Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Healthy(ish) Fudge Brownies

When I was younger, to make brownies meant a few simple tools, one or two supplementary ingredients, and the always-available red box of Betty Crocker brownie mix. Although I've long since become disillusioned with any dessert that comes from a box, there still is one brownie mix that I thoroughly enjoy: the low-fat No Pudge Fudge Brownie brownies. It's not due to obsessive calorie counting, or the misguided notion that “diet” desserts are acceptable substitutes for the real thing that I occasionally purchase this mix. When I crave a dense slab of chocolate with frosting and chocolate chips adorning the top, I know which recipes to pull off of the shelf, and I do so with loving anticipation. But when I want a chocolate treat that is a bit lighter in overall substance, and not so overly rich or thick, I know that the No Pudge brownies will satisfy that particular yearning, and do so without a bit of flavor or chocolatey indulgence lost. There is a time for both particular types of brownie, and I'm grateful to have each readily available.

This is why I was so excited to find the following recipe for low-fat brownies in the most recent issue of Body and Soul magazine. While I wouldn't say that these are “nutritious” brownies (and anyway, brownies are simply not supposed to be “nutritious,” full-fat or non), these certainly seemed to be a less heavy variation of the brownies I normally make from scratch, full of butter and oil. And when I tried the first warm bite of these brownies, with such a unique ingredient list, I was thrilled to find them similar to the boxed low-fat brownies that I so enjoy.

In addition to the brownies, I also experimented, for the first time, with making my own homemade whipped cream. It's safe to say that the fat in the heavy cream negated any of the “healthfulness” of the brownies, but that was just fine with me. Whipped cream-topped brownies – especially warm brownies – are a simply celestially blissful dessert, and I was much too caught up in the tastes and textures of my treat to be concerned with something as silly and unimportant as fat content.

Healthy(ish) Fudge Brownies

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup sweet-potato puree
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon instant coffee powder

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square pan; set aside. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Remove pan from heat, and stir in cocoa. Let cool slightly.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Stir in sugar and sweet-potato puree, then egg. In a small bowl, stir together vanilla and coffee until coffee is dissolved; add to cocoa mixture.
Add flour mixture to cocoa mixture and stir until no traces of flour remain. Spoon into prepared pan; smooth the top. Bake until surface of brownies looks barely dry and an inserted knife comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Homemade Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar

In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat.

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