December 10, 2012

Chocolate Coconut Brownies - rich with flavor but not with the top allergens

These brownies taste even fudgier after refrigerating them overnight,
if you can stand to wait that long!

The other day I was browsing (because who has the luxury to read?) through a magazine.  I came upon a restaurant review and a dessert photo, a brownie dolled up with all the trimmings.

Brownies.  Classic.  Decadent. 

I love brownies but I also fear them.  Fear because if I'm making them myself --which I usually do because, dang it, I'm too cheap to shell out $3 for a tiny square of a piece -- I worry that my batch won't live up to my expectations.  And it's hard to tell from a recipe what type of brownie you're going to end up with.

You see, there are two distinct sides in the spectrum of brownie types: the dense, fudgy kind and the more conservative cake-like brownies.  I myself am a fudge-leaning type.  I don't like a greasy brick of heavy fudge but I definitely prefer a very moist, slightly chewy brownies to something that is light and fluffy.  I never like brownies that are covered with frosting or icing, ways that artificially moisten the eating experience in my opinion.  I prefer a naked brownie that can stand on its own chocolaty merits and that can definitely not be mistaken for its cousin, chocolate cake.

One impact on a brownie recipe's texture is in the presence of a leavening agent.  Brownie recipes with more baking powder or baking soda will bring more rise and more of the airiness that cakes exhibit.  The dense, fudge-like brownies and many chewy brownies (I consider the chewies a little left of center) tend to do away with any leavening agents.  Bake time will also affect the texture -- more time in the oven can lead to cake-like treats.

In my life before kids with food allergies and plant-based eating, my go-to chocolate brownie recipe was on the back of the Tollhouse Cocoa container.  Oh my, I LIVED for those brownies!  I tried to find a worthy alternative that was free of milk, eggs, or processed margarine (even if it's vegan) but the texture was always a bit too dry like cake or the flavor just wasn't quite right.

I finally found love in a new recipe that incorporates shredded coconut and coconut oil.  I was hesitant at first because I enjoy my brownies straight-forward, no fuss or fancy ingredients, and including coconut stuff seemed a little faddish.  But I had the ingredients on hand so I gave it a try.  These brownies were not the same as the Tollhouse brownies but they still were terrific!  You can make them with strong coffee to intensify the chocolate flavor or substitute the coffee for additional safe milk.  I have tried it both ways.  While the coffee version definitely does add more punch to the chocolate, I prefer to add less punch (and caffeine) to my kids' bodies!  Just after one piece, they were bouncing off the walls and I was wracked with mommy guilt for exposing them to a heightened amount of caffeine.

Two coffee-infused batches: one using white whole wheat flour
and the other using a wheat-free/gluten-free flour blend.  I forgot
which was which, even when I was eating them!

Chocolate Coconut Brownies (can be made free of milk, egg, soy, wheat, gluten, peanuts, tree nuts)
Adapted from DomesticFits' recipe for Chocolate Coconut Brownies

1/3 cup coconut oil, softened (melted is okay, too)
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup safe milk substitute (I have used flax milk, soy milk, or almond milk with good results)
1/3 cup strong coffee or additional safe milk substitute
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup dark cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour of your choice - I have successfully used white whole wheat flour and, on another occasion, a GF flour blend with a scant 1/2 tsp xanthan gum added.
1/4 tsp baking powder, optional
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup shredded coconut (I use Let's Do Organic shredded coconut, which is dry and finely shredded)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease or line an 8"x8" square pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine softened coconut oil, maple syrup, milks/coffee, and vanilla extract.  Do your best to break down any chunks of coconut oil.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Again, break down any clumps of cocoa for more even mixing.
  4. Add shredded coconut to flour mixture.
  5. Combine wet mixture with flour mixture.  Carefully scrape, spread, and stir the batter just enough so that no lumps or streaks of cocoa/flour are visible.  The batter will not be completely smooth and that's okay.  You don't want to overmix your brownies or it may yield a tough texture. 
  6. Pour batter into the square pan.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 18-23 minutes or until the texture of the outer edges of the brownies are looking cake-like.  I have baked them for about 20 minutes when about a 1-inch-wide border of brownies looks done (crackly) and springs back from my touch.  The center of the pan should be dry to the touch though it should not be springy or have the cracks that a baked cake would have.
  7. Cool brownies completely before cutting.  The brownies taste even richer if you have time to refrigerate them before serving.  For fudgiest results, store in the refrigerator.

I took the brownies above out of the oven at about 22 minutes.  Two inches of the outer edges are cracked and more cake-like.  The depressed square in the middle was nice and fudgy.  Next time I'll take them out at 20 to yield more fudgy brownies.


  1. I have these in the oven for a class party today. The brownie batter smells and tastes decadent. I used decaf coffee instead of regular. Tully's has a good decaf for the Keurig. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

  2. I have food allergies and I love your site!