Perfect Avocado Brownies with Cinnamon and Blueberries (vegan)

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 This is such a momentous day. I finally, finally perfected avocado brownies. Celebrate with me! It’s been a long and arduous journey, but we made it. If you follow me on instagram you will have seen the highs and lows, the almost perfect and the completely ruined brownies that came before these mighty ones today. I feel like this might be one of my baking life’s biggest accomplishments, not to toot my own trumpet too much! 

But seriously. Let’s talk about brownies.

I’ve made a few healthy brownies on this blog before. These black bean ones were like a healthy, protein-rich fudge. I’ve made tea-infused raw brownies (so good!), and these banana brownies are so popular with everyone I make them for. But in my mind none of these recipes were really “brownies”. They were various shades of chocolate cake/slice. Brownies must be rich. Like these caramel brownies. They must be super fudgy but also chewy and they must taste so chocolatey you have to drink a glass of milk (or almond milk) alongside it. 

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They shouldn’t taste like banana or almonds or orange or any other such nonsense! They should taste like BROWNIES. And also be really good for you, because I want to eat the whole pan. 

My experiments started to take a turn for the awesome when I bought My Darling Lemon Thyme‘s new cookbook. I seriously recommend it to anyone who loves whole-food recipes and stunning photography. Emma’s book is actually inspirational it’s so beautiful! I used her raspberry and pistachio brownies as a starting point on my quest for the perfect brownie. 

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Over a series of experiments I replaced the olive oil with avocado to squeeze in those healthy fats, and replaced the combination of gluten-free flours with wholemeal wheat. (Because I eat wheat and it’s much cheaper). I’ve included her measurements for gluten free in the recipe, but I’ve never tried them so I can’t give any tips for how it will go unfortunately. I also squeezed in lots of cinnamon and blueberries in there because hello?! Match made in heaven! 

The result was incredible. Rich, fudgy, sweet, holy crap. Crackly top, vanilla ice cream, you can see where this is going. Brownie heaven. I actually can’t believe how healthy they are. Compared to my normal recipe which has 2 1/2 cups of sugar, half a kilo of chocolate and a whole block of butter, these only had one block of chocolate, one cup of raw sugar and no butter at all! Plus wholemeal flour! No brownie coma for me 🙂 The trick to making dessert recipes healthier but still delicious is to replace the traditional ingredients with just as good healthy ingredients. You can’t just cut out sugar and fat and expect it to taste good.

The combination of sweet blueberries, cinnamon and vanilla extract add natural sweetness that in my mind tastes much better than plain old sugar. And the avocado, as they say, really is impossible to taste. It does give the texture a slightly thicker consistency and the brownies smell a bit like avocado, but don’t fear that your brownies will come out tasting like baked avocado. They won’t. I 100% believe everybody should make these brownies at least once in their lives. They’re that yummy 🙂

One Year Ago: Rhubarb and Coconut Crumble Slice

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Avocado and Blueberry Brownies: Adapted from here

200g (7 ounces) dark vegan chocolate, broken into chunks (plus extra 50g chopped)

185g (1 cup, about 2 avocados) perfectly ripe and green avocados

1 tbsp olive oil 

200g (1 cup) raw or brown sugar

3 eggs OR vegan replacement (3 tbsp chia mixed with 6 tbsp water, or 1.5 very ripe mashed bananas)

3/4 cup (75g) wholemeal flour OR 1 cup almond meal mixed with 2/3 cup fine brown rice flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

40g (1/3 cup) raw cocoa powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

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Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and line a 20cm by 20cm tin (8 inch) with baking paper. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. 

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, cocoa powder and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, or mix the chia seeds with the water or mash up your bananas. Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the sugar until it is mostly dissolved. In a blender, blend the avocado with the eggs (or chia/banana) and tsp of vanilla extract. 

Mix together the chocolate mix and the avocado mix well. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir until mixed. Stir through the blueberries and extra chocolate, and smooth in to your brownie pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is set. Serve warm, with ice cream (you know you want to). 

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Raspberry, Burnt Butter and Coconut Friands (gluten free!)

Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

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 My favourite scene from Kath and Kim is when Kath and Kel are at a cafe having a cup of tea, and when Kel goes to pay Kath says “no we’re not paying Kel. My friand was dry.” My goodness, such good memories. Kath is right though! There is nothing, NOTHING worse than a dry friand. 

You may be wondering right now what a friand is. Otherwise known as a financier, it is a little French almond cake usually topped with a piece of fruit or two. I wonder if Australia is the only country to call them Friands. I think it might be a national habit to think up funny names for otherwise normal products. Why do we call granola bars muesli bars? I honestly don’t know. So whether you call them friands or financiers, that’s what I made today. But these ones are a little bit special!

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 When I made trifle a few weeks ago I used up twelve egg yolks. That’s a lotta yolks! The egg whites have been patiently staring at me from the freezer ever since, to the point that I can hear their little voices talking to me. “What are you waiting for Lillian? We’re ready to go!” CURSE YOU EGG WHITES. Joking…but seriously sometimes I feel my life is dedicated to thinking of what to do with leftover egg whites. 

Cue friands. Friands use egg whites, and they are made with almonds! So no gluten AND no more egg whites. Well I didn’t quite manage to use up all twelve of them, but I did make them gluten free! I ground up some finely desiccated coconut and replaced the plain flour with that. And it was awesoooome.

They came out tasting so coconutty and soft and just uuugh. Yum. And burnt butter people. Don’t pretend that ship has sailed yet. 

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When I was researching recipes I was surprised by how unhealthy friand recipes are. Like HEAPS of sugar and icing sugar at that! Whenever I see icing sugar I think of when my friend ate a mug of it with a spoon on holidays once because she was craving sugar so much. I decided to just take a risk and replaced the icing sugar with agave nectar and the white sugar with a few tablespoons of raw sugar. 

And guess whaaaat they still tasted amazing. Lil = 1, Icing Sugar = 0. The agave nectar actually kept the friands really moist so there was no worry of them drying out. The edges went deep golden because I left them in the oven a minute or two long and the filling was still super light and lovely. You could replace the raspberries with any berry or even a little piece of fruit if you like. I adapted this recipe from David Lebovitz and he mentions peaches, plums or blackberries could be nice. If you try them tell me how they go!

One Year Ago: Rich Dark Chocolate Fudge

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 Raspberry, Coconut and Burnt Butter Friands: Adapted from Ready for Dessert 

110g (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

140g (1.5 cups) ground almonds

40g (1/2 cup) desiccated coconut

100g (1 cup) raw sugar

4 large egg whites 

70ml (5 tbsp) agave nectar or honey

100g raspberries, enough for a few each

1 tsp almond extract

1 pinch of salt

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Preheat the oven to 200C (390F) and line 12 small or 6 big muffin tins with muffin liners. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Cook slowly stirring only occasionally until the butter starts to darken and smell nice and toasty. Turn it off when you start to see brown, it will continue to cook longer after the heat it off. Allow to cool. 

In a blender, pulse the almond meal, coconut and sugar until very finely ground. Pulse in the agave, egg whites, salt and almond extract. Stir in the butter and spoon into the muffin tins. Top with a couple of raspberries and cook for 15-18 minutes, until the tops are fluffy and golden and the raspberries have sunk down. They last well but taste best on the first day you made them. 

Enjoy!

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Creamy Vanilla Rice Pudding (vegan and gluten free)

Vegan, Gluten Free and Sugar Free

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When I was young my sister and I went through a rice pudding phase. A rice pudding phase so intense that for a while afterwards, every time someone mentioned eating rice pudding I thought back on that experience as the dark days. I can now think of that time quite fondly, when I would eat one or two packets of cold, gloopy rice pudding every single day. It was an important part of my childhood, and many people’s childhoods, to get completely obsessed with a certain packaged product and eat so much of it you eventually want to exorcise every box from the face of the earth (for me this includes Easy Mac, frozen packets of dim sims and Yoplait vanilla cream…shudder). 

It was a shame to get sick of rice pudding though because I’d never actually tried the real deal, not straight out of a packet. I mean…has anyone? I know people in Europe eat it on Christmas Eve and hide an almond inside as a prize, but in Australia the only rice pudding I’ve ever seen is in a packet or a can. We’re not really rice pudding people. Come to think of it, the only place I’ve seen rice pudding as a popular choice on the menu was at the old person’s centre I used to volunteer at. Image

Well things are about to change! Because rice pudding is actually really delicious, and it’s naturally gluten free. You can use basically any milk you want, including soy and almond (the best is coconut) making it naturally vegan as well. I made a seriously vanilla-flavoured simple rice pudding with almond milk, topping it with fresh blueberries. I was tempted to make a coconut version and top it with mango slices, or maybe a cinnamon and ginger version topping it with poached rhubarb. But I decided to stick with simple for the first go. 

I used a mash-up recipe from Jamie’s America and Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert, for the sole reason that the recipe claimed to make the ‘creamiest rice pudding ever’. I don’t know about you, but I can never resist a recipe that claims to be the best. I know! So naive. I chose to make my pudding over a stove, meaning I had to stir it basically constantly for the last twenty minutes. If you really don’t want to do that I guess you could do it Jamie’s way and bake it in the oven, but it’s pretty fun stirring the rice until it’s as creamy and thick as you like it. I had so much fun making and photographing this pudding because it was so easy and homely. There was no fear of melting ice cream or ugly brown or strange flavours. Just simple old vanilla rice pudding. 

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This pudding is really delicious and thick despite the handful of humble ingredients and minimum fuss to make it. It’s delicious warm but also great cold, so try it both ways and see what you prefer. Experiment with toppings and different milks and tell me how they go! 

On another note, I’m getting super excited about summer and going away! I’ve been busy making lots of posts that I can put up over the weeks I’m not here so there’ll be lots of things still going on, don’t worry! Hopefully there will be wifi and hopefully that wifi will allow wordpress to be accessed…otherwise I don’t really know what’s going to happen! I’m also hoping that it won’t actually be minus 13 degrees in Budapest but hey! We can only hope and pray. 

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Creamy Rice Pudding: Adapted from here

150g (3/4 cup) aborio rice (risotto rice)

1.25 litres (1.32 quarts) almond, rice or coconut milk (or cows milk) 

100g maple syrup or honey

1 vanilla bean, split in half

1 pinch salt

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Put all the ingredients in a medium-large saucepan over a low heat, scraping out the vanilla seeds into the pot and putting in the bean as well. Stir to combine the syrup and bring to a simmer. Stir every now and again to stop a skin forming and stop the rice from sticking. As the rice thickens stir constantly until the pudding looks like a soupy risotto. Turn the heat off and the pudding should thicken a little immediately. Serve with fresh fruit or stewed fruit. If refrigerated first, add a little more milk to thin it down a bit. Serves 4-5 people.

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Strawberry Chia Pudding Cups (gluten free and vegan)

Gluten free, sugar free and vegan

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 Whenever I think of chia seeds I think of my last year of high school, when they had just become all the rage. Going to an all-girls school it was almost normal to see girls walking around with water bottles full of ridiculous things like cucumber slices and lemon rind. But when chia seeds started being added as well? I honestly thought they were fish eggs for about six months. I thought they were the grossest thing ever. Like umami plums or quinoa, I associated them with superfood fads and mud face masks and beautiful people like Miranda Kerr. I never wanted to try them in any shape or form if I could avoid it. 

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 But these pesky little seeds are everywhere! Blended into smoothies, sprinkled on porridge, used as vegan eggs, added to bread, muffins, cakes, they are literally taking over the world. I kept reading about chia pudding in places like here and here, and it actually sounded kind of cool. More than just that, I couldn’t believe anything would be that easy to make and not taste like…well fish eggs mixed into milk. I couldn’t find the source of the chia pudding idea, but I first read about it on Pastry Affair and used that as an idea starter. The first pudding I made I got a bit obsessed with the chia seeds. I stirred in one tablespoon to half a cup of milk and waited. Then I poured in another one, waited about 30 minutes, poured in another one, poured in a teaspoon more, and then left it overnight. People, I overdid the chia seeds. It still tasted ok, if a little thick, but about half an hour after I ate it, the seeds expanded in my stomach and I literally couldn’t get off the floor. I was rolling around, moaning, for about an hour. Don’t eat too many chia seeds! They can absorb 9 times their weight in liquid and lemmee tell you that’s like your whole stomach. 

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 Chia seeds have some pretty impressive credentials if you haven’t ever heard of them before. They are super high in dietary fibre and things like Vitamin C and Iron. They turn into a gel when mixed with liquid which makes them ideal for making pudding, because you don’t need any heat or gelatine or eggs to thicken it. They are naturally gluten free, and they can be used to make recipes vegan and dairy free. They have literally no taste at all which is kind of unnerving…but good as well. When dry they’re kind of gross to eat, even though they are a popular sprinkle for cereal and porridge, because they get stuck in your teeth and start absorbing your saliva! But soaked they become most similar to something like tapioca pudding.

I watched a really disturbing American show on chia seeds, where fat women drank three heaped tablespoons mixed with water to “curb their outrageous appetites”. Sorry if you also drink chia with water, I’m sure a little bit is good for you here or there, but the thought of chia slime clogging up your stomach to stop you eating is so gross to me. Eeeew. 

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 This pudding today is a really simple strawberry chia pudding. It’s more of a starting point for what ever direction you want to take it. Lots of people seem to like this for breakfast so there isn’t any sugar in the beginning recipe, but depending on how sweet your fruit is you might want to blend in some honey or maple syrup (or sugar, of course). As well as that, you could get creative with the milk as well. Coconut milk would go well with blended banana or berries, or almond milk could make a lighter alternative. Some people stir in melted chocolate, or cocoa powder and honey, or cinnamon, vanilla, fruit compote, as you can see there are many different ways to take this pudding. Just remember to be patient, and not stir in three more tablespoons than directed. 

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Strawberry Chia Pudding: Adapted from this recipe:

1 cup soy milk (or almond, coconut, or actual milk)

450g (1 pound, 2 punnets) washed and hulled strawberries

1 tsp vanilla extract (good quality, you’ll be able to taste it clearly)

3 tablespoons chia seeds

Blend strawberries, vanilla and milk until completely smooth and chunk free. Stir in the chia seeds well. Pour into 2-4 cups depending on serving portion and chill overnight. Stir after about an hour well to break up clumps, and again before serving. Serve with a drizzle of honey or more cut up fruit. 

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