I have, over the years, heard of brownies made with various, lower fat substitutes for butter or oil. I decided to try one today – brownies with beetroot. I know. I’m nothing if not epicurious, though, so I went for it. All thanks to my colleague Ruth for the name, incidentally, I love it.
I found this recipe – it’s not the only one, but I liked the addition of extra fruit in it for extra healthiness. However, I didn’t follow it, but used it as a point from which to start. My recipe is as follows:
- 200g 70% cocoa solids chocolate
- 2.5 oz dried cherries
- 1.5 oz dates (to make up the weight and add sweetness)
- 10 oz cooked beetroot
- 85g Flora light, melted
- 7 oz rice flour
- 1 tbsp xanthan gum
- 4 tbsp light brown sugar
- 2 tsp white sugar
- 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
- 3 large eggs
- 6 tbsp soy milk
- 2 tbsp cherry liqueur, plus 2 tsp for drizzling at the end
I proceeded, not in my usual fashion by sort of throwing everything in a bowl, but roughly according to the instructions in the recipe I’d found. I used an electric hand blender to mix the brown sugar, eggs and melted margarine. To this I added the sieved flour, raising agents and xanthan gum, and folded in. Then I *finely* grated the beetroot. I did start out by using the normal side of the grater, out of habit, but this gave big, noticable beetroot gratings. Even the words sound nasty, I didn’t want them in my brownies. So I sort of scooped these back out and mashed them through the finer side, and proceeded with caution…
Once I’d done the beetroot and folded it in, too, I added the chocolate, which I’d melted. The mix was a purple-brown colour at this stage. I was beginning to be afraid. However, I persevered and added the dried fruit, and mixed yet again. Now it was purple-brown and lumpy – not an improvement, I felt. The mix was extremely thick and heavy – this seemed all kinds of wrong to me. I have a recipe for normal chocolate brownies, which I must admit to doctoring and tripling the amount of suggested chocolate, and when that is ready to go in the oven it is like thick batter. This mix was like brick batter. I wanted to thin it down, so I added the soy milk to make it smoother and hopefully to allow the different ingredients to combine more, as I felt that in their current state they weren’t mingling as one might expect of ingredients in a cake mix. In fact, it was like an awkward party – they needed some liquid refreshment before they started to get to know each other. This definitely helped and the mix now looked like chocolate cake, for which I was thankful. I had a wee taste now to check it out, and felt like there wasn’t enough sweetness, and that the flavour of the beetroot overpowered the chocolate. To balance this, I added the white sugar – white because it is easier to mix through than brown, being finer and less liable to clump. Then I added the cocoa to give more of a chocolatey kick. Again, this tasted better, but still a bit, well, beetrooty. Then a stroke of genius struck – cherry liqueur. I’d had it in the fridge for a good long while, and had used it before in baking Raspberry Joy Bars, and it would be perfect in these chocolate-cherry (beetroot) brownies.
I stirred in 2 tbsp and had another taste – this was much better. The chocolate flavour was more pronounced and enhanced by the sweet booziness of the liqueur, and the beetroot was now more subtle and just lending a depth of flavour, rather than dragging you into the abyss of beetroot hell. At this stage, I decided to stop messing around, as I was aware that I had definitely overworked the mixture now and that I was in danger of the brownies being too heavy. A bit stodgy is good for chocolate things, I think, but you want to be able to chew them, and then to be able to go near a swimming pool within a week of eating one without being in danger of drowning. So, at this stage, I divided the mix between two baking tins, which I’d greased and floured, and put them in the oven at 180C. This is what one of those tins looked like:
Delicious, no? OK, no. It’s lumpy, and thick, and was reluctant to spread out into the tin. But, you know, cake mix can look weird before you bake it. Comes in all shapes and sizes. Takes all sorts. Well, actually not in all shapes and sizes at all – in all types and textures maybe? At any rate, I wasn’t convinced but I went for it nonetheless. What else was there to do but send them into the cleansing fire of the (electric) oven and hope for the best? I put them in for 20 minutes, and they were perfect at that time, which was either an example of excellent baking judgement on my part or plain old luck.
Out of the oven, the brownies were dense, solid and tipped out of the tins easily without cracking or crumbling. These cakes wouldn’t crumble if you threatened their wife and kids – Jack Bauer has nothing on them. Here is how they looked – a bit better now that the shine’s been baked off them.
I was relieved that the colour was just a normal chocolate cake colour – the earlier purple-brown had faded as I continued to mix and they baked up completely fine. There was a definite smell of beetroot when I took them out of the oven, although while they baked they smelled just like a normal chocolate cake, which was nice. I love it when my flat smells of cakes, it makes me happy. Beetroot, not so much. To add a final element of flavour, I used a skewer to make holes in the top of the cake, and drizzled over the final 2 tsp of liqueur.
You may be wondering, if I’m not even really a fan of beetroot, why on earth I made these brownies. Well, it’s mainly curiosity, and partly a desire to seek out that modern holy grail: the low-fat yet high taste cake. It’s like turning lead into gold – you can’t have a rich, buttery, chocolatey cake without using butter and chocolate, but people continue to try. I thought that beetroot would lend a deep earthiness to the cake while removing the need for some of the fat, and I was encouraged by the fact that there are a lot of recipes available online. I was somewhat discouraged at the fact that there are also a lot of negative responses to beetroot cake online but I felt confident that I could mess around with the flavours and ingredients to come up with something that was really tasty. Right now I’m having trouble deciding if I achieved that or not. I know that the brownies taste good – I, personally, ate two and enjoyed them. The first one did not have the liqueur drizzle, and the second did – I’m pretty sure it was an improvement, but I feel a bit like I’m too involved in the brownies to be able to judge any more. I just don’t know what’s right and wrong. I feel like a character in a terrible B movie. I’m taking them to work for other people to try, so I’ll have a better verdict on them then. I don’t think I’ll tell them what’s in them and see if they can taste it.
The brootnies contain less fat and more fibre than a standard chocolate brownie, but don’t sacrifice too much flavour to achieve this. I just don’t know if the flavour is as good as that of three kinds of chocolate… Who am I trying to kid? Or course it’s not! But it’s not so much that it’s worse as that it’s different. The brownies weigh about 1 oz each, and pack 100 calories or so – not bad for a treat, but I can’t help but feel it might be better just to eat sensibly for a few days and enjoy the real thing instead. They do look good in this picture though…
A bit of a weird post today. It is late and I’m beetrooted out of my nut. Plan to update tomorrow – I’m sure you’re all waiting on the edge of your seats…