Friday, September 27, 2013

Best Brownies Ever

Making vegan brownies is tough. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. Next to making or eating vegan cheese, making vegan brownies is the toughest part about vegan food-ing.

Most vegan brownies crumble, or they fail to fully cook. They sog, they lack flavor and texture -- and conviction. But, today, all of that is about to change.

Because today, my friends, I am going to provide you with 2 things that will change your vegan brownie world as you have always known it. Today, I will provide you with both a recipe, and a tip that will save your vegan brownies' lives.

Actually, first I will share the tip:

Always allow your vegan brownies to completely, fully cool after baking -- and always refrigerate your vegan brownies.

That's it.

While they're cooling, they're still "gelling." The vegan brownie in its purest, post-birth form is still half-formed, living on the edge between existence and non-existence. Like Schrodinger's cat, it seems it can be both edible and solid -- until you go in for the kill. And then you discover whether all your vegan brownie fairy tale dreams will come true.

But, if you cool them and refrigerate them, I can guarantee that they will.

Regarding the recipe: Mmm. Seriously, these brownies are so good, your non-veg friends will be crying, sobbing for the recipe. I took 40 of these suckers -- because this recipe delivers on its brownie-count -- to a medium-sized social event function after my very first experiment with them, and all of them were gone. I had also brought my best chocolate-chip cookies and peanut butter cookies, but these were gone.

Also, my mom, who doesn't believe in vegan brownies due to their repeated failures throughout her many faithful attempts, is now a believer. Big win.

These brownies come from the Love Food Eat blog and I will basically be repeating, verbatim, every thing the original baker and poster said about these things, because she got them perfect. Okay, slight lie, because I subbed some regular flour instead of using all whole wheat, and also I took out 1/4 of the sugar. I like them less sweet. I have pretty much nothing to add, except for my own less-impressive pictures.

And now, on to the good stuff. 

Best Vegan Brownies Ever

Serves: a million.

½ Cup over ripe banana mashed well -- basically 1 banana (can be frozen and thawed)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Cup regular flour
1 ¼ Cups of whole wheat flour
1 ½ Cups brown sugar
1 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ Cup olive oil
1 ½ Cups water
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ Cup chocolate chips

Start by thawing your frozen banana if you've frozen it. Once your banana is ready to be handled by the living (i.e. those who cannot touch frost-caked banana peel), deposit its innards into a large bowl. Now mash that sucker. No lumps, no regrets. You want to create nice, smooth, beaten-egg-consistency banana. Good! You've done well.

Now, add in your baking soda and salt and stir it all up so that there are still no more lumps. It's now time to add your flours, sugar and cocoa powder. Once you've mixed your banana-dry ingredients concoction well, add in everything else except for the chocolate chips. Mix your dough until it resembles a smooth paste (no lumps), but don't over-beat.

Fold in your chocolate chips.

Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit (170 Celsius). Pour the batter into a large greased (with olive oil) and dusted (with whole wheat flour) baking pan. The pan should be rectangular-shaped, around 9" x 13". Bake your brownies for about 20-40 minutes or till the top looks cooked. You can bake them until a toothpick or sharp knife comes out clean and the top of the brownies is firm, or you can leave them slightly undercooked for a gooey, fudgier brownie.

(Gooey is good. Just make sure you really let them cool.)

Remember that the brownies will still continue to cook inside the hot pan after you remove them from the oven. So don't over-cook them before you take them out!!!! That's a biggie.

Okay! Now you sit back, bite your lips and wait. And then, when they're ready, the brownies will rock your world.

(more pictures to come. I was hungry and ate them greedily. Not the pictures, the finished brownies)
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Vegan Burgers with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans!

**Warning! This recipe requires refrigerating your veggie burger dough prior to baking. Make sure you account for that time! I um, almost did not. It led to a very, very late dinner and a very unhappy family... until they tasted these little treats, after which their prior grumbliness faded away like vegan truffles on a hungry tongue!


To begin: I took forever to finally make this recipe. When first I began researching food processors, I stumbled upon an Amazon review that claimed something like: this made making vegan burgers a breeze!

And I thought "... vegan burgers? in a FOOD PROCESSOR?"

The idea stuck, but then I never did anything with it.

Until now! Buoyed by my delicious successes with tofu-alfredo sauce, I thought I'd raise the stakes. Vegan burgers. That even my family would love. So I threw out the question: did anyone have any special requests? The response I received was: yes! Sweet potatoes, please! Luckily I happened to be just then reading a post by Cookie + Kate on sweet potato-based black bean burgers, adapted from the Cafe Flora cookbook.

These are good.

My family loved them. They craved them. They ate the leftovers, even though I'm pretty much the only one in the house who eats leftovers.

Some caveats, though: I did not follow the previous cook's instructions, because I am lazy and don't like following instructions. Also, she did not want me to food process all the ingredients. To which I innerly responded: "How DARE you!" I'd started this game with the intention of using my new nifty machine. I did not care what ingredients were required, so long as they were vegan and could be stuffed into a 10-cup bowl. And I just happened to now be roped into making the one recipe that didn't want my 10-cup bowl.

So I did it my way, with a contented inner battle cry of: "Ah-ha! Take that!"

It turned out that doing things my way significantly altered the texture of the recipe, but so be it. If you'd prefer to mash your burgers the intelligent and possibly tastier way, you may follow the link I have posted here and above. However, if you prefer to live life on the wild side and throw both caution and sanity to the wind... then, my friends, I have the recipe that was made just for you:

Food-Processed Vegan Burgers with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans!

Makes 10 -12 burgers (half-inch think)

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (3 smallish potatoes)
1/3 cup quinoa or brown rice
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained (or 2 cups cooked)
1/2 small red onion, rougly chopped
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt

hamburger buns
lettuce, tomato, onion
saucy condiments

Begin by roasting the sweet potatoes. Preheat your oven to 375 Fahrenheit (190 Celsius). While the oven is heating, slice your sweet potatoes lengthwise and place the cut sides down on a tin-foil lined baking or roasting pan. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until they are gentle and pliable. 

Meanwhile, cook your rice (or quinoa or couscous, etc.). Bring 1 cup of water to boil and then stir in your grains. Reduce heat and leave your grains to simmer, covered, for about 20 - 30 minutes. Once finished, drain any excess water. Your sweet potatoes should now be finished, too. You can now choose to either pull of the skin and coarsely chop your potatoes (once cooled, of course!), or to chop with the skins on.

(I always keep the skins on. Very healthy! Also, you'll never taste them once you've food processed them. And even when I pull off the skins, I just snack on them while I continue to cook/bake away...)

Leave your sweet potatoes and quinoa / rice to finish cooling completely.

Now: take out ye olde food processor and set 'er up. Grind them oats coarsely -- don't make it too fine. Pour your oats out into a large bowl and add your freshly cooked-and-cooled grains and set aside.

Now, back in your food processing bowl, add your rinsed black beans, onion, cilantro, spices and salt. Top it all off with your freshly baked-and-cooled sweet potatoes (or you can put those in with your oats and set aside for now). Blend those suckers. Make sure they're good and incorporated, and then stop. Don't over-do it. Dump out your mixture into your oats and quinoa bowl and mix it all up with your hands or a spoon. (It's sticky -- just a warning).

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Now, preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius). Grease the large baking or roasting pan you used earlier for the sweet potatoes (don't use the tin foil again -- the burgers will stick mercilessly). Take out your dough and start shaping it into patties. Bake your patties in the roasting pan for 15 - 20 minutes on each side, for a total of 30 - 40 minutes.

You can try panfrying, but beware the soggy middle of the burger.

Now load 'em up and get eating! Yum! Hooray! Vegan burgers in a food processor!!!

Hope you like :)

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