A virtuous take on the classic brownie with the help of a surprising ingredient…

Brownies. I swear, if there’s anything guaranteed to knock you off your diet or induce your waistband to inexplicably shrink, this is the gooey, fudgey, cocoa laden culprit but is there a way to have your cake and eat it?

Brownies were first created in 1893 at the time of the Chicago World Fair when a chef at the Palmer Hotel was asked to come up with a dessert for ladies attending the fair which should be cake like but smaller in form and easy to eat from a lunch box. This first version is still made today at the hotel to the original recipe featuring walnuts & apricot glaze though the addition of extra egg & chocolate in the early 1900’s was when the results became more akin to what we’d perceive today as a brownie.

More recently, there’s been a desire to indulge but with the added benefit of hidden ‘good for you ingredients’ such as sweet potato, beetroot or even black beans. Raw, vegan and vegetarian versions of sweet treats are taking the culinary world by storm and whether you’re Michelin starred or have ventured no further than your own kitchen, it seems everyone wants to eat something naughty without paying the price.

Everyone from Jillian Michaels to Martha Stewart to Jamie Oliver has their take on a ‘healthier’ version of brownies, often substituting things like apple sauce for butter and wholewheat flour for white. A recent glut of recipes for avocado brownies is what really caught my eye though – as someone obsessed with both of these things, the idea of a brownie loaded with good fats as opposed to bad instantly waved a flag of interest in my direction .

Southern-in-Law is a sweet Antipodean blog I stumbled across when searching for the perfect avocado brownie recipe and this formed the basis of a batch I tested on my guinea-pig colleagues at work. The main point of difference is that instead of butter, soft, rich, pale green avocado flesh provides the fat in a flour-free recipe that contains only one quarter cup of sugar – I generally bake with light or dark brown Muscovado sugar as I like the slightly more caramelised flavour and softer texture it provides.

The link to the post can be found here www.southerninlaw.com/2014/04/grain-free-healthy-fudgy-avocado-brownies-recipe.html and it really is a simple way of making something that you can feel a tad more virtuous in stuffing down your chops, one silky, rich square at a time.

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Blend your avocados with eggs, water and good vanilla extract until it’s smooth and a pretty, pale pistachio colour. Use a food processor or blender to ensure everything mixes together as well as possible and make sure your eggs are free range and your avocados are softly pliable but not exceptionally squidgy.

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Melt your broken pieces of chocolate in a bain marie or if you’re feeling more inclined to speed and less inclined to additional washing up, a few seconds at a time in the microwave works just as well. I used 85% dark chocolate which is really quite rich & strong so feel free to use a lower percentage if you prefer a sweeter taste – I’d advise not going lower than 65-70% though to ensure you keep a good depth of cocoa flavour and of course, the best cooks always sample their ingredients as they add, purely for scientific purposes of course.

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Combine this mixture with the remaining ingredients until they’re well blended, dark, glossy and fairly firm in texture. I had to add another tablespoon of warm water at this point to make it a touch more malleable so feel free to do the same…

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…and then it’s simply a matter of smoothing into a parchment lined baking tray and baking…

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…until your ever faithful and super technical kitchen aide, the cocktail stick, comes out clean.

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They won’t rise much and they may almost look not quite done but trust me, if the stick is clean (a few crumbs are ok), it will continue to bake a little as it cools in the pan. Slicing them, you will notice how un-cake like they seem – they have an almost truffle-esque appearance and texture too which will be instantly noticeable upon sampling.

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These are a simply gorgeous way of treating yourself to something classic but with a touch of modernity and innovation and isn’t that how the best things survive? Plus, removing butter from something and adding a fat that actually counts as one of your 5-a-day but doesn’t taste like it is an unexpected perk.

They won’t be for everyone because they’re not exactly like the conventional brownies they may be used to – and really, there’s nothing wrong with those bad boys either – but they taste wonderfully rich and decadent with a smooth, satiny consistency that I guarantee will surprise and delight even the most un-convinced guinea pig…

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