OMG. I don’t normally rush to post a recipe right after cooking, but here I am, still swooning over possibly the best brownies I’ve ever made.
Granted, my track record of brownie making aint that impressive (considering the last time I made them was two years ago).
These brownies are quite simply, to die for. They’re:
- flour-less (I’ve been baking with nut- and seed-flour lately with delicious results).
- sinfully chocolatey (with cacao powder AND chocolate chips).
- the perfect balance of bitter-sweet (with a tinge of espresso).
And they’re small-batch (perfect for that quick-hit chocolate craving).
Because the recipe only makes 8 brownies, you’ll be tempted to eat it all in one go, but try not to.
Savor these brownies. Eat them slowly. Relish the wholesome, ooey gooey textures. And if you can bear to, share them with your neighbors.
The idea for these brownies came from Ambitious Kitchen’s Small Batch Paleo Almond Flour Brownies with Raspberries. I loved the idea of a small-batch brownie recipe, and one made completely with nuts (and no weird gluten-free flour blends) seemed too good to be true.
So, I’ve been trying to find an excuse to make them this entire lock-down.
But the longer I waited, the more this recipe evolved (you know me, I can’t leave a recipe alone).
I finally decided to make them for my dad’s birthday (my dad’s a chocolate monster; and yes, he might be in a different country, but a girl can still celebrate!).
So, here are the tweaks I made.
#1. Blitzed almonds and pumpkin seeds (pepitas) instead of almond flour. I don’t normally buy almond flour and instead grind raw unsalted almonds into a fine flour-like substance. I’m also a bit stingy with my raw almonds (especially in times like these, when grocery store trips are limited), so I used an almond-pumpkin seed blend, which totally worked.
#2. Maple syrup instead of coconut sugar. The recipe uses 1/3 cup coconut sugar. I used a little less than 1/4 cup maple syrup because that’s what I had at home. I don’t love overly sweet desserts, and this quantity worked well for me, but you can adjust it if needed.
#3. Espresso instead of raspberries. Since it was my dad’s birthday, I wanted something that represented him. And if there’s anything my dad loves more than chocolate, it’s coffee. So I swapped out the berries for 1.5 tsp of a strong espresso powder. I also added chocolate chips, a handful of walnuts and garnished with more pumpkin seeds.
Et voila – here it is, a dense, moreish, nut & seed-filled caffeinated masterpiece.
Hope you love it as much as I did (and if you make it, don’t forget to share and tag me!). xo
Small-Batch Flourless Espresso Brownies
These gluten-free brownies are adapted from Ambitious Kitchen's Small Batch Paleo Almond Flour Brownies with Raspberries. They're chockful of nuts, seeds, chocolate and espresso, and make an ooey, gooey, wholesome treat!
Servings: 8 brownies
- 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg (room temperature)
- 1/3 cup raw almonds
- 1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (or raw almonds)
- 3 tbsp unsweetened cacao powder
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp espresso powder
Optional (but recommended)
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds (to garnish on top)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a 8X4 inch loaf pan with parchment paper. (The original recipe provides an option to make it in two 5-inch skillets, so if you want to try that instead, refer to the Ambitious Kitchen recipe).
Place a small saucepan over low heat, add coconut oil and maple syrup and stir until the coconut oil is completely melted. The oil will be separate from the maple syrup at this point.
Set aside to cool for just a few minutes, then transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in the egg and vanilla extract until smooth.
Next, in a food processor (I used a hand-held food chopper), blitz the almonds and pumpkin seeds together until the texture resembles sand. You don't want it to become clumpy or turn into paste, so don't go crazy with this!
Add the other dry ingredients - raw cacao, baking soda, sea salt and espresso powder to the ground nut-seed mixture. Blitz once so they mix together (you ca do this in a separate bowl if you like, but why dirty another bowl?).
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients slowly and mix with a wooden spoon. The batter should be quite thick.
Drop in the chocolate chips and walnuts, and combine gently.
Now pour the batter into the parchment-lined loaf pan. Tilt the pan so the batter is evenly spread, then garnish with the remaining pumpkin seeds.
Place in the preheated oven for 18-23 minutes, or until the edges are set. Under-bake these brownies, so they remain fudgy once they cool down.
Once you take it out of the oven, let cool for about 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool on a wire-rack, another 5-10 minutes (trust me, it's easier to cut once they cool down).
Cut into 8 brownies, and tuck right in. <3
- Almond meal is not the same as almond flour. The original calls for almond flour, and I used to mix of almond & pumpkin seed meal (blitzed). It totally works.
- I used a little less sweetener than the recipe called for. I tend to enjoy sweets that are less sweet, and in the bitter-sweet spectrum of chocolate, I gravitate towards the bitter end. The brownies was sweet enough for me (especially once you add chocolate chips). Don't knock it till you try it!
It was in 2005 that duqqa entered my life; when my dad decided one day to whip it together. I had never even heard of duqqa, let alone taste it (don’t think he had either). “It’s Egyptian street food,” he said. I mentioned this to an Egyptian coworker the next day (who shot back, “It’s poor man’s food!”).
Anyhow, I remembered duqqa out-of-the blue a decade later, while teaching a class on basic nutrition. Inspired to share a traditional and simple nutritious snack, I looked up the recipe and duqqa’s humble origins.
Duqqa (also dukkah, pronounced doo-ah), which means “to pound” in Arabic, is a wonderfully nutrient-dense nut and spice blend. It’s usually made with hazelnuts, sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper, and eaten as a snack with bread (typically pita) dipped in a good extra virgin olive oil. Sounds simple, but in reality, duqqa’s crunchy texture and savory flavor adds a “wow” factor to just about anything. Try it on scrambled eggs, roasted veggies, salads, soups, avocado-toast or wraps….just try it already!
And, it’s so versatile.
Don’t have hazelnuts? Use almonds, pistachios or whatever nut you have on hand. No cumin? Try it with toasted fennel seeds. Want another twist? Throw in dried mint or oregano or basil if you like. [Note: Za’atar is another spice blend, which seems to consist of thyme, oregano, sumac and sesame seeds. If anyone knows the technical difference between duqqa and za’atar, please share in the comments below.] There are countless variations to duqqa out there, so get creative!
In any case, for this version, I used this recipe by rosichops. It seemed easy enough and had the shortest list of ingredients; which is always a win. Whatever recipe you use, start with a small quantity that you can store in an airtight container and a cool dry place, and finish within a week or two. Toasted nuts (like the ones in this recipe) have a tendency to get rancid, which damages the healthy fat content, and no one wants that.
Hazelnuts contain healthy monounsaturated fats, which give it tremendous cholesterol-lowering properties (also lowering the risk of heart disease); good amounts of protein and fiber, which together work wonders for maintaining blood sugar levels; and high amounts of copper, which is required for the body’s production of a key antioxidant enzyme “superoxide dismutase” (SOD). Antioxidants help clean up the free radicals that cause cell damage – so this is all good news! Be sure to store raw hazelnuts in the fridge or freezer as they can get rancid (damaged) quick.
Sesame seeds – Talk about good things coming in tiny packages! Sesame seeds are touted for their rich protein (excellent amino acid) content; as well as lignans (a polyphenol found in plants), which are potent antioxidants that have shown to inhibit the body’s production of cholesterol, and in some cases even lower it! Sesame seeds also contain other important nutrients like fiber, monounsaturated fats, B vitamins and a whole host of minerals including magnesium, copper, iron, zinc and calcium (rivaling the amount found in milk)! Finally, some of sesame seeds’ incredible benefits include relieving constipation (and overall digestive health), nourishing the intestines, stimulating blood circulation and soothing the nervous system.
Cumin seeds – Used extensively in Indian, Middle-Eastern and Mexican cuisines, cumin has a distinct savory flavor but also doubles up as a digestive aid. Cumin’s benefits include stimulating the pancreatic enzymes which optimize digestion, liver detoxification and nutrient assimilation; carminative properties, which means it keeps the tooting at bay; and anti-cancer properties, thanks to its antioxidant and liver-detox enzymes. Cool stuff, huh?
Duqqa (AKA dukkah)
- 2/3 cup hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp. cumin seeds
- sea salt & black pepper to taste
*use organic ingredients whenever possible
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and bake for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. While the nuts are still hot, pour them onto a tea towel. Fold the towel over them to cover, and rub vigorously to remove the skins. If you can’t remove all the skins, don’t sweat it and move on. Set aside to cool.
In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until light golden brown. Pour into a medium bowl as soon as they are done so they will not continue toasting. In the same skillet, toast the coriander and cumin seeds while shaking the pan or stirring occasionally until they begin to pop.
Transfer to a food processor, hand blender or mortar & pestle. Process or crush until finely ground, then pour into the bowl with the sesame seeds.
Place the cooled hazelnuts into the food processor, hand blender or mortar & pestle, and process until finely ground.
Stir into the bowl with the spices. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well.
Serve with crusty whole-grain, sourdough or pita bread and good quality extra virgin olive oil.
Sprinkle everywhere like pixie dust, and enjoy with your loved ones!
“Dukkah” (Rosichops). In All Recipes Blog. Retrieved from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/79684/dukkah/
Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.