Oh boy. Here it is! That uncontrollable nasty little urge to bite into a juicy, not too sweet, dark chocolatey piece of brownie that crawls out of the woodwork about once or twice a year… and of course it comes knocking down the front door when there’s no oven in sight. What to do, what to do?
Our local bakers and pâtissiers, extremely proficient with creamy, buttery, sugary pastry and related things as they might be, leave something to be desired when it comes to the delights of American-style calory bombs like cupcakes and brownies. I suppose, if one really wanted a tiny piece of (only slightly better) brownie on the spot, they could allow themselves to be robbed blind for it by a certain ever-present coffee franchise. Oooor… that in-desperate-need-of-a-brownie-someone could go no-bake on the whole concept, which will not only result in the juiciest and most succulent but also the healthiest, gluten- and additional-sugar-free piece of brownie possible~! Oh and for all you chocoholics out there: the “no-bake” part also makes the raw cocoa pop even more! Now, as you can see, I didn’t go chocolate all the way…
I had intended to skip taking prisoners and go straight for the villainous craving armed with a triple-chocolate-overdose version of my base recipe for this kind of thing. Here’s why: As usual around this time of year, whenever the first shy early bird blossoms fight their way out of the soil, promising the arrival of Spring in the near future, I couldn’t help but succumb to the impulse to buy a box of bright blue, plump and simply irresistable blueberries sitting right smack in the entryway of a nearby store against my better judgement. I almost regretted the buy as soon as I had left the store but, surprisingly enough, they weren’t a completely sugary-watery-sour let-down, they actually tasted like they could be delicious blueberries in 2-3 months time! As a first order of dessert-business that evening, a couple of them went on top of a bowl of yoghurt, right beneath a drizzle of honey, and that’s when it occurred to me: if all the berries needed to shine was a bit of sweetness and all a brownie needed to be more than a chocolatey brick in my tummy was a bit of freshness… Well. Here’s what you need for 1 delicious not-so-sinful tin-ful of the result of my winter-berry jump-started thought- and experiment-process~!
The No-Bake Blueberry-Chocolate Brownie
450g Dried Dates – even if the packaging tells you they’re pitted, do yourself and your food processor a favor and check up on that statement~
150g Pecan Nuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
12-14 Pretty Pecan Nut Halves for dolling-up purposes
200g Ground Almonds
100g Ground Almonds, lightly toasted
110g Raw Cocoa Powder – make sure it’s the real deal without sugary/chemical additions found in the fine print
45g Almond Flour
1 Pinch of Salt
½ Tonka Bean, finely chopped or grated
½ Tsp Vanilla Extract
100-125g Fresh Blueberries – well, 125g actually, but who doesn’t “loose” 1 or 3 of the blue gems on the way from their tub into the dough…?
50g Dried Blueberries, roughly chopped
Opt: 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup – the dates loose a bit of their sweetness in the hot water, so if you wish to reintroduce a bit of it, go with Maple Syrup to dot the I on the pecans
Opt: 100g Milk Chocolate, to melt and drizzle across the finished brownie for eye candy
1) Place the dates in a large heat-proof bowl.
2) Cover the dates with hot water and allow them to soak and soften up for about 6 hours.
3) Once the time’s up, drain the water off into a second bowl and keep it nearby.
4) Whizz the dates into a smooth purée with your trusty stick blender.
5) As you work your way through the dates with the whizz-o-matic, have a careful eye on the consistency and add a bit of the date-water if necessary: you’re aiming for a smooth peanut butter kind-of perfect creaminess in the end.
6) Once you’re satisfied with the date paste, ditch the blender and add the various types of almonds, pecans, cocoa, salt, tonka, dried berries, the optional maple syrup and the vanilla extract and snap on a pair of CSI gloves.
7) Knead the dough until everything is perfectly combined.
8) Transfer half of the dough into a ~20-25×25-30cm brownie tin lined with baking parchment.
9) Smooth the first layer of dough across the bottom of the tin – the parchment will make the first layer a bit of a (slippery) pain, but it’ll be over quick. Make extra sure to smooth the dough into the corners as well.
10) As soon as the entire bottom of the tin, corners and all, is covered in a neat and firmly packed layer of date-dough, scatter the blueberries on top of the chocolatey blanket and gently press them into the dough once you’ve adjusted their spacing a bit – you want each and every one of your guests to find a “fair” share of berries in their pieces, right?
11) Once that’s done, pick up the remaining dough in small’ish “blobs” and evenly space those on top of the blueberried layer so a gentle push down on the blobs will cover the blueberries without rearranging them.
12) As soon as the berries are safely tucked in, feel free use a bit more force to push and press the second layer onto the first like you mean it – the end result will be a smooth and even brownie-brick.
13) So, press the dough down into place – again, have an extra eye on the corners – and even out the surface with a palette knife or the back of a wooden spoon once you’re satisfied – since it’s a no-bake, there won’t be any rising/sinking/changing the surface of the brownie in any way, so make sure you’re looking at a pretty and even brick of proto-brownie.
14) Pop it into the fridge for 4 hours, glaze/decorate the surface with chocolate, sprinkles or whatever else you could possibly do to a cake’s surface.
15) Mark your future brownie squares with the nut halves while you’re at it.
16) Chill the brownie, still in it’s tin, for another 2 hours or so, then slice it up and…