There are two things in life that scare me the most:
2. Baking without butter.
The name of this post makes me very uncomfortable. It's bold. It rattles every bone in my body. It goes against my senses and disturbs my taste buds.
But it works.
Gluten-free AND dairy-free brownies.
Not only no butter, but no added fat - no margarine (that would be worse than baking without butter!), no oil, no lard - just sugar, almonds, eggs, cocoa and chocolate. Oh.. and SALT.
Salt is a very important ingredient in here, otherwise they won't really taste all that chocolatey. Salt enhances sweets - don't be scared to add it to your baking!
These are moist, fudgy and dense like a proper brownie.
Having doubts? I don't blame you. I'd be sceptical. You should be sceptical. Then again, this is ME. Would I disgrace the brownie? Not a chance.
I have proof. Check these photos. It's legitimate - you can't fake fudgy.
Although they deliver on texture, the difference is that these brownies don't have that rich back-note without the fat to carry the flavour. BUT, that's where a heap of bittersweet chocolate chips come in. The batter has a mild sweet chocolatey almond flavour and the studs of extra dark chocolate lift it right up (and relieve my anxiety from the no butter situation). The salt is essential to enhance the cocoa, otherwise these would just taste sweet.
Whenever making cocoa brownies, here's what you need to know: use natural cocoa, not Dutch-processed. Natural cocoa has a more intense chocolate flavour that is true to real chocolate: bitter, fruity and well-rounded. Contrary to what you might think, cocoa brownies made with Dutched cocoa are very one dimensional and a bit bland if I may be so bold. It is often praised for its rich attractive colour, but like anything in life, looks aren't everything and don't judge a book by its cover. Now that's a life lesson brought to you by chocolate if I ever heard one!
So how does a brownie get fudgy with no butter and no melted chocolate? Seems impossible.
Extra egg white.
Heaps of almond meal.
Icing sugar dissolves instantly into the batter to create a syrup that keeps it moist.
An extra egg white boosts the protein to create a chewy texture and also adds moisture.
Almonds are a source of carbohydrate, protein and fat (good-for-you monounsaturated oils). They add structure in a way that cement does, but it does not add height or stiffness in the way that wheat flour would. Almonds are also a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins and loads of minerals.
These No-Butter Brownies are a one-bowl job.
First icing sugar, cocoa, almonds and salt are combined in a large bowl. Eggs, white, water and vanilla go in and get a stir. This batter is thick! A couple of tablespoons of water help to dissolve the sugar and bring it together. Don't think of using a whisk for this - a wooden spoon will do.
Gorgeous bittersweet chocolate buttons want in on this too. Stir them in and then bake for 25 minutes - like any good 8-inch brownie does.
I usually advocate cooling brownies completely before serving to get the most of their fudgyness, but I break that rule here. Eating these a bit warm while the dark chocolate is melty is top notch. Dig in, burn your fingers, make a mess - it's OK.
If no butter means you can eat three times more (which it probably doesn't), I support that. Let's just let it happen.
Fudgy No-Butter Brownies (gluten-free, dairy-free)
Makes 16 brownies
2 cups (300 g) icing/confectioner’s sugar
2/3 cup (56 g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
200 g (about 2 cups) ground almonds/almond meal
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg white
2 tbsp water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 oz (about 2/3 cup) best quality dark chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet chocolate, plus extra for topping
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper, letting it hang over the edges of pan.
Sift icing sugar and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. Add almond meal and salt and stir to combine. Add whole eggs, egg white, water and vanilla extract and stir until smooth. The batter will be thick. Stir through bittersweet chocolate.
Scrape batter into your prepared pan, smooth the top and scatter extra chocolate over top. Bake until a shiny crust forms and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist sticky bits, about 25-30 minutes.
Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool slightly. For neat slices, let cool completely before slicing.