Panela is organic dried sugar cane juice, collected by crushing peeled sugar cane in a mill. Used in the place of regular sugar, it worked a treat in this squidgy, cherry and walnut brownie recipe.
Freshly harvested sugar cane is pressed in small Colombian family run farms known as ‘trapiches’, and the juice is cold-filtered, evaporated in a cauldron over a fire using the sugar cane husks as fuel. The liquid is boiled until it produces a thick caramel-like consistency where it’s poured into square block moulds to set. When it’s compact and solid, it becomes an essential kitchen ingredient. Ground into a fine powder it’s convenient for use on porridge, sprinkled on yoghurt and adds a rich, moist texture to baked products.
I compared the Panela with other sugars in the store cupboard, and it did come out on top, having slightly fewer calories and carbs than both granulated white sugar and unrefined dark brown soft cane sugar.
The results were excellent, and while chocolate brownies aren’t a great example of a low-calorie treat, the Panela did a good job where caster sugar was required.
This has walnuts; I know that Nigel Slater says nuts get in the way, but I like the texture. This recipe gives brownies with a thin crust, a centre somewhere between melted chocolate and bog mud, with walnut and cherry pieces for contrast. Making full use of the glut of cherries in season now.
Cherry & Walnut Brownie Recipe
150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
225g Colombian Panela – I used Hasslacher’s
55g cocoa powder
75g plain flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas 4. Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper. Melt the butter and dark chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water or the microwave on a low setting to melt. De-stone the cherries and roughly chop them along with the walnuts. Stir into the melted chocolate. In another bowl, add the sugar, then sift in the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. Add to the melted chocolate mixture and stir well. Beat the eggs and mix in. Transfer the mixture to the tin, then bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool before cutting into squares.