Whole-grain baked goods are, by nature, drier than baked goods made with refined flour. Sometimes this is a good thing — biscotti and crackers are supposed to be crunchy and dry, meant to be dunked into coffee or spread with savory soft cheese — but usually you want baked goods to be moist and perhaps a bit chewy. Enter dates.
Not only do dates lend baked goods a soft texture and a faint caramel flavor, stirring mashed dates into your batter will allow you to cut down on the overall amount of sugar in the recipe. An 11″x7″ pan of brownies, for example, would normally call for at least 2 cups of white sugar. I opted to use 6 dates and 1 cup of sucanat instead. That means these brownies taste like chocolate instead of just being teeth-rendingly sweet. And the oats do their part by providing a little bit of crunch.
Ultra-Dark Oat & Date Brownies
Makes 12 squares.
1 stick (8 T.) butter, preferably from grass-fed cows (Kerrygold is a great choice)
1/2 cup unrefined hazelnut oil OR extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sucanat
6 dates, pitted
3/4 cup cocoa powder, preferably non-Dutched (the Dutching process removes some of the cocoa’s natural acidity and therefore some of its flavor)
1 and 1/2 cups total of teff flour, sorghum flour, and/or brown rice flour* (I used 1/2 cup of each)
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch sea salt
1/2 cup rolled oats — BE SURE to use gluten-free oats if you want to make gluten-free brownies
6 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350F and grease an 11″x7″ glass baking pan with butter. I like to use the wrapper from the butter to do the greasing. No sense in wasting any of that delicious grass-fed butter!
Place butter in a medium pot over low heat and melt. Stir in oil, sucanat, and dates. Assuming that the dates were at room temperature and not refrigerated, the mixture should be soft enough to mash with a potato masher. (If you normally store dates in the fridge, leave them out for a few hours before making the brownies.) Stir in cocoa powder and remove from heat.
Scrape cocoa mixture into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and oats. Use the same whisk to whisk the eggs and vanilla into the cocoa mixture. With a large mixing spoon, mix the flours into the cocoa. If you’re making gluten-free brownies, mix to your heart’s content — there’s no gluten to accidentally overstiffen. If you’re making wheat-based brownies, only stir until just blended.
Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Garnish with cinnamon if you like when serving.
* These are gluten-free flours. If you’d prefer to make a wheat-based version, use a total of 1 and 1/2 cups of spelt, kamut, or whole-wheat flour instead.
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