As we embark on a brand new year, many people have committed to resolutions or intentions to eat better, exercise more, save money, waste less, lose weight, be kinder, read more books, drink less, volunteer or stop procrastinating. The truth is, these intentions are only as good as your determination, especially when it revolves around restricting our favorite foods and adult beverages.
Such drastic measures are especially challenging after a 45-day celebratory binge that started well before Thanksgiving–most likely with Halloween candy, and comes to a screeching halt on January 1 when we decide enough is enough.
Because I am all about healthy alternatives to things we love and not a fan of evoking too much deprivation in our lives, I am calling for a “state of emergency.” In addition to our partial government shut down where no one appears to be compromising, I am delighted to provide a rational solution to dealing with life in these first few weeks of the year, so we don’t feel lost, deprived or hangry and start to mindlessly binge again.
Thanks to Nigella Lawson and her 12th cookbook, “At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking,” these Emergency Brownies are the answer to all of life’s problems–well, at least the ones we need to fix immediately, like chocolate cravings. Nigella and her genteel British ways represent serious comfort foods and these brownies don’t waver.
She calls them Emergency Brownies because they come together quickly and make just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth and someone else’s and maybe a third or fourth person, if you are feeling particularly generous or stingy–depending on the way you look at it.
These fudgy, easy to make brownies require dirtying only one saucepan and are ready to devour within an hour. I have adapted this recipe to be gluten-free by using gluten-free flour and have opted for coconut sugar and vegan butter, but you can use regular flour, light brown sugar and/or butter, if you so choose.
As Nigella recommends, I used walnuts because I want the omega-3’s, but hazelnuts or pecans would add an equally stellar crunch and additional layer of nutty flavor. Perhaps a touch of instant espresso would elevate these brownies to an even higher plane, while a small handful of dried cherries would make these child-like brownies appear significantly more mature and refined.
In the book’s opening, Nigella eloquently affirms what we know is true, “Life is complicated; cooking doesn’t have to be.” And when you have these Emergency Brownies to call on at a moment’s notice, life is a tad sweeter, which we probably all need a bit more of in 2019.
When the chocolate craving hits and you need something to scratch that itch, let this recipe be one to put to memory. It's basically 3 parts butter, flour and cocoa mixed with 1/2 coconut sugar and 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 1 egg. Switch up the nuts, add dried fruit or some seeds to keep things fresh. It makes enough for 2 generous servings or 3-4 more conservative servings.
- 3 tablespoons butter or vegan butter
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar or light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons gluten-free flour or all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces chopped
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips mini or regular, I like Enjoy Life brand
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and set aside. I added a teaspoon of coconut oil and then popped the pan in the oven to let the oil melt. Then I poured out the excess oil and rubbed the pan well to coat with the oil.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, add the butter, coconut sugar and maple syrup.
Stir thoroughly as needed to blend ingredients and, once the butter melts, remove from the heat.
Add the flour and cocoa to the melted butter-sugar mixture and blend to incorporate so there is no sign of the flour or cocoa.
Crack the egg in the saucepan, add the salt and vanilla and stir well to incorporate the egg into the brownie batter.
Add the chopped nuts, chocolate chips and baking powder, stir well to blend everything together.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or just until the top is puffy and begins to crack a bit and the sides pull away from the loaf pan.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 20-30 minutes.
Remove brownies from the loaf pan by running a butter knife around the edges to ensure it won't stick. Then place a plate over the loaf pan and flip, so the brownie falls onto the plate. Flip the brownie right side up.
Cut into two or four pieces and share with someone or several people you love or reserve half for another chocolate emergency. Store any leftovers in the freezer.