Foods We Share: Chewy (Vegan) Brownies!

This recipe was adapted from Lisa's new book, Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating (PM Press).

Brownies are one of the best party desserts around: You can dress them up with fruit, caramel sauce, ice cream, or whatever your favorite topping is. You can bring a platter of them along to a potluck and serve them plain. You can make them for a crowd or put one extra-large one on a plate with whipped cream and two forks.

The secret to great brownies is great chocolate. Buy the best you can afford and you won’t be sorry you splurged. Weighing is better than measuring for flour and cocoa powder, so if you have a scale, use it. If not, cup measurements are also given below.

The Recipe

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (see notes)
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ cup brown rice syrup
  • ¾ cup sucanat or evaporated cane juice
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons soft silken tofu
  • ½ tablespoon prune puree (optional—see notes)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4½ ounces (1 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 1 ounce (¼ cup) cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher (or other semi-coarse) salt (if you have finer salt, use less; coarser, use more)

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate with the canola oil in a double-boiler or a bowl set over a pan of simmering water over low heat. If the bowl used for melting isn’t big enough to accommodate all the ingredients, remove to a large bowl when melted and set aside to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, mix the applesauce, tofu, and prune puree thoroughly; set aside.

Add the rice syrup, sucanat, and vanilla to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.

Mix the tofu/applesauce into the chocolate/sugar.

Mix the flour, cocoa powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add them to the rest of the batter and stir to just to combine.

Pour it all into a parchment-lined or oiled 9-inch square baking pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only crumbs (no wet batter) sticking to it. Cool in the pan, preferably on a rack, for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn it out of the pan to cool completely (also preferably on a rack) before cutting into squares.

Notes:

The chocolate I use is 72% cocoa solids, so this recipe will work best with something as close to that as possible (the percentage affects chocolate flavor but also the amount of sugar and fat in the chocolate, so variations will change the flavor and texture of the finished product).

Make prune puree by mixing equal parts prunes and water into a paste in a blender or food processor. It will keep for at least a year in an airtight jar in the fridge and is great to have around as part of the tofu-applesauce egg replacer in vegan cookies and quickbreads. You can leave it out, but it lends extra binding power and adds just one more shade of chewiness here.

Variations:

  • Spicy brownies: Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon and a scant 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper to the dry ingredients.
  • Orange brownies: Replace the vanilla with orange flower water or orange liqueur (optional). Add the zest of an orange along with the rice syrup and sucanat.
  • Black forest brownies: Replace the vanilla with kirsch (cherry brandy). Stir in ½ cup dried cherries (chopped if they are big) after the flour.
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