Monday, July 29, 2013

Spiced Carob Hemp Brownie Bites: Baking with Gratitude

For the past two years, I have avoided making my birthday into a big deal.  And by "big deal," I mean creating a situation where others might feel obligated to do something for me above and beyond what they would do for me on any given day.   My birthday is another day I am blessed to breathe another breath, to live in this world, to smile, laugh, cry, and sing, and it is another day for me to marvel at the beauty of the souls around me.  Those that gave me life and raised me, those that have both challenged and/or nurtured me, those I can turn to when I need support, and even those I do not know but with whom I still feel honored to share this existence.  Which, to me, already makes it a "big deal."

And especially this year, with profound losses in my family that still bring me to tears, the gift of another day is most definitely not lost on me.

So, on my birthday last Saturday, I set out to experience the world I live in through fresh eyes.  To see Austin as if I were a tourist ready to fall in love and set down some roots.  To eat at my favorite restaurants as if I had never seen the menu.  To meet eyes and exchange embraces with friends and coworkers as if it were the first and only time.  And to say "Thank You" as much as I could, both in words and actions.  And, of course, one of those actions was baking some delicious gluten-free, grain-free, and vegan brownie bites.

Inspired by a recipe for chocolate hemp brownies by Ricki Heller, every time I make them I am met with requests for the recipe, often mid-chew and paired with wide-eyed laser-beam stares and a vise-like grip on my shoulder.  And especially for those who are gluten, dairy, and/or grain intolerant, I love seeing how much they enjoy these brownie bites, smiling in disbelief that every bite could be enjoyed without fear or regret.  

So it made perfect sense to bake these for my birthday dessert - not for me, but for everyone else - as a small token of gratitude and humble appreciation for the countless ways in which they shape and mold my life.

Spiced Carob Hemp Brownie Bites

Active Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time:  5-10 minutes
Baking Time: 15-18 minutes
Yield: 2 dozen mini-cupcake size brownies

3/4 c (120g) raw whole almonds
scant 1/2 c (60g) raw hemp seeds

1/2 c + 2 tablespoons (75g) teff flour
1/4 c + 1 tablespoon (35g) tapioca starch
1/4 c (30g) toasted carob powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 c (120g) coconut sugar
scant 1/2 c (3 fl. oz) filtered water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
scant 3 tablespoons (1 1/3 fl. oz) olive oil

dried shredded coconut, to garnish (optional)

What You'll Need:  Food processor, two medium mixing bowls, spatula, mini-cupcake tin, mini-cupcake liners, baking scoop, cooling rack

1.  Add whole almonds to food processor and run for about 10-15 seconds until you have a coarse meal.  You will want it to be finer than this eventually, but first add the hemp seeds.  Run for another 5-10 seconds until both the almonds and hemp seeds are finer in texture.  
2.  Add remaining dry ingredients and pulse until just combined and then transfer to a mixing bowl.  
3.  In the other mixing bowl, combine all wet ingredients, including sugar, and mix until well combined.
4.  Fold wet mixture into dry mixture until you have a thick, rich batter.  Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
5.  During this time, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tin(s) with cupcake liners.  
6.  When ready, give the batter another good mix and then portion it equally into the liners until they are  3/4 full.  Using a baking scoop can make it easier, but if one is not handy, you can also use one or two tablespoons.  Sprinkle with shredded dried coconut before transferring to the middle rack of the oven.
7.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, looking for a significant rise above the liners, a lighter brown color, and a matte appearance.  They will also be firm/set to the touch and the heavenly aroma in the kitchen will be out of control.
8.  Allow to cool in cupcake tins for about 5 minutes before releasing to a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.

Pulsed until just the right texture.

The batter is devilishly delicious.  And when it's this good before baking...

I love the crackle of the crust on top.

Two favorite reactions to these when I made them this past Saturday were:  "You should totally sell these.  I would buy them....every day." and "Is it really okay for me to have more than one?  You're serious?"  The play of both teff and carob's malty richness with the warming aroma of garam masala and cinnamon and the soft, palate pleasing coffee-cake like texture resulting from the ground almonds and hemp is a world-rocking delight to the senses.  And while I am well aware that carob does not have the reputation that chocolate does, I can assure you that the taste of these brownies will not make you feel like you are settling at all.  So.  Good.

It gives me such joy to see others happy, especially when it involves giving those with a more specific diet access to a dessert that is both delicious and respectful of those specificities.  And looking back on my path as a "canary," and all the doors to healing and positivity that opened when I finally found the food that loves me back, what better gift can I give than the one that changed my life?

Who gets the honors?  

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  And if you were one of the many that has requested it over the past year, I hope it was worth the wait.  Many Thanks to Ricki Heller for inspiring this heavenly dessert - please check out her awesome gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan blog, Diet, Dessert, and Dogs, for more.

In Gratitude, Love, and Continuing Light,


  1. Jonathan, you have a sweet attitude about your birthday. Smart.
    The brownies sound just right.

    1. Thank You, kindly! And speaking for myself (and many of those with whom I have shared them), they also taste just right. A beautiful, gustatory adventure.


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