat coconut milk
- 45 g (3 tbsp) maple syrup
- 15 g (2 heaping tbsp) raw cacao powder
- 10 g (1 tbsp) coconut oil, melted
- 5 g (1/2 tbsp) cacao butter, melted
- In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
- In a food processor, blend together the wet ingredients. Add in the dry ingredients and pulse to combine. The mix should come together in the food processor and just form a ball. Then add in the nuts and pulse to combine. Do not over process the mix or you will break down the nuts and leave no texture to them. If the mixture is too dry, add more water a little by little.
- Press the mixture into a square mold or lined baking tin. Place the tin in the freezer to set, about 10-20 minutes. You can enjoy the brownies as it is, or if you are feeling indulgent, proceed with the Chocolate Avocado Frosting.
- In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and blend until the mixture is glossy, creamy and thoroughly mixed. Pour over the raw brownies, give the pan a few hard knocks to release any air bubbles. Transfer to the freezer and allow to set for about 2 hours until firm enough to slice through.
- Slice the brownies with a sharp knife. Dip the knife in hot water after each slice for a clean cut.
- 35 g chia seeds powder
- 80 g sesame flour