Sweet Potato Brownies
For quite a while now, I have been focused on eating a whole, healthy, unprocessed diet. If you look in my cabinets there are only beans, rice, whole grain pasta and some jars of chickpeas on the shelves. My refrigerator and pantry, on the other hand, are stocked full of a colorful array of fruits and vegetables that get served up raw, roasted, baked or sauteed at most meals. I am very health conscious, and it seems like an oxymoron to say I also love to make confections, but I do.
People often ask, “how do you stay so fit, when your passion is baking?” My response to this, and the overarching question about sweets, desserts and their place in the diet, is moderation. It feels like we can say that for everything, from sex to drinking, but moderation and a little ingenuity can go a long way.
See, I don’t eat sweets everyday, although I may like to. I do hold some restraint. This may be hard for some, and that is why I think it is more important to highlight, I don’t let sweets sneak their way into my diet. What do I mean by “sneak?”
When I say ‘yes’ to dessert, I know I am indulging, and my main rule is that it must be homemade. What many people do not understand is sugar is everywhere. If I said ‘no’ to homemade ice cream and ‘yes’ to say drinking juice or having a white chocolate latte from Starbucks, that of which I don’t drink, I would be welcoming in sugar that often doesn’t get registered as just that, SUGAR. And that is the culprit, where sugar has a tendency to “sneak” its way into the diets of so many households. How nutritious is juice? Juice served with the pulp removed, has been rid of almost all nutritional value. The fiber, stemming from the pulp is no more, and what remains is a sugary liquid that will cause a spike in blood sugar levels. For example, you love tomato sauce, but have you read the nutritional label lately? If you do not pay attention to product labels, you have no idea the hidden sugars found in many everyday grocery items. For instance, when the fat is taken out of milk, guess what is put in its stead? Yes, SUGAR! The unconscious consumer may not even realize how much sugar they are actually consuming outside of the very obvious sweets, like cupcakes and cookies. These baked items are given a bad rap as being the sole cause of weight gain, but I would say store bought dressings, canned fruits and vegetables can have the same effects. Processed foods need to considered. Reading food labels can help curb sugar intake and the bulge at the waistline.
Stepping off of my soap box, and back into the kitchen. Baking can be fun. It is a creative art and a pleasure of mine. Yes, of course there is some science to it. If you want a cake to rise there are certain components that must be in place, but there are no rules you have to follow, just various equations to play with. With all this talk about sugar, let me fill you in on one of my tricks, less is more and natural is best.
When I bake and I am using a family recipe, I always cut back the sugar, at least by half. At first you may notice the difference, but over time your palette will adjust. For example, when I first moved to Europe, I was making my old favorite American recipes, from cheesecake to sour cream apple pie. I shared these confections with my new friends and coworkers and one of the main comments was that yes, they were good, but far too sweet. Over time I started to decrease the amount of sugar I used to a point where I started using healthier alternatives in nearly all of my recipes. And that is why I say natural is best; depending upon the recipe and how I want it to turn out, I use a natural sugar substitute in place of sugar such as honey, 100% pure maple syrup, dates, or raisins. The result is just as delicious and maybe even more so. Natural sweeteners have a distinct flavor profile and are richer in complexity.
So, that is my secret. Get creative in the kitchen. In this brownie recipe I rely on the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and just a little honey alongside 72% dark chocolate to give these treats the light sweet property you expect in a brownie, yet you can feel good about the indulgence. They are not going to make your teeth fall out or make you unbuckle your belt a notch.
Sweet Potato Brownies
2 ½ cup Sweet Potatoes, mashed (approximately 2 medium potatoes)
3 Whole Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
3 Tbsp Almond Milk
¼ cup Dark Honey
¼ cup Olive Oil
250 grams Dark 72% Chocolate, melted
1/3 cup Spelt Flour
1 Lemon, zested
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Cardamom
½ tsp Himalayan Sea Salt
½ tsp White Pepper
½ tsp Baking Powder
2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
Cocoa Powder and Powder Sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 190˚C or 375˚F.
Peel and bake sweet potatoes wrapped in foil until soft. Allow to cool and puree in a food processor. Add eggs, vanilla, almond milk, honey, olive oil and melted dark chocolate. (Melt over a double boiler until smooth.) Puree until liquid ingredients are smooth.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, lemon zest, cinnamon, cardamom, sea salt, white pepper, baking powder and cocoa powder. Add the wet ingredients from the food processor to the bowl of dry ingredient and stir to combine. Evenly spread batter in a 13 x 9 baking sheet.