The first time I had carob was in grade school. I was at a friend's house and was left alone in the kitchen where I was told to help myself to anything I wanted while my friend went outside to help her mom with a chore in the yard. There was a mason jar of chocolate discs on the counter. I love chocolate. I mean, I really fucking love chocolate.
I opened that jar, grabbed a small handful of the chocolate discs and mowed through them. They tasted a little weird but not bad. When my friend returned she asked where I got the chocolate as I was popping the last one in my mouth. I pointed to the jar and the look of shock and horror on her face had me thinking I'd just downed some ex-lax or something worse. It was maybe worse? Only because of the shame and humiliation.
I'd just eaten a handful of faux chocolate dog treats.
I mean, as far as dog treats go, I can see why their dogs loved them.
That pretty much put the hard stop on me even entertaining the carob after that. You can't erase that kind of shame from your mind easily.
Fast forward to today. I'm on an autoimmune food elimination protocol (AIP) to try to figure out what my food triggers are that make my joints hurt. I have Sjogren's Syndrome and one of the issues is widespread inflammation that causes pain and fatigue. In an effort to get the inflammation under control and regain a decent quality of life I did a ton of reading and stumbled across Dr. Will Cole and his autoimmune protocol. I started with the book, The Inflammation Spectrum then progressed to his paid 4 month coaching program because the diet in the book helped tremendously just in the first few days and I knew that more focused support was going to be that much more amazing.
As part of the protocol, I eliminated all grains (ALL of them) and corn; all dairy; all sweeteners except honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup; all inflammatory oils; all legumes; all nuts and seeds; all nightshades (no more potatoes, tomatoes, peppers or eggplants for me); and all eggs.
That pretty much means no baked desserts for me. I'm eating only whole foods, virtually nothing commercially processed with just a few pure exceptions.
I'm in the phase of the protocol now where I can have cassava flour (made from a root vegetable), carob, and a few other goodies I've had to avoid for the first couple months.
So today, after a lot of peopling, I was craving chocolate. It's the first time I've had a real hard-core craving for chocolate. Not just a little chocolate would be nice right now kind of thought that passes when I eat a piece of fruit. I mean, I'm gonna murder someone standing between me and chocolate kind of craving...but I cannot have chocolate.
TO PINTEREST I WENT!
There HAS to be an alternative with carob that would be allowed on the protocol and satisfy my need. I settled on a recipe that promised a "Fudgy brownie" with only ingredients I am allowed to have. The photos looked INCREDIBLE. I mean, this is Pinterest, how bad can it be?
Oh sweet fuck. Finally. DESSERT!
I got out all the compliant ingredients, figured out I could substitute pumpkin for the bananas (I might be having an allergy to bananas so am avoiding them for now), and got down to business. The batter looks like a thick brownie batter. I smeared it in the silicone baking dish and popped it in the oven.
Twenty-eight minutes later I was back in the kitchen to take them out of the oven.
They look like hard packed dirt.
What the shit?
THIS IS NOT WHAT FUDGY BROWNIES LOOK LIKE.
I have some straight up trepidation.
But I'm a trooper.
I'm digging in.
I carefully cut a small square. I recorded the tasting for posterity's sake.
The texture is fantastic, though. I mean, really really good. I wouldn't know this was grain free and egg free by the texture. It's dense and fudgy in texture if not in flavor. If they had some more flavor I would eat them on purpose, not just because I have a pan full of relatively expensive ingredients I'm too frugal to throw in the trash because they're meh.
I will eat these with a little maple syrup drizzle. I think they'd be good with a side of crisp bacon. Maybe it's time to find a compliant frosting. Maybe I'll play with some different spices. I set off to experimenting because under all this artsy-ness I'm a mad scientist at heart with just enough knowledge to be dangerous but not enough to really know what I'm doing.
Fast forward two weeks and I am baking up another batch with more tweaks and while it's in the oven decided to try a carob fudge recipe that is just carob, coconut oil, collagen peptides and dates. Four ingredients I like and have on hand. TOTAL. PINTEREST. FAIL. The flavor was great but it never set up like it did in the original photos and was just a gooey sticky mess. I popped it in the fridge overnight hoping it would solidify at least some. It didn't. HOWEVER, it turns out to be the ideal frosting for the carob brownies. I’m going to call it Carob Date Caramel Topping.
I'd actually eat this shit on purpose!
If you want to try this for yourself and zip it up with other flavors this is what I did. I would recommend trying it without any optional added spices first just to get a baseline. This is my favorite version, but it's also good with some added spices or zest, listed as optional at the end.
1 cup canned pumpkin (or 2 small mashed bananas)
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup carob powder
2/3 cup cassava flour (Otto's brand is the best texture I've found)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
1/3 cup coconut oil melted (or coconut manna for a little dryer texture)
1/2 cup collagen peptides (if you're vegan you could ditch this one or substitute a vegan protein powder)
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon orange zest
Use any combination or all of the above.
Preheat oven to 375.
Combine all the dry ingredients and gently blend them. They're all pretty light and you will get a cloud of flour and carob if you get too aggressive. Calm it down there, sparky. Once that's all blended, add in the wet ingredients and mix until it's even. Don't overmix. I don't know why. It's just what I've been told.
Grease an 8x8 pan with coconut or avocado oil (or use a silicone pan and skip the greasing step because you don't need it) and dump the batter in. Use a spatula to even out the top because it does not move much while baking and you want it even.
Bake 25-28 minutes. I went for 25 because I wanted it a little gooey. I'm not a super fan of cake. If you want it more like cake cook it a 28-30 minutes. It will pull away from the sides of the pan when it is done.
Let it cool and admire the pan of what appears to be hard packed dirt. Do not get discouraged. You're just minutes away from a mouthful of moderately ok not chocolatey brownies.
Keep an open mind here. I don't think carob actually tastes like chocolate but the health benefits are super and it isn't unpleasant if you uncouple it from the idea that it is a chocolate substitute. Unless you're a dog, it just doesn't compare.
So now that the brownies are in the oven it's time to work on the gooey Carob Date Caramel Topping.
12 medjool dates - pitted (I just slice them open and pull the pit out)
1/4 cup carob powder
3 Tablespoons of collagen peptides
2 Tablespoons of melted coconut oil
Soak the pitted dates in warm water for 10 minutes. I heated filtered water in the microwave for 90 seconds. You want enough to completely cover the dates and soften them.
Strain the dates once they're soft and put all the ingredients in a food processor. (I tried using my nutribullet and it was a definite nope. This is a job for a food processor because there isn't much liquid). Pulse, blend, chop and grind until you have a soft paste. If you really love coconut you could fold in 1/2 cup of toasted coconut at the end
When the brownies come out of the oven plop them out of the pan on a plate to cool and once cooled spread the frosting over the top.
Slice into 16 pieces and store in an air tight container in the fridge. One serving size is 1-2 pieces depending on how much maple sugar and date is appropriate for your specific food journey.
If you want to give it a shot, let me know how it goes by tagging me @gravesco over on Instagram. Let's kabitz about flavors. I'd love to know if you find another flavor or spice combo you love.