I’ve recently been compiling a ring binder of print-outs of healthier recipes that I’ve found online so that I can easily look them up when I feel like cooking something that’s not too chock-full of calories, fat and sugar.
One Google result that caught my attention was the original chocolate version of this recipe, which I came across here: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/1107/i-can-t-believe-they-re-low-fat-brownies.aspx. It included the genius idea of adding mushed prunes in place of butter or margarine to create a gorgeously moist but less fatty cake.
I don’t understand why prunes are so neglected as a fruit. I know they’re infamous for being used as a means of ‘keeping you regular’ and carry metaphorical connotations of wrinkles, shriveling and general lifelessness, but they’re so underrated as a food in their own right. I bought some for the first time in forever recently and had forgotten what a deliciously rich, almost caramelly, flavour they have.
Anyway, I digress (I swear I’m not being paid by some kind of Prune Advisory Board) – I’m in the grip of full-blown Christmas fever at the moment as the end of November rapidly approaches, so I decided to add a festive twist to the original recipe by incorporating some extra fruit and nuts and a dash of warming winter spice. When both my dad and I sampled them, our immediate thoughts were of Christmas pudding, hence the title!
I also reduced the amount of sugar used in the original version as it annoys me when recipes are labelled as ‘healthy’ due to low fat content but include an obscene amount of the sweet stuff. I wouldn’t say these taste identical to regular brownies but they’re utterly delicious – rich, moist and full of flavour – and I really don’t think people would know they were low fat and lower sugar if you didn’t tell them.
I also like the fact that they’re a healthier alternative that don’t require expensive and/or obscure ingredients. I love the new wave of inventive vegan/raw/generally all-round-saintly treats but coconut oil, agave syrup and near-industrial quantities of cashew nuts don’t come cheap.
The final cherry on the proverbial cake is that these brownies are dairy free so they’d be ideal for lactose-intolerant friends.
I’ll definitely be making them again very soon!
INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 12
- 55g/2 oz plain flour
- 110g/4 oz pitted prunes
- 130g/4.5 oz brown sugar
- 6 tbsp cocoa
- 3 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 eggs
- 55g/2 oz raisins
- 55g/2 oz chopped mixed nuts (e.g. pecans, almonds, walnuts)
- 1.5 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 0.5 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp water
- 12 walnut or pecan halves, to decorate (optional)
- Silver shimmer spray, to decorate (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
- Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, mixed spice and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl.
- Roughly snip the prunes into pieces with scissors and place them in a separate heatproof bowl with the water, then microwave on a medium setting in two blasts of 1 minute until soft and mushy.
- Squish the prunes with a potato masher to form a paste and add to the dry ingredients.
- Stir in the cooking oil, eggs, raisins, chopped nuts and vanilla extract. Mix until well blended.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin and pop in the oven for around 12-15 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the mix comes out mostly clean – err on the side of caution and make sure you don’t over bake them as the brownies will be dry and crumbly!
- When baked, leave to cool on a wire rack before cutting into 12 squares with a sharp knife.
- Push a walnut or pecan half into the top of each square and finish with a festive spritz of edible silver shimmer spray, if you fancy.