Jon’s got a thing about mustard seeds at the moment. It’s getting really weird in our house now – they are cropping up in EVERYTHING. The effect ranges from the totally pointless – mustard seeds on popcorn (they don’t stick), to the frankly bizarre – mustard seeds in challah (you can’t really taste them but they look weird). There are mustard seeds in my rice, in my mashed potato, on my fish, really in anything where he is given the freedom to express himself through the spice cupboard. Perhaps when he reads this he’ll think again about how odd it is, but right now he just can’t think of any food that isn’t improved by the addition of mustard seeds.
Fortunately, he wasn’t in charge of planning the food for Joe’s second birthday party. He was a fantastic cake decorator – post coming soon on the birthday cake – but he didn’t decide on the recipes for the other food at the party, which all therefore remained mustard seed free. It’s a good thing too, because Joe isn’t shy about telling us what he thinks of our food. Joe saw the brownies I made here, uniced, in the kitchen a few hours before his birthday tea and asked for one. I gave him one, then another, and then another – they were a huge success. When we sat down to tea he was very excited to see them again with coloured icing to look like lego, and he asked for one in every colour. I’d especially made a creamcheese icing with minimal sugar which I had imagined he would like, since he likes creamcheese and it would be sweeter than normal, but he put it in his mouth and then spat it out with a look of disgust. “It’s not very tasty,” he explained with a serious face, not in a complaining way, just wanting me to understand why he’d been forced to expel it from his mouth. Luckily, with the icing then scraped off, they turned out to be just as “super yummy” as the brownies he had earlier.
From my point of view, the only problem with these brownies is that they aren’t chocolate. I know, if they’re not chocolate then they’re not brownies. But “blondies” sounds stupid and anyway, they are brown, not blonde. They are also vegan and sugar-free, and so I don’t expect you to believe me when I say that they are delicious, but they genuinely are, and they are perfect for babies and anyone else in your life with weird dietary requirements.
I found the recipe online here when searching for a brownie-type thing to use as the base of the lego cakes I wanted to make for the birthday tea. Since I was planning to make him a hugely elaborate birthday cake (which I couldn’t do in a sugar-free, healthy version), I wanted to make one cake thing that I would actually be happy for him to eat, and I thought these seemed perfect.
Makes around 20 mini brownies
- 150g plain flour
- 225g whole dates
- 1 ripe banana (the riper the better)
- 1 large tablespoon of peanut butter (or other nut butter)
- 1 tablespoon of applesauce (you can make this amount from 1 apple)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinammon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Prepare a baking tin of around 8×8 inches – grease it and line it, or use a silicon one where you don’t have to do any of that.
- Take the stones out of the dates and put them in a bowl of hot water for at least 15 minutes to soak.
- Put the dates with two or three tablespoons of the soaking water into a food processor and blend to make a paste.
- Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, and then add the applesauce, peanut butter and vanilla extract.
- Mash the banana, either by hand or in the food processor after you have removed the date paste.
- Combine the dates and banana with the rest of the mix.
- Put the mix into the tin, and bake on your usual oven baking temperature for about 40 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean.
As Joe told us, these brownies are good on their own. However, if you want to make the coloured creamcheese icing to turn these into lego cakes, then I used the recipe below, and coloured the icing using Wiltons Gel Colours (gel colours give a much stronger, brighter colour than liquid colouring and a tiny bit goes a long way). I then put smarties on the top to look like the bobbly bits on lego. This was actually really annoying, because I bought 4 tubes of smarties, imagining that this would easily provide enough of the right colours, and it really didn’t. Plus, since I was a child, the colouring in smarties has obviously got more natural and vegetable-based, which is a good thing for parents of hyper children, but means that the colours are much blander than I remember.
- 200g Philadelphia or similar creamcheese
- 70g butter
- 100g icing sugar (the recipe actually called for 400g, but I was doing a low sugar version!)
- The butter needs to be softened and not fridge-hard when you start. The creamcheese should be in the fridge until needed.
- Cream the butter with an electric mixer until it has a whipped consistency. Beat in the cheese, but be careful not to overbeat, as the cheese can start to re-liquefy if you do.
- Sift the icing sugar and beat it in gradually.
- Put a small amount into another bowl and add a tiny bit of colouring (as in, the size of a mustard seed to start with, and then you can always add more as needed). Mix it in with a spoon and spread it onto your brownies.
- If you are doing lots of different colours, it’s easiest to do all of one colour, then wash up that small bowl and start again with another colour.
- Put the smarties on top and refridgerate until serving.
*Approximate nutritional values (1 brownie, no icing)*
- Calories – 80.2 kcal
- Carbs – 28.3g
- Fat – 0.9g
- Protein – 1.5g
- Sodium – 11.4mg
- Sugar – 9.1g
*Approximate nutritional values (1 brownie, with icing and smarties)*
- Calories – 136.8 kcal
- Carbs – 34.6g
- Fat – 4.1g
- Protein – 2g
- Sodium – 23mg
- Sugar – 11.8g