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Somewhere in my early twenties, I developed a nightly ice cream habit. While the origin story is no mystery (just blame my boyfriend, who's always got two pints in the freezer), several questions still beg to be answered: how could this sweet tooth come so intensely from out of nowhere? Do I really need to indulge it every night? And why do I come back for more even when it makes my stomach bloated and upset?
I'm no sociologist, so those answers still elude me, but the reality is that my cravings for sweet treats always trump my knowledge of their after-effects. Whether I'll feel gross or not, you can always find me reaching for that dessert spoon. Which is why dalci, a new brand of gut-friendly brownies that uses ingredients with naturally occurring digestive enzymes, is such a game changer for me.
Unlike a traditional brownie, dalci is completely free of the preservatives, refined oils, and sugar alcohols that immediately come back to haunt the dessert fan. By sticking to clean ingredients and providing dairy- and gluten-free products, dalci’s flipped the script on sweets.
FOOD IS FUNCTIONAL
For founder Najwa Khan, that's how desserts -- like all food -- should be. Growing up in a Moroccan-Bengali household, she was exposed to many foods that, beyond providing a delicious eating experience, also had naturally healing properties. Unfortunately the same can rarely be said for mass-market, processed meals. Her experiences dealing with the stomach issues (constipation, IBS, bloating, even hormonal imbalances) that arose from eating commercial snacks led her to seek an alternative.
Why couldn't she indulge in a dessert without completely undoing her clean eating regimen? Did a bite of brownie really need to leave her feeling out of whack the entire next day? According to everything Khan could find in the supermarket, chock-full of artificial stabilizers and sweeteners, the answer was yes. Which led her to develop a solution of her own.
THE SUM OF ITS PARTS
dalci's approach to ingredients, even for a foodie like me, is genuinely informative. It's easy to be vague around the idea of what's "healthy," but the brand’s lineup transcends the empty buzzwords. For example:
- dalci uses avocado oil not just because it's low in saturated fat, but because it's also rich in lipase, which aids digestion.
- The prebiotics and probiotics that naturally occur in coconut sugar means that it actively promotes gut health instead of sabotaging it.
- Lemon, a bright addition to any baked good, reduces inflammation and acts as an antioxidant, while also providing potassium and vitamin C.
- Even dalci’s spice blend rolls up its sleeves, with cinnamon neutralizing free radicals.
Everything is deeply intentional, from the ethical fair-trade dark chocolate to the Granny Smith apples that feed healthy bacteria in your gut.
But let's be honest: at the end of the day, it still all comes down to taste. Rarely do we eat desserts to feel virtuous and healthful; we eat them for instant gratification. Intrigued as I was, I went into my first bite of dalci with a healthy amount of skepticism -- and what I found surprised me.
BITE BY BITE
To really get the lowdown on dalci, I was determined to try every flavor. Luckily, the 6-brownie variety pack ($17.99) includes all four varieties -- Almond Butter and Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Apple Spice and Lemon Coconut. The sunny pink box is sleek and attractive, proudly advertising what's not in dalci (refined sugars, GMO products) along with what is (prebiotics and probiotics, the central heroes of gut health.)
The back of the box addressed another concern of mine: The Gooeyness QuotientTM. While brownie fanatics have waged the center-piece-vs.-corner-piece debate through the ages, everyone can agree that a slightly gooey, just underbaked brownie is where it's at. Unfortunately for pre-packaged brownies, this is where home bakers have the edge -- but dalci has a solution. On each package I saw the suggestion to pop them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to get a warm, gooey center. And you don't have to tell me twice.
Armed with my marching orders and an arsenal of flavors, it was time to let the taste test begin. Here are my two cents, in order of deliciousness:
While a perfectly nice bite, for my money, the Lemon Coconut flavor needs a bigger punch of both. Most lemon desserts play it safe, but what I love more than anything is that bracing bite of sharp, sour lemon zest that cuts against the sweetness. Dialing up that citrus, and bringing in even more creamy coconut, would make this one a home run.
A pretty great dessert. Friends of mine with IBS looked at me like a visiting prince when I handed this baby over. The almond butter in particular lent itself to that microwaved gooeyness, and the only reason this isn't higher on my list is that the chocolate chips left me wanting more chocolate taste overall. Once I saw this was technically a blondie, not a brownie, it made sense… but the heart wants what it wants.
2. Apple Spice
A real dark horse, not gonna lie! Of all four flavors, Apple Spice was the one that had caught my eye the least, but here's where the quality of the ingredients truly shine. The apple taste is so fresh, so complex, with the spice blend playing off of it to replicate something sweetly home-made. By elevating flavors that we've come to know in muted, mass-produced alternatives, dalci throws down the gauntlet with this one.
If it's not as revelatory as an Apple Spice blondie, dalci's Dark Chocolate brownie is even more impressive. This is a dessert that's meant to be decadent and indulgent -- aka terrible for you -- but dalci captures the pleasure of a brownie with none of the downside. As the brand promises in its ads, there's "no hint of compromise," which is a pretty mean feat when you know what's in a regular brownie. This is the target dalci needed to hit, and the brand got it right on the money.
dalci captures the pleasure of a brownie with none of the downside. As the brand promises in its ads, there's "no hint of compromise," which is a pretty mean feat when you know what's in a regular brownie.
The icing on the cake (so to speak)? Not once, after tasting any of the four flavors, did my stomach bloat, churn, or feel out of sorts in any way. I was able to carry on with my life, pleasantly sated, with no gut bomb to contend with. While I might not have boycotted the ice cream aisle just yet, dalci has opened my eyes to how healthy desserts can make us feel -- nourished instead of invaded. And with a sweet tooth like mine, that's a lot to be thankful for.
5 MORE REASONS TO LOVE DALCI:
- Not only are dalci products free of unhealthy ingredients, they're also baked in small batches by artisanal bakers.
- While these brownies are friendly to gluten- and dairy-free diets, they're also perfect for anyone who wants to eat food tailored to feeling their best.
- Dr. Will Cole, a leading functional medicine expert and author of the New York Times bestselling book Intuitive Fasting, is a fan of dalci because each ingredient promotes bodily health.
- Dessert for breakfast? Not as radical as it sounds. Because dalci doesn't weigh you down, the Apple Spice blondie in particular is a great choice for a morning bite, with warming flavors and a lift from the natural fruit sugars.
- Unlike their homemade counterpart, dalci brownies last for 20 days at room temperature, up to 2 months in the fridge, and up to 6 months in the freezer. That's a lot of shelf life.