Sometimes we’re content eating greens and chickpeas; other times we want something a little more indulgent. This easy gluten-free brownie recipe is for those other times. It’s rich and chocolaty, but doesn’t carry the baggage associated with processed sugar and refined flour. Because, after all, don’t you want to have your cake and still feel great? With this recipe, you can.
The Big Deal about Sugar and Flour
Have you ever given in to a sweet craving only to be left with a kind of food hangover? This is often caused by foods that contain refined sugar and flour. Initially, sugar produces endorphins in the body that make you feel good, but shortly after, your blood sugar drops. The after-effects of eating too much sugar involve symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, mood swings, headaches, and joint pain. This is your body’s way of deterring you from creating lasting damage that manifests as chronic disease. Gluten sensitivity produces similar symptoms, but in the case of wheat, the issue is more complex. Wheat sensitivity is real, but it might have more to do with the state of your digestive health, the type and amount of wheat you’re eating, and when you’re eating it, rather than wheat in and of itself.
Wheat: the Good, the Bad, and the Not So Clear
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease, there are reasons to limit wheat in your diet. Digestive disorders are causing an unprecedented number of medical visits and hospitalizations. Some of these disorders have been given the unsatisfying label of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a diagnosis that confirms you have gastrointestinal symptoms but doesn’t explain why. Many of us cannot digest foods that our parents, or even we ourselves, were once able to, and many doctors are not clear exactly why this is. Wheat is commonly one of these “problematic” foods. Of the 3 million Americans following a gluten-free diet, 72% were classified as people without celiac disease avoiding gluten. You might simply feel better not eating wheat without knowing the underlying cause. Researchers are discovering many digestive disorders are linked to alterations in the microbiome brought about by environmental toxins as well as the overuse of antibiotics, but this is still a new frontier. The microbiome refers to all the organisms that live in or on the body: bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, and helminths, which amount to a hundred trillion microbes.
Our collective declining digestive powers mirror our increasingly compromised food supply. As a people we’ve been eating wheat for 3.4 million years, but it has changed a lot during that time. Ancient grains had more nutritional value than today’s refined wheat. If you opt to eat wheat, choose artisanal varieties like einkorn or kamut. If you find you can’t digest even those varieties, stop eating wheat until you determine the cause.
Every year, each American eats around 55 pounds of wheat. This is not only excessive; growing evidence indicates it’s also at odds with the human body’s natural rhythm. Modern research has found that the starch-digesting enzyme amylase naturally increases in the body in the winter. We are naturally more able to digest gluten in the winter. Science is creating a snapshot of what traditional wisdom has long known. In Ayurveda, wheat is considered a winter food. It was traditionally harvested in the fall exclusively for winter eating. The practice of eating seasonally is turning out to be beneficial to our health in ways most of us never imagined.
Dessert: A Love Story
From specialty diets, to indecipherable food labels, to ingredients in processed food that have nothing to do with nourishment, it’s remarkable how complicated food seems to have become. In these times, it’s easy to forget that food isn’t just about sustenance; it’s also about pleasure. From the moment you begin planning a meal, the entire process of eating can be fun, regardless of dietary restrictions, and in spite of environmental concerns. This is where the opportunity for creativity comes into play. If your digestion is compromised, traditional baked goods, even those made with artisanal flour, might be off the menu, but don’t give up on dessert. Instead, choose foods that are gentle on the body and make you feel good. In Ayurveda, it’s believed that all six tastes, or rasas, should be represented during meals. The sweet taste can be derived from foods like wheat, rice, dairy, cereals, dates, pumpkins, maple syrup, and licorice root. Whether you enjoy it in your main meal or in these gluten-free brownies, give yourself a little sweetness and by all means, enjoy every bite.
- 1 cup coconut oil, grass-fed butter, or ghee, melted
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 cup cacao powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup cacao nibs
- 1 bar unsweetened dark chocolate
- 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. Grease and line an 8 x 8” baking pan with parchment paper.
3. Put the brownies together: mix the coconut flour, cacao powder, and sea salt in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
4. In a larger mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut oil (or butter or ghee), maple syrup, and eggs.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mix, and pour into the prepared baking pan. (Coconut flour is very absorbent; the batter will thicken quickly.) Bake for 20 minutes.
6. While the brownies are baking, prepare the sauce. Cut the chocolate bar into small segments and place in a double broiler along with the coconut oil and maple syrup, if using. Mix constantly until melted and well combined. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.
7. When the brownies are done cooking, remove them from the oven and top with chocolate sauce and cocoa nibs. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Photos by Shiraz Leyva