Prunes. Yick. Well, that’s most people’s reactions to them. Including mine. So why have I got three or four tins of them in the cupboard…? And why am I cooking with them…? Well, they were bought about 18 months ago for purely ‘medicinal’ purposes when I was pregnant. I mashed them into rice pudding every evening after dinner and forced them down.  I don’t know what it is about them. I love plums, both raw and cooked. They’re sweet, warm and comforting and are the embodiment of an English garden in late summer. But when they’re turned into prunes, they metamorphose into a cloying and sickly morass of yuckiness.

So why do I have a bowl of them in the fridge…? My 12-month-old son has, over the past week, rejected his early morning milk feed and I’ve had a devil of a job getting enough fluids into him. Predictably enough, he started having trouble in the nappy department so desperate measures were called for. Luckily for me, Thomas eats nearly everything that’s put in front of him, including prunes mashed into custard. Crisis averted. But that left me with a bowl of prunes in the fridge. They’ve been lurking there for the past couple of days, glowering at me every time I open the fridge door, daring me to do something with them. It was at the back of my mind that, if I left them there another couple of days, I’d be justified in throwing them out. But then I thought, “How wasteful – there’s a recession on! I’ll see if I can disguise them in a brownie…” And voilà!
You can’t actually taste the prunes but they enhance the chocolate, giving an almost licorice-like flavour, cut the sugar needed by more than half and add a velvety softness. Great with a cup of cha.

Gluten-free chocolate and prune brownies

Makes 12 brownies
3 medium eggs
95g dark Muscovado sugar
pinch salt
2 tbsp gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
70g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
2 tsp vanilla essence
175g drained and pitted tinned prunes
You will also need a 24cm x 20cm x 4cm brownie tin
Preheat the oven to 150°C (mine’s fan-assisted – presumably conventional ovens would need to be about 160°C). Line the base and sides of the brownie tin with baking parchment. Lightly brush the parchment with oil.
Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl with a hand-held electric whisk for 5 minutes until tripled in volume.
Purée the prunes in a blender or food processor until smooth and add to the mixture. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the bowl. Add the ground almonds and vanilla essence and beat everything until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Cook in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes*. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 20 minutes. Remove from the tin, peel off the parchment and cut into individual brownies.
*I took the brownies out after 25 minutes. I think, next time, I would see what they were doing after 20, just to see if I could get them a bit more squidgey.
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