There aren’t many ways to elevate a brownie; it’s a nearly perfect confection as it is. It’s portable, easy to make and a little too easy on the palate. You can’t make it more delicious or more chocolatey… but you can make it healthier.
I’ve experienced many iterations of the brownie and the healthy brownie is a tough one to formulate. When I was about ten, I was offered a carob brownie by a hippy-dippy mom. It tasted exactly like disappointment. While brownies are very forgiving pastries that can disguise a lot of flavors and textures (hence: pot brownies), they cannot disguise the blandness of carob. Carob is not an acceptable substitute for chocolate and, frankly, you can’t really mess with the chocolate… or the sugar… but you can (and should) play with the flour composition.
White flour is terrible for you. It’s completely stripped of all its nutrients when it’s processed, so it contains approximately 100% empty calories. As a dedicated runner and cyclist, I try to eat efficiently. That means my body has to benefit from every calorie I consume with some sort of performance enhancement. The problem is that white flour tastes good, and because of all that gluten, it makes pastries lofty and elastic — but there are ways to modify it in brownies so you get the sweet satisfaction while being at least moderately beneficial to your body.
While I’m justifying my use of white flour, I suppose it’s also my duty to explain why I still eat granulated sugar. Sugar is, basically, poison if you eat it in excess. It doesn’t matter what form it takes — agave syrup, orange juice, honey, raw sugar — your body only sees it as a chemical formula and processes it all exactly the same way. According to Dr. Robert Lustig of University of California, San Francisco, our bodies can only metabolize about six teaspoons of sugar a day — the rest turns to fat and can lead to all sorts of health problems. So, basically, the only sugar I allow myself is dessert. Soda and juice, I could give up, but not pastries.
So without modifying the sugar in brownies, here’s my solution for transforming brownies into a slightly more healthy confection:
It wasn’t my idea — it was a seed planted by the Good Food podcast’s market report — but I love teff, so I’m running with the idea of a teff brownie both literally and figuratively.
Teff is Ethiopian in origin — typically, it’s used to make injera which is a very sour flatbread for scooping up stews and other saucy foods. If you like sour dough bread — you will love injera. Injera perfectly demonstrates teff’s unique flavor and Ethiopian runners perfectly demonstrate its health benefits.
Teff is a gluten-free super grain that’s packed with nutrients: it has about ten times as many omega-3 fatty acids as white flour, almost 40 times the amount of calcium and double the amount of protein and iron. It tastes awesome and has the nutrients to keep me running long distances? Sign me up!
So… here is what I call my Marathon Brownie.
- ¾ cup cocoa
- ¾ cup unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks)*
- 3 eggs
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ½ cup all-purpose flour*
- ⅛ cup teff flour*
- Handful of chopped walnuts (optional)
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- 1 ½ tsp instant coffee
Preheat oven to 350℉.
Melt butter in a sauce pan. Stir in cocoa and coffee. Transfer to a large bowl.
Whisk together dry ingredients.
Stir dry ingredients into cocoa mixture until just combined.
Let cool. Serve.
These taste just like real brownies! Only they’re better for your body.. and when you eat better.. you perform better.
*if you want to pack this with protein and make it gluten free and dairy free, skip the white flour in exchange for 3/4 cup teff flour and swap out the butter for olive oil. It’s still an excellent brownie, but a little grainy.