Fudgy Banana Brownie (Paleo, Vegan)

Paleo – Grain Free – Vegan 

Preparation Time – 15 minutes; Cooking time – 15 minutes; Fridge time – 1 hour

Everyone loves a brownie!

Everyone loves a brownie!

When I was pregnant everyone always used to warn me about any expectations associated with my post baby bod. They all said – “your body won’t just bounce back straight away”. I nodded politely but internally I was thinking… “Pfft – I haven’t gone mad with food during the pregnancy, I’ll snap back like an elastic band dammit”. Unfortunately majority won and I have been left with a little bit of a shock. I guess cultivating a human for 9 months does slightly affect you – who woulda thunk it! As such I have committed to giving the Paleo diet a go. This diet hinges on a high protein intake, lots of leafy greens, no processed foods and – the most important part – no grains whatsoever! One could be fooled into thinking this diet makes coffee and cake with friends impossible never fear – baked goods are actually surprisingly easy to Paleo-ise.

Almond Meal is a Paleo Bakers friend! Almond Meal is made from ground almonds and therefore is sometimes referred to as almond flour. It lends a moistness to any dish you use and is a high protein alternative to your standard nasty white flours. And the kicker… it partners especially well with chocolate! Zing zing zing! If you would like to make your own Almond Meal the Delighted Momma provides a fantastic tutorial here. (note: she specifies almonds without skin, but using ones with their skin on is completely fine!). Here is the recipe for my incredibly well-received Fudgy Banana Brownie. YUM.

Served with organic strawberries and an Alessi spoon = perfection!

Served with organic strawberries and an Alessi spoon = perfection!

Ingredients

*note – if you don’t like banana substitute the 2 mashed banana’s for 1 free range egg. This will obviously mean the brownie is no longer vegan though! 

Brownie Base

½ cup coconut oil (solid)
½ cup organic raw cocao powder (this is different to cocoa in that it is a superfood but you can substitute if need be)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup (can use honey or agave nectar)
2 mashed ripe bananas (I always keep a stash of frozen ripe bananas in the freezer… cut into chunks)
1 cup almond meal

Raw Ganache Icing

2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method

Brownie Base

  1. Preheat a fan-forced oven to 160° Celsius (325° Fahrenheit)
  2. Mix the coconut oil, cocao powder and cinnamon in a bowl and combine well.
  3. Add the coconut milk, maple syrup and almond meal and mix until combined.
  4. Mash in banana (if using frozen I microwave it until it is mostly defrosted. This works really well and means you will have amazing delicious banana chunks in your brownie!)
  5. Line a small brownie tin with baking paper. Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface of the mix.
  6. Place in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Insert a chopstick/skewer to check – the stick should come out with a bit of the mix on it. This means extra fudginess once it has cooled! Remove and allow to cool to room temperature (if you can resist digging in straight away!).

Raw Ganache Icing

  1. Remove 2 teaspoons of your coconut sugar and keep aside (this will dust the brownie!).
  2. Combine remaining coconut sugar with cinnamon.
  3. Whisk the cacao powder and coconut oil together until smooth .
  4. Add cinnamon coconut sugar mix and mix well.
  5. Pour on top of the brownie and refrigerate immediately.
  6. After 10 minutes remove from fridge and sprinkle on remaining coconut sugar. This will give a beautiful caramel fairy dust effect!
  7. Serve with strawberries!!!

Why Should I Activate My Grains?

Buzzwords are pretty fascinating to watch – especially within the realm of health trends. Out of nowhere they creep into the daily vernacular and ceaselessly poke us and prod us until we finally cave in and ask the goddamn question –How the hell do you pronounce Açaíand why should I give a damn?! And then before you know it everyone is asking the question and all of a sudden it is mainstream. The latest craze to cross this threshold would have to be ‘Activation’ specifically when referring to food preparation. I bit my lip… I ignored the ‘activated’ products in health food stores… but finally it got me… I had to ask… what the hell is food activation?! Short answer?… Activation is bloody complicated. I found very scientific explanations (like this one) and after reading it a couple of times dumbed it down for myself. Here’s the deal…

The Great Grain Debate

The whole process of ‘activating’ foods comes back to the Great Grain Debate: are they good for us or not? Grains are packed full of nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals which – at surface level – qualify them as healthy option. BUT on the other side of the fence, grains also contain antinutrients (like Phytates, lectins and gluten) which bind to vitamins, minerals and enzymes and make all those aforementioned nutrients impossible to absorb or digest.

I think of it a bit like getting a beautiful, organic floret of broccoli and then deep-frying the hell out of it! Sure, it started healthy but the process that we have used to consume it renders all those valuable nutrients utterly useless. The same argument applies to legumes, nuts, seeds and eggs – which is why these little superfoods are sometimes wrongly considered the pariah’s of wellbeing.

So what does ‘Activating’ have to do with it?

The antinutrients found in grains and nuts are basically Mogwai’s – they are allergic to water! When we soak these foods before consumption we can dramatically reduce the amount of antinutrients in them and improve their digestibility. This is how many traditional cultures (like Indian) have prepared their grain for centuries – a culture that has far fewer of the dietary ailments and diseases of Western Cultures. Look at the below Global Obesity Map, compare India (still using traditional activation methods) with Australia or the US (do not activate foods) and make up your mind on whether grains and legumes are the problems or just the way we consume them…

How to activate

Easy. Soaking your grains/nuts/legumes for 12 – 24 hours is the first step to activate the food. In the case of grains though, they are covered in an insoluble fatty layer which make is very difficult for water (on its own) to penetrate the surface and dissolve all the nasty phytic acid. To counteract this it is important to add a mild acid to penetrate this layer. The best type of acid to use is Citric (lemon juice!) but acetic acid (vinegar) or lactic acid (whey or yoghurt) can work too.

Example: Activating Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) has the most protein out of any other grain. That’s not it’s only asset – these little babies are packed full of nutrients like iron, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, zincmagnesium, fibre, vitamin B6 and the antioxidant Vitamin E. They also contain over sixteen triterpine saponins – translated to cancer fighting superheroes!

Basically, with all these beneficial vitamins I wanted to ensure that I am absorbing as many as possible – get some bang for my buck! Being pregnant has also made me super-vigilant that what I put in my body doesn’t only affect me anymore. So here is how I activate it;

  • Get 200grams of Quinoa and rinse thoroughly
  • Place into container and cover with water
  • Then add 2 tablespoons of Acid. I always use 2 tablespoons of Lemon Juice but you can use Whey, Yoghurt or Vinegar (go for unpasteurised Apple Cider if possible). Stir the acid gently through your Quinoa.
  • Cover and leave at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Ideal would be 24!
  • After it has soaked rinse and then cook however you like. I cooked mine in vegetable stock and then mixed through chopped vegetables, mint and coriander. Threw in some sultana’s and (activated) cashews for good measure.

I hope this has helped shed some light on why we should activate grains! When I hear the word ‘Activation’ I don’t just roll my eyes and think of the utterer as a health nut… I get it… and I dig it baby!!! If you want to read more about it I found this article really useful too. Happy soaking!