Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

We laid on the couch, bodies intertwined and covered with a heavy knit blanket that was a foot too short for our long bodies. The house was dark, but dimly lit from the glowing city just outside our window. A city that was alive and bustling with noisy people amidst the rain; they were honking their horns at bus drivers and shouting at the valet from the entrance of Kimbal Musk’s fancy eatery. It’s called The Kitchen and, although I dig their philosophy, I don’t subscribe to their version of fine dining because I don’t think a small bowl of bland ass quinoa served with a few roasted vegetables should cost $18. Let alone be considered a meal. But that’s not the point, the point is that there were noisy people outside my house and all I wanted to do was open the window and tell them to quiet down because I can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve been home to witness the sound of hundreds of millions of water molecules hitting the roof over my head. And you know what? I think that’s kind of unfortunate.

So the rain. It lightly spattered the tin roof and we listened intently, trying hard to block out the chatter from the masses of noisy people below. At one point, an obnoxious group of what was probably a bachelorette party spent five minutes too long standing at the intersection of 16th and Wazee. It wouldn’t have been an issue except one of the attendees had one of the loudest, most unpleasant laughs I’ve heard in the entirety of my life. I leapt from the couch with every intention of heckling her (it’s actually one of my favorite things to do, heckle people from our fourth story loft) (sometimes I’m an ass), but just as the window cracked open I caught the faintest scent of petrichor as it drifted through the humid night air. And then I forgot about the lady with the obnoxious laugh because I love that smell, but not as much as I love laying on his chest and listening to his heart as it pounds beneath his ribcage. Have you ever done that? Laid on your lover’s chest and just listened to the sound of the one thing that’s keeping their blood flowing and organs working and, essentially, making their entire world go ’round? So I went back over to the couch and placed my head over his perfectly rhythmic chest instrument. And I listened.

Buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum

Cake liners
Brownie cake batter
Chocolate coconut frosting

Tell me a story, I said.
No, you tell me a story, he replied. I always tell you stories.
Tell me about Europe, I begged.

And so, without a moment of hesitation, he started rambling on about Europe. About climbing to the top of Ben Nevis, riding bikes around Amsterdam, and visiting all of our favorite places in Paris. Taking the lovers walk on the Italian Riviera and drinking hefeweizen from enormous steins at Oktoberfest in Munich. Hiking through the Šumava and spending long afternoons on the sandy beaches of Croatia, where Roman emperors used to retire. He went on and on, telling me about the history of each of the countries we’re visiting this summer. 19 of them total. Nineteen different countries and cultures and a dozen different languages over the course of four months, from July to November.

His infinite wisdom eventually put me to sleep. Not because I was disinterested, but because it’s so soothing to listen to someone pour the intellectual contents of their brain onto you. Like the rain on the tin roof, only better. Better than the petrichor or Matt Berninger’s voice or finding my favorite chocolate in the pocket of my jeans. Ok, maybe not better than finding chocolates hidden in my clothes, but you get the point. Right? So this summer, we’re heading to Europe for the adventure of a lifetime, and if you live there or have plans on being there, too, we’d love to get together. Seriously, let’s get together.

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting
Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Also, I’ve got a little bonus for you before we get to the recipe. Our sweet new friend, Kathryn, came to photograph our place last weekend and the final shots are now up on her site. Please no remarks about my stringy hair, mom jeans, or the fact I spelled je t’aime all sorts of wrong. In my defense, I was in a hurry to write something on the jar before Kathryn snapped a photo. And. Well. French is not my first language. In hindsight, I should have just drawn a big heart. Or maybe boobs because that would be funny.

Notes: These cakes are dense – they’re literally a cross between a brownie and a cupcake; not as dense as a brownie, not as light as a cupcake. If you don’t have cacao powder, natural cocoa powder will work. They’re essentially the same thing as far as baking is concerned. Same goes for the spelt flour; unbleached flour or a gluten free flour blend substitute well. I do not recommend making a substitute for the coconut oil, as it gives the cakes a mild coconut flavor and pairs well with the frosting. Speaking of frosting, you can use any liquid sweetener you want – maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, etc. I’ve been finishing off a bottle of coconut nectar, or else I’d have probably used brown rice syrup. You’ll have to adjust the amount depending on how sweet your like your frosting.

Update: I recommend using a bar that’s at least 70% cacao. I’ve used bars from Lake Champlain, Chocolove, and Ikea. Although I’m not sure Ikea is considered good quality, it produced a damn good brownie cake.

BROWNIE CAKES WITH CHOCOLATE COCONUT FROSTING

Brownie cakes
1 1/4 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
3 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 flax eggs
1 1/4 cups boiling water

Chocolate coconut frosting
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
4-6 tbsp coconut nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp cacao powder
Pinch of fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cacao powder, sea salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat, melt the coconut oil and chocolate, then stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the chocolate mixture, flax eggs, and boiling water; whisk vigorously to combine. Add a heaping 1/4 cup of batter to each muffin liner, then bake at 350˚F for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cakes to rest in pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cakes will keep in an air tight container for up to three days.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting by adding the shredded coconut and coconut milk to a food processor fitted with the S blade. Blend until mostly smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Once smooth, add 4 tablespoons of the coconut nectar and vanilla extract; pulse to combine. Sift in the cacao powder and sea salt then pulse until incorporated. Taste the frosting; if it needs to be a bit sweeter, add more nectar. If you want it to be thinner, add a bit more coconut milk (1-2 tablespoons). Once the cakes have cooled, generously frost them and serve immideately.

Yield: 1 dozen cakes

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Raw almond coconut cacao nib bites

Raw almond coconut cacao nib bites

Wake up in the middle of the night. Where are my goggles? Find them under Thom’s elbow; lift it up, snatch them back, put them over my big head. Roll over to check the time. It’s 4:47. It’s always 4:47. Sit up. Go to rub my eyes and realize there are goggles in the way. Oh, and you’re not supposed to rub your eyes. Grab my shirt from the end of the bed. I got naked in my sleep again. I bet Thom liked that. Put on pants. A warm sweater. Tiptoe across the cold tile floor, into the bathroom. Sit on the toilet and empty the truckload of urine my bladder collected last night. Take off my goggles. Look at the container of soap sitting at the sink.

AROMATHERAPEUTIC Hand & Body Care Hard-working, naturally derived ingredients and essential oils provide a fresh and clean approach. Oh, how gentle LAVENDER has been valued for it’s wonderful scent that is soothing & believed to RELIEVE FATIGUE. All from an herb.

Wait a minute. You can read the soap label? From here? YOU CAN READ THE SOAP LABEL? Jump up off the toilet. Forget to wash my hands. Run out into the main living area and stand across the room from the bookshelf. I can read every title. Every subtitle. I can identify the books that were loved too much; their bindings are broken, their corners are worn. I can see the growth rings and knots in the woody frame. I can see everything. Clear as day.

Jump with joy. Literally. Do that weird kick/punch thing you do when you get excited. Maybe knock over a chair. You should probably pick it back up. Cry. Hard. For your new vision and ability to see every detail of this beautiful place. Every detail that not even glasses could help you see. Every detail of which you were robbed for the first 24 years of your life. Wash your hands. Give thanks to the man who corrected your 20/200 vision with that fancy laser machine. Think about kissing his face all over next time you see him. Run into the bedroom and kiss Thom’s face all over. Make waffles. Stuff your face with raw almond coconut cacao nib bites and ruin your appetite for waffles. Eat a waffle anyway because not eating a waffle just wouldn’t be right. Eat a waffle anyway because today we’re celebrating eyeballs that finally serve their purpose. All thanks to a man and his fancy laser machine.

Ground almonds + coconut
Raw almond coconut cacao nib bites
Raw almond coconut cacao nib bites

Notes: I’ve got to admit – it’s taken me almost a year (gasp!) to share this recipe with you guys. Kicking myself. Are you kicking me, too? The add-ins at the end are going to seem like a lot, but trust me on this – add 1/4 cup of each the chopped almonds and cacao nibs. I rolled a few of them in cacao powder to amp up the chocolate flavor, but it didn’t make too much of a difference. You can find the baked version here. And if you want real deal almond joy bites, go here. Or! If you’re not into the awesomeness that is almond + coconut + chocolate, might I interest you in raw brownie bites?
RAW ALMOND COCONUT CACAO NIB BITES

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup raw almonds, divided
Pinch of Himalayan salt
8 medjool dates, pitted
3 tbsp raw almond milk (or water)
1/4 cup cacao nibs

In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the coconut, 1/2 cup of the almonds, and sea salt into a fine meal. Add the dates and pulse for 30-45 seconds. Add the nut milk; pulse until combined. Transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl. Coarsely chop the almonds then stir into the mixture, along with the cacao nibs. Using a 1 teaspoon cookie scoop, drop the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for 30 minutes then transfer to an air tight container. Will keep in freezer for several months but I doubt they’ll last that long.

Yield: about 55 bites

Sweet potato waffles with cacao nibs

Sweet potato waffles with cacao nibs

Waiting in line at the post office the other day, an older lady with fire engine red lips and perfect platinum hair turned around, looked at me and said, You look tired. I wanted to tell her to mind her own business because WHO SAYS THAT TO A STRANGER? But instead I pulled down my sunglasses and said, I am. I’m really fucking tired.
Her eyes got wide, like she couldn’t believe I just said the f-word to a sweet, little lady such as herself. She gathered her packages, moved along the line and didn’t feel the need to make any other comments to the girl with the potty mouth who wears her sunglasses indoors.

But it’s true, I was tired. So. Incredibly. Tired. My inability to sleep past 5am is only matched by my inability to fall asleep before midnight (except for the other night when I fell asleep on the couch at 10:30) (that was rad), and it’s taking its toll. I have no appetite or energy to go the gym. My body aches all over. And all I want to do is sit on the couch, kick up my feet, and daydream about Thom feeding me chocolate for every meal. Daydream because I have no appetite, remember? And even if I did have an appetite, he wouldn’t ever let me get away with eating chocolate for every meal. He’s kind of a stickler for a well-rounded, vegetable heavy diet.

Sweet potato puree + hot waffle iron
Cacao nibs

I have access to pharmaceutical drugs. Lots of them. From that time I spent five months going back and forth between specialists who felt it necessary to write me prescriptions for things that would numb the pain. But I didn’t want to numb the pain. I wanted to feel better. Genuinely, not fictitiously. So these prescriptions, there’s about a dozen of them and they’re currently tucked into a pocket in a mailbag I never carry. Buried in a basket at the top of my closet that’s much too high for my five foot eight inch frame to reach. I hid them there just in case I ever wanted to forget the pain and have a day of normalcy. But if I really, truly wanted to take the easy way out, I’d have to work for it. And in the end, the effort of carrying a stool into my bedroom and rooting through a basket full of bags would be daunting enough for me to just deal with the current state of things. Which is feeling tired. And ache-y. But mostly really, really tired. I think some people use the term exhausted, but I reserve that for parents with small earthlings. Have you seen those people? They’re the definition of exhausted. I can’t compete with that.
Anyway, on my way home from the post office I cried. Not because I was sad, even though I was, and not because I had just reached my breaking point that I think if I had been home I would have taken a stool into my closet and gone to have every single one of those prescriptions filled – but because I felt bad for saying the f-word in front of a woman who was old enough to be my grandmother. Which only displayed my complete and utter lack of respect for a stranger who did nothing to deserve my unfortunate word choice, even if I was offended by the fact that she noticed the bags and dark circles beneath my eyes. Bags and circles I tried so very hard to conceal behind my sunglasses. But I digress, no one deserves to have a f-bomb dropped on them at the post office. And so I cried.

Sweet potato waffles in the making
Sweet potato waffles with cacao nibs
Sweet potato waffles with cacao nibs

Before I went home I made a pitstop to have unwanted hairs lasered off of my body. I only did it because I got a deal through Groupon and have always been fascinated by the seemingly magical process that is laser hair removal. I got zapped a few times and went on my way, but not before questioning the lady at the front desk about the fancy lip balm strategically placed at the checkout counter. She said uses them alllll the time and that they’re fantaaastic. She had chapped lips. So she was either lying about using them alllll the time or lying about them being fanataaastic. Either way, I passed up on the opportunity to have lips that taste like sex on the beach and made my way out the door.
Before I could take three steps I was nearly mauled over by a man who was in a hurry to feed the meter. I turned around with every intention of yelling something nasty at him (like, WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING, ASSWAD!), but then I spotted that lady across the street. The one with the red lips and platinum hair. I ran toward her as fast as I could yelling HEY LADY! WAIT UP! And she watched as I maneuvered across the street; disheveled, flinging my arms around in attempts to keep the contents of my unzipped backpack safe and sound as I tried my best to beat oncoming traffic. And when I got to her I blurted out how sorry I was for improperly using my words and before I could say anything else, before I could tell her how truly awful it made me feel, she grabbed me by the shoulders – hard enough that I let out a yelp – and said, Darling, don’t worry about it. Go home and get some fucking sleep.

Sweet potato waffles with cacao nibs

Notes: Pumpkin, banana, apple, zucchini or any other puree will work in place of sweet potato. You can replace the gluten free flour with all purpose flour, but omit the xanthan gum. If you don’t have xanthan gum on hand, just leave it out – I’ve made them gluten free without it, and the texture difference wasn’t noticeable. If you’re not into cacao nibs you be crazy, feel free to replace them with chocolate chips. Sarah posted a recipe for coffee syrup and I think you should try it. Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve eaten these waffles every day for the past two weeks. They’re good. That good.

Another favorite way to make these waffles: replace 1/2 cup of the flour blend with 1/2 cup buckwheat flour, swap the sweet potato puree with applesauce, and omit the cacao nibs. Top waffles with sliced bananas, a drizzle of full fat coconut milk, cinnamon, pecans, and shredded coconut. They’re perfect for those days that you’re looking for a satisfying breakfast without the sugar high.

SWEET POTATO WAFFLES WITH CACAO NIBS

1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sweet potato puree
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp muscovado sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cacao nibs

Preheat waffle iron. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sweet potato puree, almond milk, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; whisk until combined. Stir in the cacao nibs.
When the waffle iron is heated, spray it with oil. Cook waffles according to the instruction for your iron. I added a scant 3/4 cup of batter to my iron that makes round 7″ waffles. Serve immideately, topped with with your favorite fruit and real maple syrup. If cooking for a group of people, keep waffles warm in a 225˚F oven – no need to place them on a cookie sheet, just put them straight on the oven racks. Cooked waffles can be kept frozen for up to one month. Break in half and reheat in toaster.

Yield: 5 waffles