Preheat oven to 375°C/190°F. Soak dates in hot water, allow to soak while prepping the other ingredients. I soak mine with the pits because it is easier to remove the pits once soaked and soft.
Combine flour, starch, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and whisk to break up clumps. Set aside.
Melt 1 cup chocolate chips with cashew butter using a microwave or double boiler. If using a microwave, be sure to heat in short 10-15 second increments so you avoid burning it. Stir in between heatings to break down large chunks. It took mine a little over 1 minute to melt, but it will depend on your microwave.
Once melted, pour mixture into a blender or food processor (save the bowl you used for later). Add dates (make sure to remove the pits), 1/4 cup of the soaking water, molasses and vanilla.
Blend until smooth. If you have some small chunks of dates that’s okay, it will just contribute to the chewiness. Blend until really smooth if you prefer no chunks.
Add in the flour mixture. Blend again to combine. If your mixture is too thick to blend, you can also mix in a bowl (this is why I save the bowl I used to melt the chocolate). I usually do a little bit of both.
At this point you can either pour the last cup of chocolate chips into the blender or food processor and pulse to combine, or you can do this in a bowl.
Mix the chocolate chips in well. To avoid any chips getting chopped a bit which may happen if you combine in the blender or food processor, use the bowl method.
Pour batter into prepared pan (spray pan with a bit of oil or line with parchment paper) or into a nonstick pan. You can use either a 9 x 9 pan or an 8 x 8 pan for very thick brownies.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Ovens vary so keep a close eye around the 15 minute mark.
They cook more as they cool so make sure NOT to over bake. For fudgier brownies, you want the toothpick to be slightly wet when you test.
Allow to cool completely, at least an hour but the longer the better, and then cut and serve. These brownies get better the longer they set. I tried them the next day and even the day after that and they just got chewier and fudgier.
If you use the optional caramel crunch topping:
Make the caramel while brownies are cooking. Place all ingredients, except cacao nibs, in a small pot. Whisk over medium heat until you get a rolling boil.
Turn heat to medium low, then continue to whisk until slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes.
Once it is done, allow it to cool in the fridge about 15-20 minutes. Once cool, pour on the brownies, then sprinkle the cacao nibs on the top.
You can also pour the caramel on the brownies when hot, then top with cacao nibs and place the entire pan in the fridge to cool. This may have an effect on the texture of the brownies, so keep that in mind.
Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature or the melted chocolate will harden and not mix well.
You can control how sweet these are by the type of chocolate used. For a deep dark flavor, use dark or extra dark chocolate. For a sweet traditional flavor, use regular or semi sweet chocolate.
You can also use another variety of dates, just keep in mind the size and sweetness as compared to Medjool to ensure the same results.
Nutrition facts are for the brownies only. Caramel topping is optional.