Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bake it Happen: Paleo Pumpkin Brownies

Yes, the look decent but read on...
Last night, I was on my way home from work tired and hungry. I’ve had a couple travel days and as a result my office days are packed which isn’t a problem until the end of the day. I knew the boys would be getting home from hockey and they’d need dinner and I also had brownies to bake. My friend Shari started a campaign called Bake it Happen where you bake one of her mother’s recipes and in the process raise money for breast cancer research. One of the recipes is Judy’s pumpkin brownies.I had the tired thought “do I have to do this tonight?” and quickly reminded myself of Shari’s work and Judy’s battle. I was going to bake.

 I would’ve had an easier time if I stuck to Judy’s recipe but no, I insisted on making a gluten free/paleo version. I expressed to Shari my conflict with unhealthy (Minute Made pink lemonade on my recent Delta flight) in the name of disease research. Shari explained she wasn’t looking at things through the lens of healthy she just got such pleasure knowing everyone was making her mom’s recipes. Duh- of course.

Last year I somehow had an easy time Foodtrainers-ifying the banana bread recipe. Things were different this year. On Monday, I gathered a bunch of healthy pumpkin brownie recipes. The boys were off from school and we gave one a whirl. Pumpkin and cocoa and coconut flour, how could it be bad, right? When the consistency and flavor isn’t right, that’s how. The boys gave me the “they’re ok”. So last night was make it or break it. I didn’t have time to experiment so I used this recipe from the jaybird blog

The photos looked beautiful, the comments were positive and I liked the idea of the pumpkin and chocolate being separate.  As I prepared to bake the cocoa powder was on the tippy top shelf on top of a jar of almond flour. Rather than getting the stepladder, I attempted to pull down the almond flour with the cocoa tin on it. Of course there was a massive cocoa spill.  Half laughing, half crying I cleaned the cocoa mess and the cocoa out of the grout of every tile. When I finally got to work I thought about Shari saying no matter what Judy cooked every night. 
Ugly photo, messy counter I didn't have time to food style
I measured and I whisked. I followed the instructions or so I thought. 

When it came time to assemble the 2 batters something was off. I was to layer the chocolate and the pumpkin and “repeat” but I only had enough batter for 1 layer of each.

 I swirled the top with a chopstick (as directed) and felt pretty fancy.

When the brownies came out of the oven the pumpkin layer seemed a little moist. 

Ugh. I let them cool on the drying rack and cut them up. The boys were now asleep but my husband came in from hockey (yes everyone plays) and grabbed a brownie. I asked for his review and received “well I’d eat them”. He’d eat anything. I can’t even blame the recipe because clearly I am the only one who messed it up. Maybe my baking powder (which I never use) is old? Was I not meticulous enough with my measurements? I’m not sure.

You can try these (and let me know) or try Judy’s delicious version. It almost felt like Judy was trying to tell me something. I didn’t know her well but “just stick to my tried and true version” entered my mind.
Any idea where my brownies went wrong? Do you bake? Do you do gluten free or paleo baking?
On another note, earlier this week I saw a friend with advanced cancer and talked about breast cancer awareness month. Her concern was the percentage of funds that actually go to research, toward a cure not just awareness. She told me of an organization called METavivor that focuses on metastatic breast cancer. This is what Judy had and this is what my beautiful friend has as well. Please check out their site and Bake it Happen.


  1. Lauren, I bake a lot and the paleo recipe seems ok. Baking powder has to be replaced every 6 months, otherwise it doesn't work. Organic pumpkin purée (I am guessing that's what you used) is usually very wet and requires more flour. I don't use coconut flour very much, but i do know that it doesn't perform well in moisture heavy recipes. Does that makes sense?almond flour or possibly spelt flour could be better. Hope this helps.

  2. I am only getting started trying to bake with coconut flour (made waffles and they were not that good...I have a brownie recipe I want to try). So I'm by no means an expert here, but looking at the recipe, that's not a lot of coconut flour at all. You typically don't need that much and I wouldn't expect to see more than 1/4 cup or so, given that there are only a couple of eggs in there. But then again, the pumpkin and applesauce are adding a lot of moisture so there's plenty of moisture for the coconut flour to soak up. I think I'd add more next time. Try 1/4 cup and see where that gets you.

    I do love all things baking and I routinely use whole wheat flour instead of white, sometimes almond flour, but coconut flour seems trickier to use. Sometimes if you're having a treat you just have to go all out and have the treat. These "half-baked" desserts are sometimes not as satisfying and leave me wanting more so I'd rather make a real brownie, eat one, and give the rest away and be done with it!

  3. definitely felt wet/I love coc flour for pancakes. Thanks for the tips/thought. I love baked goods with good ingredients (allergic to wheat) really don't eat the real deal but I know what you mean.

  4. ok baking powder has to go...oh ok will try with almond flour, love that too. TY!

  5. Hey Lauren, I'm sorry the recipe didn't work that well! Old baking powder has caused issues with some of my baking attempts so that could be part of it. For the layers, I spread the batter out verrry thin to have enough for two layers of each, and perhaps having the cocoa and pumpkin layers alternating helps spread the moisture throughout the whole pan instead of concentrating it on the pumpkin. These tend to be pretty moist overall, which I really like but is not to everyone's taste.

    Either way the Bake It Happen initiative sounds like an awesome combination of tasty treats and spreading awareness/raising money for cancer research! Whether it's paleo or not it's very cool of you to share and I appreciate the link to my blog as well as hearing your experience.

  6. I have a hard time making gluten free treats as well. A lot of recipes require xanthan gum to help bind the ingredients. I've given up on trying and just head to By the Way Bakery when I'm having a sweet craving. I made Judy's earthquake cookies thought it would be to hard to make adjust them. Since I as was sharing them anyway, they didn't need to meet my dietary restrictions.