Chocolate and Zucchini Brownies

One of my favourite blogs is Chocolate and Zucchini. Do you know the site I'm talking about? It's written by Parisian food-writer Clotidle Dusoulier, and was one of the first food blogs on the scene. My mum introduced me to Clotidle's books and recipes, which are wonderful (I recommend you check them out if you're not already a fan). A couple of years ago I bought her French Market Cookbook for a friend and Clotilde's crêpe recipe is my go-to, allowing me to make the most divine parcels.

Yes, I adore Clotidle. In fact I wanted to have "Clotidle "on our baby name list, but Ben is not fully on board and I do hesitate...I'm cautious about the Australian accent dealing with "Clotilde", and the invenitable nickname (as is the Australian way) of "Clot". See here if you're not sure how to pronounce Clotilde's pretty right? But alas, I don't think it'll be on our list.

Regardless, I appreciate Clotilde for more than her name, the fact that she lives in Paris and taught me how to make excellent crêpes... I am thankful for the introduction to the beauty of the marriage between chocolate and zucchini. It's simply perfect. And because zucchini continues to offend my pregnant sensibilities (in a terribly obnoxious manner), this pairing allowed me to eat the bounty of zucchini that came week after week from Transition Farm at the end of summer. Now the only way I accept zucchini (other than when cooked into oblivion and covered in cheese) is when its baked into brownies and covered in cacao. And sugar, a lot of sugar.

While these brownies do contain a vegetable, they are not what I would consider a health food (just in case a little clarification was needed). To get that authentic brownie crust we all love (right?!) you need sugar. So while I rebelled against my brownie instincts by grating zucchini into the mix (along with Greek yoghurt, extra virgin olive oil, spelt flour and almond meal - fancy), I honoured the traditional brownie Gods by using sugar. And though zucchini season has ended for now, I wanted to share with you my love for Clotilde and her crêpes, my appreciation for the combination of chocolate and zucchini, and the jolly fact that I am now significantly less offended by zucchini.

Chocolate and Zucchini Brownies

Note: some zucchini are wetter than others. While you strain the juice either way (I get better brownie results with a less wet zucchini), some might require more gusto than others when pressing the water out.

Makes 15 brownies

1 & 1/2 cups grated Zucchini (from about 1 medium-sized zucchini)
1 & 1/2 cups Spelt Flour (I've used both wholemeal and white with good results)
1/2 cup Almond Meal
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 cup Raw Sugar
1/2 cup Raw Cacao Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/3 cup Greek Yoghurt
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
180g Dark Cooking Chocolate (chips are fine but I use a block and roughly chop it into chunks)

1. Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius and line a 25.5 x 16cm baking tray with foil (be sure to have extra foil hanging over to allow for easy removing of brownies once they're cooked) .
2. Grate the zucchini and place it into a fine-mesh strainer. Hold the strainer over the sink use your hands to press the water out of the zucchini. You don't need to be too fastidious about this, a bit of water is totally fine. You're after grated zucchini that is a bit moist but not soggy or dripping. If you find your mixture is too wet later on, add a touch more almond meal or omit the milk. Set aside with the strainer over a bowl to allow the zucchini to strain further on its own.
3. Add the spelt flour (unsure how to measure flour correctly? Check out Joy's post) and almond meal to a large mixing bowl. Whisk to aerate and combine. Add the  salt, sugar, cacao and baking soda and whisk to combine.
4. Add the wet ingredients (Greek yoghurt, olive oil, milk and vanilla) to the dry, along with the zucchini. Fold keenly to combine everything together. This mixture feels a little dry to begin with but should eventually, after some good folding, become a thick, moist (not sloppy) paste. If you think it's too dry, add a touch more milk. If it's too wet, add a touch more almond meal (this will depend on how wet your zucchini is).
5. Roughly chop the chocolate into chunks and add this to the mixture, folding through until evenly incorporated.
6. Pour the mixture into your lined baking pan and smooth the surface with the moist back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes (check it at 15-20 if your oven is keen to see how it's going). The brownies will be ready when they still look moist and lovely, but a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean and the top looks crackly. It's best to under-cook rather than overcook your brownies - plus, these brownies have no eggs or suspicious ingredients that require sincere cooking.
7. Remove the brownies from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10-20 minutes, until cook enough to lift out and cool on a wire rack. The brownies will be easier to slice when completely cool, but we all appreciate a warm brownie, so go with what your heart tells you to do. These are nice served with creme fraiche or something tart to balance the sweetness. The brownies freeze really well, wrapped individually in plastic wrap and grabbed in the morning for a snack later on.

Heidi xo