Necessity is the mother of invention, well in this instance it was more down to curiosity and leftover ingredients. I had a bag of dates leftover from my Sticky Toffee Pudding adventures and knew once soaked in tea they can give a good fudgy base to a bake, but wondered if they could be used in brownies. Following on from this train of thought I considered making them gluten-free by using ground almonds and cornflour in place of plain flour, as I've had repeated success with this mix for sponge cakes, and then vegan with the removal of dairy and eggs. It just so happened this worked with what I had (or didn't have) in my cupboards. One of the things I appreciate with brownie recipes is the amount of bowls you can use, so I thought aside from the bowl to soak the dates why not use a food processor? I've got to blend the dates so I might as well just bung everything into the mixing bowl. Luck would have it I had pecans in my cupboard, I say luck but they are my favourite nut. I thought I'd add them to the recipe in place of walnuts as 1) I had them 2) they're better 3) for a nice bit of texture. I've also used olive oil as I always bake with that, I think it compliments flavours especially in chocolate bakes rather than using bland neutral oils just for the moisture, and popped a little coffee in as it adds depth to any cocoa based bakes (always add a little when making chocolate bakes, you can use decaf espresso powder). The end result is extremely pleasing, the edges of the brownies should be nice and chewy and the centres should be gloriously gooey. They aren't rich, they aren't overly nutty, and they're not sickly. In fact they're extremely moorish.
Hands-on Time 15 minutes (plus steeping)
Baking Time 35 minutes
250ml Boiled water
200g Dates (pitted)
200ml plus extra for greasing Olive oil
200g Light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
60g Cocoa powder
90g Ground almonds
1 tsp Instant coffee powder (fine)
1/2 tsp Fine salt
Baking pan, deep sided (25cmx20cm)
In a bowl brew the teabags in the boiling water for 5 minutes.
Remove the teabags and add the dates. Leave to steep for at least an hour.
When you’re ready to make the brownies preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C (Fan)/325°F/Gas mark 3.
Grease a pan with olive oil and line with baking parchment
Add the dates and 50 millilitres of the tea to a food processor bowl. Pulse until smooth.
Add the light brown sugar, 200 millilitres of olive oil and vanilla and blend until incorporated.
Add the cocoa, ground almonds, cornflour, coffee, and salt and blend again.
Finally add 100 grams of pecans. Pulse a couple of times so you have chunks of pecans still visible.
Using a spatula transfer the mixture into the lined tin and smooth out.
Sprinkle the remaining pecans over the top of the brownie mixture. Press down any pieces which are sticking up.
Pop the pan into the oven on a middle shelf for 35 minutes. When 30 minutes have passed check the top of the brownies. If the pecans are looking nice and toasted place a piece of foil over the top to stop them browning more.
When the time has passed remove the the pan from the oven and leave on a worktop for 15 minutes to cool slightly.
Slide the slab of brownies in their parchment onto a wire rack to completely cool.
Once cool to the touch carve up.