When it comes to food blogging, or being a food blogger, you need to have a brownie recipe in your arsenal in order to be taken seriously. Chocolate is the name of the game – it shows that you know how to have fun and indulge. In my repertoire of chocolate cakes, I only have the Dark Chocolate Eggplant Torte to boast about; about time to up my ante and get creating. It was Hari Raya Puasa that weekend, and a flower of an idea bloomed in my head out of all the symbolic representations of the Islam culture. Dates… brownies… henna… and violia!
Dates are the most significant fruit during the fasting period of Ramadan. Muslims are encouraged to break fast with three dates and water, following the lead of Prophet Muhammed. The evening meal is called Iftar. Muhammed hadpicked the right choice! The high amounts of natural sugar in this sweet fruit provide quick energy for the body, vital after many hours without food. Sugars travel most quickly to the liver, where they are converted into energy more quickly than any other nutrient. It is not healthy for the body to eat large quantities of food immediately after fasting because the digestive system is not prepared. Consumption of a few dates activates the release of digestive secretions and juices, thus preparing the stomach to receive more complex food. Thus dates are both spiritual and physical nourishment for Muslims.
Henna is a natural dye extracted from the henna plant and it also refers to the art of temporary tattooing based on those dyes. The henna plant contains the reddish dye lawsone that binds to the protein keratin in our skin and safely stains the skin. Henna is part of special occasions and social celebrations in Muslim cultural practices, such as during birthdays, weddings and holidays.
Henna designing is much more than just “designing.” As with everything traditional, different motifs bring to the bearer different blessings (you can see the symbols on this site).
- Scorpion or pot hook: growing vine, love, protection (to “sting”)
- Bud: new growth, start of a new life
- Peacocks: fertility and good luck
- Mandalas: the Sun, caring, overall blessing
I adapted the recipe for the date brownies with minor alterations from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. Amy’s notes was that the brownies would not pass the “toothpick test,” and for a good reason. Brownies fall into three categories: chewy, cakey, or fudgey. This recipe produces brownies of the latter, almost praline-like. Throat-scratching dark and rich blocks of praline-like brownies that happens to be fat-free, gluten-free and vegan. If I were to further improve on the recipe, it would be to reduce the amount of sugar (perhaps omit the grated coconut sugar), and add some nuts for crunch. I loved how the coffee powder enhanced the chocolate notes and will definitely use this trick again in future brownies or chocolate creations.
The henna decorations were done simply with semi-melted coconut butter and a piping bag (newly bought from Sia Huat). I admit this lazy method didn’t produce a very desirable piping quality – a little stiff – and would recommend a version with a blend of water instead (see recipe notes below). Initially I piped the decorations on baking paper, intending to peel them off and stick it on the brownies after it cooled, but the plan backfired. The brownie top was uneven and the “white chocolate” dollies would snap on flattening them. So plan B was put into action: pipe directly on the brownies. Much better and less clean up!
- 1 cup (125 g) pitted dates
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons coffee powder
- ¾ cup hot water
- ½ cup cacao powder
- ½ cup chickpea flour
- ¼ cup coconut palm sugar, grated
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ tsp xanthan gum (or 1 flax egg)
- ¼ cup coconut butter, melted (optional but recommended)
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. Lightly oil an 8x8-inch baking pan.
- Soak pitted dates, coffee powder and vanilla extract in a bowl with the hot water. Let sit while you measure the remaining ingredients.
- Sift flour and cacao powder into a medium bowl to remove any lumps. Add in baking powder, salt and xanthan gum. Whisk to combine.
- Place dates and soaking water into a food processor. Add in the grated sugar. Process until smooth. Add date mixture to flour mixture and fold in lightly until just combined. Batter will be quite thick.
- Pour out into prepared pan (it will only fill half the pan). Smooth the top with a spatula and bake for 20-25 minutes until brownies are set. Let cool, and if desired frost brownie tops with coconut butter before slicing and serving. Store extras in an airtight container.