Every time I watch Elaina Love (Pure Joy Planet), Chaya Ryvka (Living Vision) or Ka Sundance (Raw Food Family Life) I am intrigued and tempted to go raw myself. Raw food comes with all nutrients and flavours unaltered by cooking or processing, while retaining its natural moisture and enzymes required for digestion. Due to its nutritious, healing and preventive qualities, it is as beneficial for the mind and spirit as it is for the body, keeping you healthy, energetic and focused. At the same time, raw food has a minimal impact on the environment. It provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that the body uses to detoxify and fight off the free radicals. Cooked/processed food is more acid-forming and provides the proper environment for diseases to develop. On the other hand, raw food helps restore the acid/alkaline balance the body needs for optimal health.
Before becoming vegan, I had never heard of raw desserts. I'd eaten raw food in the form of veggie or fruit salads, juices, guacamole, but...raw brownies? The interesting part is that the most common ingredients you find in recipes are dates, nuts, avocados, cocoa butter and coconut oil - with them you can make anything from simple ice creams and tarts to show-stopping cheesecakes and wedding cakes.
Last year I made Jennifer Cornbleet's Raw Chocolate Mousse Tart and it was sooo good. Then a friend suggested raw brownies. The dates usually found in supermarkets are rather dry and very sweet. With that in mind, I soaked them before blending and got a batch of soft brownies. Last week, however, I wanted a more dense texture, so I skipped soaking. Besides, I used my favourite Khadrawy dates (mostly available in the Middle East) which are less sweet. Their high moisture content and soft, very dark flesh make them perfect for brownies. Dates do most of the work in this dessert. They make up the body, provide natural sweetness and, having a mild flavour, they combine well with cocoa to give a chocolaty taste.
Note: You don't need to stick with the amounts in my recipe. Change them to suit your taste and cut into any shape you like.
What you need...
- 1 kg packed Khadrawy dates
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp rum extract
Update 20 January 2013: When I made these brownies I wasn't aware that in the raw food world the terms "cocoa powder" refer to the processed, often sweetened powder obtained from roasted cacao beans. "Raw cacao powder" does not involve roasting or sweetening and is available in health food stores. Vanilla extract can be made raw using vanilla beans and water. As for rum extract, it is derived from alcohol and that makes it not-raw. So for a 100% raw dessert, use raw cacao and natural flavouring.
- Pit the dates and halve them. Blend into a smooth paste (if you have a small blender, divide the amount).
- Finely chop the walnuts or coarsely blend them.
- Place all ingredients in a glass bowl and mix by hand until the cocoa is incorporated. Wet and cover the bottom and sides of a loaf pan with cling film, leaving more on both sides to cover the top and for easy removal (you can use an airtight container or a square pan as well). Spoon the mixture into the pan, press it down with your fingers to form a smooth layer with no air trapped inside, cover with cling film and refrigerate for a few hours (best would be 2 days, if you can wait that long).
- Carefully remove from the pan, discard the cling film and cut into 1 inch pieces using a wet thin knife, washing the knife before each cut. Place the brownies on a plate and serve; alternatively you can pour chocolate ganache over them (recipe below). For a raw ganache, mix 4-5 Tb coconut milk with enough cocoa powder to get a thick, runny consistency. If you're not using all the brownie, keep the leftover in the fridge wrapped in cling film.
50g dark chocolate (60%)
2 Tb coconut milk
1 Tb maple syrup
In a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water (water not touching the bottom of the bowl) melt the chocolate with the rest of the ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and let cool down a bit before pouring over the brownies.
Note: You may as well turn this recipe into something fun: form small balls with the date paste and dip them in shredded coconut or cocoa powder to make truffles. Kids will love them.
A lot of time, effort and passion goes into each recipe I post. My greatest satisfaction comes from your feedback. If you made this recipe, then please take a minute of your time to leave me a comment. And if you like it, please share it so that others have access to it as well. Thank you all in advance!
Did you know...
Dried Dates, also known as "crown of sweets" or "happy-food", are valuable for their nutritious content - high levels of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, selenium, vitamins A, B, C, E, K and folate. They benefit the body in so many ways:
- due to their cleansing power and high fiber content (both soluble and insoluble), they help maintain a healthy digestive system; relieve constipation, acting like a mild laxative; control diabetes by decreasing elevated blood glucose levels; lower LDL cholesterol; promote the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines.
- they are calorie-dense and contain simple sugars that are easily digested to supply quick energy and revitalize the body; highly beneficial for people fasting or recovering from illness and extreme fatigue, and for pregnant women. They contain a substance similar to oxytocin that eases birth by increasing contractions of the uterus and helping the dilation during delivery; it also reduces bleeding after delivery, alleviates depression and reduces stress.
- dates help improve stamina and are used for their tonic effect on the body.
- rich in iron, they are especially beneficial for those suffering from anemia.
- dates are one of the best sources of potassium which is involved in the function of all cells, tissues and organs in the body. Potassium is very important for brain and nerve function, muscle growth and contraction, maintaining fluid, pH and electrolyte balance in the body, regulating heart rate and blood pressure (protects against stroke and cardiovascular disease). High levels of sodium combined with low levels of potassium lead to hypertension.
- they maintain stomach healthy, providing relief from acidity, heartburn, ulcers and colitis.
- they fight weight gain by inducing satiety and preventing overeating.
- rich in antioxidants, dates help strengthen the immune system.
- they contain high levels of calcium and phosphorus necessary for healthy bones, teeth and heart, and to prevent osteoporosis, arthrisis and muscle cramping. Vitamin D and magnesium are necessary for calcium absorption and metabolism.
- being packed with nutrients, fat and cholesterol free, and low on sodium, dates make a perfect snack (part of the trail mix - nuts and dried fruit).
For walnuts and cocoa, please read my notes on Carrot Cake.