We all love chocolate and these sweet potato chocolate brownies really hit the spot, bringing a smile to everyones face. They are gluten free and a real winner with guests here at the retreat. Plus, they use a vegetable (sweet potatoes) as a base – yay!
By using sweet potatoes we bring a moistness and density to these chocolate brownies. Sweet potatoes also bring sweetness, which, combined with the dates, means that we do not need much added sugar or extra sweetness. We use a few tablespoons of rice syrup in this recipe as a liquid sweetener, but you can also use agave or honey (if you are not vegan).
Health benefits of chocolate and cacao
The key ingredient with chocolate is the cacao (or cocoa) bean. Sometimes we get asked “what is the difference between cacao and cocoa and which is better for you?”. The words are often used interchangeably so here is a brief explanation.
The cacao bean (pronounced “ka-kow”) is harvested from a fruit tree (called Theobroma Cacao) and is the preferred form if you are looking for food in its most natural (raw) form. Cacao nibs are made by chopping up the bean into little pieces. Cacao butter is extracted from the bean and then the remainder of the bean is used to make cacao powder. All these cacao derivative products are essentially raw (although some processing is involved in obtaining it). Raw cacao is very bitter to the taste and is chalky in texture.
Cocoa (pronounced “ko-ko”) is where the cacao bean has been roasted and then normally turned into powder. Cocoa powder retains many of the cacao bean’s antioxidant properties (although they are at a slightly lower level), and it is cheaper, tastes good and is easier to purchase. The chocolate bars and drinking chocolate most of us are familiar with is usually made from cocoa powder (originating from cacao) but with further processing and added sugar. From a health perspective, we always suggest looking for cocoa powder in its most natural form as these have less additives and less sugar.
There have been many scientific studies investigating the health benefits of cocoa. Cacao and cocoa contains antioxidants (flavonoids) – those wonderful things that keep our bodies healthy and protect our cells against damage from free radicals (things that cause us to age or for cells to mutate). This also means that including cocoa in your diet, in a sensible amount, can be good for your heart. As with everything we look for balance: some cocoa / cacao /chocolate is okay, just not too much!
When you are looking to buy chocolate, pick a dark chocolate variety. Dark chocolate has a stronger taste, and is more filling than milk or white chocolate, so you eat less for the same level of satisfaction – this helps if you are looking to avoid weight gain. However, chocolate bars tend to contain other things, like sugar, butter or milk. Always check the amount of added sugar and pick one with a low (or zero) value. When buying chocolate, the best thing to watch for is the cocoa content, as a general guide 70% or more is best.
Sweet potato chocolate brownie recipe
This recipe makes 10 brownies. The calories are quite high per serving, so keep the portions small and savour each mouthful if you are looking to lose weight. Some of the calories are due to the nut content, so you could reduce the quantity of nuts. However, remember that nuts give your body lots of important essential oils, protein, omega-6, as well as many vitamins and minerals.
Calories: 2066 total (206 per serving)
2 medium to large sweet potatoes (around 600g)
14 dates (stones removed)
2/3 cup roasted almonds, cut into small pieces (use a food processor or crush with a knife)
1/2 cup of buckwheat or brown rice flour (100g)
4 tbsp cocoa powder (or cacao)
3 tbsp rice syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C.
Peel the sweet potatoes, cut into chunks and cook for about 20 minutes. We prefer using a steamer but you can also boil them. Cook until the sweet potatoes become soft and are starting to break apart. (If boiling the potatoes, drain and rinse).
Add the sweet potatoes into your food processor. Add the dates. Blitz for 30 seconds to one minute, making sure the dates are cut small and the mixture starts to blend.
Place the sweet potato mixture into a bowl, then add the almonds, flour, cocoa and rice syrup. Stir well using a spoon. Taste. (Now is the time to add a little more rice syrup if you need more sweetness).
Line a baking dish and spread the mixture onto the dish. You want to spread the mixture out so that it is about 3 cm (one inch) thick. Place the dish in your oven and cook for about twenty minutes. You will start to smell the chocolate just before it is ready. The top should start to become more solid and maybe a little crunchy. To test if the brownie is cooked, you can pierce the brownie with a fork – you want it to come out dry.
Allow the brownie mixture to cool for about ten minutes. Then you can turn out the cake and cut into smaller square brownie shapes.
Serve, with banana ice-“cream”, a little bit of unsweetened soya yoghurt or on its own with your favourite cup of herbal tea. Enjoy!
For more recipes check out our blog. You can also read more or purchase our Summer Food e-cookbook by clicking here.