Dessert of the Month: Almond Butter Brownies with Sea Salt

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Although it’s extremely difficult to pick a favorite recipe from my cookbook “At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well," these brownies do stand out as one of the true winners. The idea of combining almond butter, dark chocolate and sea salt came to me on a car trip out of the city one weekend when I was craving something sweet and satisfying. The thought of those flavors combined in a vegan brownie was something I simply had to try. I wanted the brownies to be rich and nutty without being cloying; the flaky sea salt adds a lovely texture and helps balance out the sweetness. Dates blended with almond butter are the secret here for creating the fudgy texture. These brownies taste best when cold and also keep well in the fridge for a few days. I hope you get a chance to make them soon!

Almond Butter Brownies with Sea Salt

Makes fifteen 3 x 2 ½-inch brownies
1/2 cup packed, pitted dates
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons toasted almond butter
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup maple sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain soymilk or almond milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped

3 1/2 oz dark (85 percent) chocolate, coarsely chopped, divided or about ¾ cup chocolate chips

Flaky sea salt, either Maldon or fleur de sel

Place dates in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 20 minutes or until softened, then drain well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan (also known as a quarter sheet pan) with parchment paper; brush paper and sides of pan lightly with oil, and set aside.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a medium bowl; whisk to combine and set aside.

Place almond butter, olive oil, maple syrup, maple sugar, soymilk, salt, vanilla, and drained dates in a food processor; blend until smooth. (It's ok if a few small date pieces are not blended). Pour into sifted flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until almost combined. Reserve 2 tablespoons of chopped chocolate and stir the rest into the batter being careful not to over-mix. Transfer batter into prepared pan and spread out evenly. Sprinkle with almonds, remaining chocolate, and a large pinch of sea salt.

Bake for 30 minutes or until edges pull away from the sides of pan and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. For best results, refrigerate until completely cold before cutting.

Recipe from At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well by Amy Chaplin, © 2014 by Amy Chaplin. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA. www.roostbooks.com

Amy Chaplin is a chef and recipe developer in New York City. Her cookbook At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen is available this fall. She blogs at Coconut & Quinoa.

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