Next up in my virtually sinless cookie series: Chocolate Chaga Brownies! But first, I feel like I need to state something for the record –I don’t consider butter a sin, so do with that what you will… 😉
All that shimmers is not gold, and all that is brown and square is not a brownie. If you are like me, you have been disappointed too often by poor excuses for brownies – traditional, “healthy” or otherwise. Dry and cakey. Wet and oily. No. Thank. You. Brownies can go so terribly, woefully wrong. So setting out to make a fiber rich, healthier version of one of the most sinful indulgences has disaster written all over it, right? Or does it?
Let’s do some review first. My goal in this series is to reduce the overall sugar input and up the fiber quotient in a few of our favorite cookies. In addition to that, I want to throw a medicinal punch with the addition of some favorite herbal medicines. Nothing can go wrong… Ahem.
While developing this recipe, I considered raw cacao versus cocoa. While the health benefits of raw cacao are amazing, I ended up opting for cocoa. Why? A) price – raw, organic cacao is expensive B) I would be using butter as my fat, and dairy is indicated to reduce the enzymatic activity of cacao and C) I would be baking the brownies anyway – raw cacao no more. So save your cacao for some raw truffles and almond milk smoothies — a good quality, preferably organic cocoa will be fine for our chocolate chaga brownies. If you insist, use cacao if you must.
Now that the great chocolate debate has been set aside, I bring you to sugar. With these brownies, I opted to use dates as the sweetener. DATES? Wouldn’t you know, flavor of the dates really adds some complexity and dimension to the brownies. Each cup of chopped, pitted dates yields about 113 grams sugar and 14 grams of fiber – sweet, sweet fiber. Our friend fiber. The reason that we can eat these brownies without remorse – FIBER.
Choosing a flour alternative for these brownies required a little thought. After some trial and error, I arrived at oat flour. Grinding some organic rolled oats provided a high fiber alternative to white wheat flour. Also, oats have a high amount of mucilage, helping to create a nice moist brownie crumb.
And so we now arrive at what makes these virtually sinless brownies super special –chaga! Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a unique, woody fungus, preferring to grow on birch trees in cold climates such as that of the northern United States, Canada, Europe and Russia. Rich, earthy, somewhat bittersweet and nutty in flavor, chaga pairs nicely with the chocolate in our brownies. Chaga is ripe with extraordinary health benefits. Making it particularly suitable for our virtually sinless brownies, chaga reduces spikes in blood glucose. Perfect. Additionally, chaga is a superb antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune booster, and has even demonstrated great anti-tumor potential . While the benefits of chaga are so very exciting, it is tremendously important to source your chaga from responsible suppliers. This slow growing fungus (taking upwards of 5-7 years to mature), has been recklessly over harvested by some overzealous individuals and money hungry companies eager to cash in on its growing popularity as a health tonic. Please make sure that you are buying from ethical, responsible source that are harvesting sustainably. Do your research – if the supplier is making bold health claims, not citing any sources and makes no mention of their harvesting and processing practices, I’d avoid that supplier. I tend to buy from Mountain Rose Herbs as they thoroughly vet their suppliers before offering their goods. If you are wildcrafting your own chaga, make sure that you properly identify your chaga and any other plant or fungal materials that you forage. NOTE: Chaga may increase bleeding risk for those taking anticoagulants and should be avoided if you take insulin to prevent unsafe dips in blood glucose.
There we have it, another virtually sinless cookie. Oats, chaga, cocoa powder, and the dates give us approximately 40 grams of dietary fiber to a mere 113 grams of sugar from the dates, for a ratio of 1:2.8 fiber to sugar. Not quite that elusive 1:1 ratio, but need I remind you this is DESSERT?! The resulting brownie is light, moist and delicate with a rich buttery crumby – not dry and chalky, not wet and oily. And they are oh so chocolate-y… Chocolate chaga brownies might just be some kind of wonderful.
Special thank to Nathan Searles of Forgotten Traditions for the use of his chaga photos and his insights on the mycological world! See his products here.
- 1 cup organic rolled oats
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powdert
- 2 tablespoon finely ground chaga
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup chopped, pitted dates
- ¾ cup melted butter (preferably grass fed)
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- In the bowl of a food processor, process the rolled oats to a fine flour.
- Combine processed oats, cocoa powder, ground chaga, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl and set aside.
- Process melted butter and chopped,pitted dates in a food processor until the mixture is thick and pasty. Scrape date/butter mixture from the bowl into another bowl. Add a egg and vanilla and stir until combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until thoroughly combined. The batter will be very thick and shiny.
- Spread batter into a greased 8×8 pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center reveals moist crumbs.
- Allow to cool and cut into squares.