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Gluten-Free Living

Gluten-Free Living: Baking better brownies without flour

Gluten-free brownies topped with chocolate chips and coconut.

(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

Gluten-free brownies topped with chocolate chips and coconut. (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

If baking gluten free from scratch seems intimidating, try a batch of brownies. The fudgiest recipes call for less than half a cup of flour, which means you can substitute non-traditional varieties – rice, sorghum, coconut, almond – with the promise of good results.

If your experiment looks less than perfect, just slather on some frosting and distract your guests with a bit of food history.

The first brownies were created in the 1890s at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, where they’re still served today with a customary apricot glaze. It took about a decade for the treats to gain widespread popularity; one of the earliest written recipes appeared in a church book published in Laconia in 1904.

It’s no wonder brownies have remained a dessert favorite. They’re simple, straightforward and delicious, but they can also serve as a culinary playground, a familiar platform for unusual combinations of ingredients. In the last couple of years I’ve made brownies with all of the flours mentioned above, no flour at all and, once, a version that called for pureed beets.

They were odd looking, with a faint red hue and a sticky crust. I liked them, but no one else was willing to take a bite. Not even with frosting. Reactions were different, though, when I tried another batch using sweet potato instead of beets.

The potatoes and dates give these brownies a subtle sweetness and a firm but still fudgy texture. They’re just fine unadorned, but the mini chocolate chips and coconut flakes are a nice addition.

If you need to avoid nuts, try using sorghum or brown rice flour in place of the almond meal. For dairy-free diets, use a mild vegetable oil instead of the butter.

Sweet potato brownies

2 medium baked sweet potatoes, peeled

9 large medjool dates, pitted

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup almond meal

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips (optional)

2 tablespoons shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

In a food processor, puree the potatoes and dates until smooth.

Add the remaining ingredients, except the chocolate chips and coconut, and pulse in the food processor until thoroughly mixed.

You’ll need to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times to make sure the ingredients are evenly mixed.

Spread the batter in the pan and sprinkle with the chocolate chips and coconut.

Bake for about 20 minutes.

Cool completely before cutting.

BTW, I do like anything sweet potato based and you can replace eggs with golden flax meal. Will use this recipe tonight.

I like non traditional cooking as much as the next person. I draw the line with vegans tho. As for this gluten free nonsense, I choose to have some things gluten free - not because of the current fad, but because that's what my recipe calls for. Every couple of years these fad diets come out and they will soon die away. But to each their own. As for vegans thank you, you somehow make my rare steak taste better.

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