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Brownies: it’s a (low sugar, low fat) date!

As regular readers will know, I’m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.

We are dedicated fans of Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess brownies. The gooey, unctuous chocolate squares have starred at countless parties and celebrations. But, with a stonking 500g caster sugar and 375g butter (which makes ‘a maximum of 48’), they’re not low-impact treats.

Of course, brownies are not supposed to be a healthfood, but it’s always nice to stumble on a recipe that suggests taste potential and calorie frugality.

So, Nik Sharma’s date brownies with black pepper in Issue No.171 of Guardian Feast were an intriguing prospect: dates for sugar, a tiddling 60ml of olive oil for butter and a nip of black pepper for zing. Added bonus: Nik touts these as ‘sweet treats for outdoor meets’ and we planned a hike in Northumberland’s Cheviot Hills on the Sunday.

Wandering up Yeavering Bell in the Cheviot Hills. Brownie-less as it turned out.

These moist, chocolatey cubes are super easy to create. A one-blender wonder. I’m not sure that the date, bicarb and boiling water mix was any more ‘soft and gloopy’ after its 20 minute sit than it was before, but am happy to accept it was. I worried my batter might be too runny: not a problem – although I left it in the oven for an extra couple of minutes on top of the suggested max of 30 minutes. And, sorry Nik, I’ve not come across ‘unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder’ before, but Morrisons own did the job. I used almonds instead of walnuts because of the eldest daughter’s allergy.

As so often, time ran away from me, and I ended up making the brownies when we returned home from our splendid walk up Yeavering Bell in Northumberland’s Cheviot Hills.

Walkers rewards. Puffed up and fresh from the oven: My take on Nik Sharma’s date brownies with black pepper

We allowed them to cool as much as our exercise-induced hunger allowed, then sliced ’em and scoffed several each. They were moister and lighter than expected and none of us felt you’d guess dates were a core ingredient unless you knew. The black pepper gives them a slightly exotic edge and a warm finish on the palate – although I should probably be more precise about measuring a teaspoonful rather than just grinding in an approximation!

We’ve been eating them with our coffee breaks since Sunday. On balance, the flavour and texture improve with proper cooling and a little maturation. The best squares are the ones with a good chunk of chocolate nesting within, so definitely worth using all bar chocolate, rather than the mix of block and chips that I used.

Overall verdict: sophisticated flavour, light moist crumb, delivers a halo of virtue without compromising on taste.

All chopped up but nowhere to go: we ate our ‘sweet treats’ after we returned from our ‘outdoor meets’

Original recipe:

Nik Sharmadate brownies with black pepper

The magical Cheviot Hills on a balmy April Sunday.

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