Last weekend I dreamed about brownies & baking brownies & eating brownies. Brownies are just so good. Moist and chocolatey and delicious. I know you want brownies now.
I was in the shops with my mother as she was buying some groceries & given the dark chocolate I like was on special (I should know better than this), I thought I’d restock my supply. I also walked past dried figs and had this thought, how good would dark chocolate and dried fig brownies be? Mum agreed.
Later I went searching for a recipe but failed to find one that suited me/my supplies. I opted to use this recipe I had seen before and do some switching of fruit.
I’ve also been wanting to experiment a bit more with healthier ingredients in baking. Not like using all those whiz bang, wallet-emptying, life-changing superfoods, and ending up with a recipe with a huge amount of ingredients. But just using things like less butter and sugar, and adding in things like apple puree, bananas, greek yoghurt and avocado. I’ve used sweet potato & zucchini in brownies before, chickpeas in cookies, and dates many times (one time was literally a bloody disaster). Once I tried a chia egg (just use a real chicken egg) & avocado mixed with icing sugar works really creamy good. So I’ve done it before and I do enjoy the results (minus the chia egg recipe)
As part of my undergraduate degree, I undertook a major in food science. During this time I learnt the purpose of sugar is not just to sweeten, but also plays a large part in cooking. Sugar is important. You can’t can’t take it away and assume your recipe is going to be the same. Sorry.
Sugar is crucial to developing that delicious texture of brownies and cakes and muffins. When sugar bonds with water, it helps lock in moisture. Everyone likes their cakes moist. It also plays a part in preventing your baked goods from being too tough. When water is added to your wheat flour, it binds with the protein and starch to make the dough. By adding sugar to the recipe, it controls how much of the water binds to the protein & starch, and prevents your baked goods from being too tough. Remember that time you decided to cut the sugar in half and made those tough muffins? Exactly. Sugar also helps make your cakes rise, deepens the colour and flavour, and creates that delicious crunchy top on your cakes. Caffeine at Deakin University used to sell the most delicious raspberry and white chocolate muffins with the best crunchy muffin top.
So to cut a long story short, reduce the sugar and you may bake yourself a dry, flat, tough brownie with no crust. And for pete’s sake (who even is Pete?), if you are going to spend the time making brownies or muffins or a cake, I do not believe it is worth reducing the sugar or butter if the goddamn thing doesn’t taste delicious?
The key to ensuring your brownies remain delicious (and almost the same texture) is substituting with the right ingredients. I knew apple sauce was a winner.
I have also seen various posts replacing butter and oils with greek yoghurt, prunes, bananas, avocado and apple sauce. (Pinterest seriously is so great).
So I did some playing, with pureed apples. A bit of reading and I came to the conclusion that you can substitute apple puree for sugar at a 1:1 ratio, but it’s best to try halving the fat and making up the rest with apple sauce first and see what it’s like.
I used this guide and came out these with delicious brownies. I would like to try change the recipe further in the future, but right now I’m happy with where they are at.
What I did
∼ Reduced the caster sugar by ½ cup
∼ Reduced the butter by 100g
∼ Added 1 cup unsweetened apple puree
∼ Changes the spices, nuts and dried fruit
What this means
∼ They are lower in sugar
∼ They are lower in saturated fat
∼ They contain a wee bit of extra fibre
∼ They are not a health food
∼ They are still a brownie
∼ They should be enjoyed in moderation.
Orange & dried fig brownies
100g unsalted butter
125g dark chocolate
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup unsweetened apple puree
2 tsp orange rind
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extra
¾ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa
½ cup chopped dried figs
¼ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
¼ cup dark chocolate chips (optional, but definitely worth considering)
1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease a 19 x 29cm (base measurement) slab pan with melted butter. Line base and 2 long sides with non-stick baking paper. Stir the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes or until almost melted. Set aside to cool slightly, stirring occasionally until smooth.
2. Use an electric beater to beat the sugar and eggs in a large bowl until thick and pale. Combine the apple puree to the chocolate mixture. Stir in the chocolate mixture, orange rind and vanilla. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and mixed spice over the mixture. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the figs, walnuts and chocolate
3. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until firm and crumbs cling to a skewer inserted into the centre. Set aside in the pan to cool. Cut into pieces.