These are strange times. I imagine the Covid-19 situation is causing a lot of people to feel anxious or overwhelmed and in need of a little comfort – this is certainly true for me. And while baking might seem like the ideal lock-down activity (indoors, time-consuming, productive, and hopefully with an outcome that is not only edible but delicious), procuring the right ingredients can add another layer of stress that many of us could do without.
So in the moments when I have been able to focus on something other than my inability to get my hands on any flour, I have tried to think of some recipes that use ingredients that you might already have in the cupboard or at least aren’t impossible to get in supermarkets at the moment (no toilet roll burritos I’m afraid). With all of my recipes I will try to include as many different options as possible for alternative ingredients or substitutes.
These blondies are perfect if you’re looking for a quick feel-good treat and, what’s more, they are significantly healthier than traditional blondies; high protein, low carb and with less fat and sugar. I’ve tried to make the recipe as generic as possible so you can use what you have to hand. Even the main ingredient, which is a tin of chickpeas, can be replaced with chickpea flour (also known as gram flour) if you have that instead – the results are a little different, more cake-like but equally delicious. I’ll also provide the measures if you’re using dried chickpeas, although bear in mind that you’ll need to soak them overnight before using.
Chickpeas might sound like a strange ingredient for a blondie recipe, but with the addition of nut butter, syrup and chocolate chips, the result is fudgy, dense and delicious. The sweetness from the syrup is offset by the addition of a little salt and the bitterness of the dark chocolate chips, and there’s a hint of nuttiness from the chickpeas (although thinking about it, it’s mainly from the nut butter). Indulgent, yet basically health food (sort of).
And if you need more convincing my small cousins (aged 11 and 14), who are both deeply suspicious of anything that might be remotely weird or healthy, demolished a whole batch without question.
Not only that, but this recipe is incredibly easy to make – simply bung all of the ingredients in a food processor, minus the chocolate chips, and blitz until smooth. Then stir in the chocolate, scrape into a baking tin and plonk in the oven. And despite being that simple I have still managed to mess it up before (decided to add a banana – did not go well), so you will receive the benefit of me having learned from my mistakes. You’re welcome.
I like to use peanut butter in this recipe – it’s inexpensive, many of us have it in the cupboard and most importantly it tastes amazing. However you could just as easily use almond, hazelnut or cashew butter, and whilst I have’t tried it with sunbutter I can’t see why that wouldn’t also work if you have a nut allergy. Both smooth and chunky nut butter is fine, the only thing I would suggest paying attention to is the added salt. If you have a very salty nut butter you might want to reduce the amount of salt you use in the recipe – e.g. reduce by half and then taste the batter and add a little more if necessary.
Similarly with the syrup, you have a lot of options. I generally use agave syrup – it’s something we usually have in the cupboard and has a fairly neutral sweet flavour. Maple syrup would also be delicious though it’s slightly less sweet so you may wish to add an extra teaspoon or two. Golden syrup is cheap and cheerful and would work just as well, as would brown rice syrup. I’d avoid anything too dark such as treacle or date syrup – these have quite a pronounced flavour and could overpower the other ingredients.
With the chocolate chips the choice is yours! You can use any sort of vegan chocolate – I like 70% dark chocolate but you may have a sweeter (or more bitter!) tooth. I never bother buying actual chocolate chips, though these would also be fine, I just chop whatever chocolate bar I have into rough chunks. This way you can choose your preferred chunk size and the quality of chocolate is invariably better. You could even omit the chocolate entirely – the end result would still be really tasty but I would strongly advise against this due to chocolate being great.
With so many options, hopefully you can find some combination of ingredients that works for you. If you make these I’d love to know how you got on in the comments section below, or you can find me on Instagram @greedybearbakes.
Vegan and Gluten-free Store-cupboard Blondies
- 400g tin of chickpeas (see notes for alternatives)
- 125g smooth or chunky nut butter (peanut / almond / cashew / hazelnut / sunbutter)
- 80ml syrup (agave / golden / maple / brown rice)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 75g vegan chocolate of choice (I use 70% dark chocolate)
- Pre-heat the oven to 170C fan. Grease an 18x18cm baking tin and line the base with baking paper – you could also use an oven-proof dish as long as the surface area is roughly similar.
- Chop your chocolate into chunks, unless using chips, and set aside.
- Measure the remaining ingredients into a food processor and whizz until you get a thick batter.
- Stir in the chocolate then spread over the base of your baking tin.
- Bake for 20–25 mins until the top is lightly browned. Cool in the tin for 10 mins then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- If you are only able to get dried chickpeas then soak 125g in plenty of water overnight, then drain, cover in twice as much water, bring to the boil and simmer for an hour until the chickpeas are soft. Once cool simply follow the recipe as normal.
- With chickpea or gram flour you can use 130g flour with 110ml water in place of the chickpeas. The process is exactly the same although I’d suggest whizzing the dry flour in the food processor by itself before adding the other ingredients to remove any lumps. Just remember that chickpea flour is very bitter until cooked (I learned the hard way) so no tasting the batter beforehand!