I’ve tried a lot of vegan brownies which are dry, crumbly or ‘raw’. Sure, there’s a time and a place for healthy alternatives and we can’t just slob around eating sugar-laden baked goods all day, but if I want a brownie and I’m vegan (I’m not I’m just being really selfless…) I want the real thing, not a load of dates and coconut oil. With this not-very-2018 thought in mind, I’ve been attempting to put together a recipe for a completely vegan and gluten free brownie which rivals a conventional dairy/egg based one. The recipe I’ve devised delivers a fudgy core and crisp top, rich flavour and all round delicious result- give it a try, it’s a good place to start with vegan baking.
Ingredients (makes 16 small brownies, or 9 big ones!)
125g smooth peanut butter, plus 50g more for the core and topping
75ml vegetable oil
275g dark chocolate (I used half 60% and half 80%), plus 75g roughly chopped for chocolate chips
large pinch salt
100ml aquafaba (the starchy water you get in a can of chickpeas- you will get about 100ml from one can)
1tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 1tbsp water (this replicates an egg yolk very well!)
100g dark brown soft sugar
100g golden caster sugar
100g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
few chopped peanuts, for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 20x20cm square brownie tin.
Mix together the flaxseed and water at this stage to give it time to thicken an form an egg-yolk consistency. Put the oil, peanut butter and 275g of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Allow the ingredients to melt together, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat to cool to room temperature.
Place the aquafaba in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until soft peaks just form. At this stage add in the flax mixture, sugars and salt (it’s amazing how much this looks like eggs whisked together with sugar!). Whisk again until the sugars are well incorporated then fold in the cooled chocolate mixture with a metal spoon, followed by the flour. Scrape half of the batter into the prepared tin then dot over half of the extra peanut butter and some of the chopped chocolate. Top with the remaining batter and repeat the peanut butter/chocolate stage, then finish with the peanuts (if using).
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until crisp on top but very slightly wobbly in the middle. Leave to cool completely then slice up and serve.
This granola is super easy to make and can be adapted with your choice of nuts and seeds; I particularly like this variety as the cacao nibs add a hint of chocolate which pairs really well with the coconut flavour. If you want to keep it vegan serve this with seasonal fresh fruit, nut butter and coconut yoghurt or enjoy as a sprinkling on top of an Acai bowl.
400g whole oats
75g pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
75g chia seeds (or poppy seeds)
75g hemp seeds (or flax seeds/ sesame seeds)
100g cacao nibs
100g pecans (or brazil nuts/walnuts/hazelnuts)
1tsp mixed spice
175g coconut oil
250g coconut nectar (or agave syrup/honey)
100g coconut shavings
Line a large high sided baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 160c.
Place the oats, nuts, seeds, cacao nibs and spices in a large bowl and stir to combine. Put a saucepan over a medium heat and add the coconut nectar and coconut oil- melt these together and once you have a lump-free liquid remove from the heat.
Pour the melted liquid into the dry ingredients and stir together until everything is evenly coated. Tip this into the prepared tray and spread out then bake for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure the edges don’t catch.
When the granola is almost ready add the coconut shavings and bake for a further 10 minutes- it’s important you add these near the end as they don’t need too long to colour.
Once the granola is golden and has dried out a little, set aside to crisp up and cool then tip into jars and use as required.
This is my first successful foray into the vegan cake world. It’s a space I’ve steered clear of for quite some time, half because I’m not vegan and have had a bit of an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ attitude to baking, and half because I’ve tasted some very cardboard-esque vegan bakes in the past that have put me off.
This cake, however, contains aquafaba (that starchy water you get in a tin of chickpeas) and it’s a real game changer; just whisk it up in a stand mixer and it thickens like egg whites, bringing a great lightness to sponges. It’s worked particularly well in conjunction with banana in this recipe and the resulting sponge is moist, light and delicious- helped along with a few rum soaked raisins and a generous swirl of coconut icing for good measure. As a complete experiment this has worked really well and I hope some of you try it out over the next few weeks, vegan or not.
For the cake
150g mixed raisins and sultanas
4tbsp dark rum
350g self-raising flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1tsp mixed spice
100g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
75g pecans, roughly chopped
125ml aquafaba (i.e. the drained starchy water from a can of chickpeas)
250ml olive oil
4 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
For the icing
3-4 tins coconut cream (I used 160ml tins but if you are buying different sizes just make sure you’ve got roughly 600ml overall)
2-3tbsp icing sugar
juice 1/2 lemon
Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the raisins, sultanas and rum in a bowl and let them soak for 10 minutes (stir occasionally to make sure they’re all plump and well flavoured).
In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mixed spice, both sugars and chopped pecans. Tip the aquafaba into the clean bowl of a stand mixer (alternatively use a handheld electric whisk) and whisk until frothy (about 5-10 minutes). Set aside.
In a large jug mix together the olive oil and mashed banana then add in the thickened aquafaba. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add in the wet. Carefully fold the ingredients together until you have a batter free of flour lumps then stir in the soaked raisins and sultanas along with the rum.
Split the batter evenly between the two prepared cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. At this point pop the coconut cream tins in the freezer (trust me, it makes the cream much easier to separate from the water and makes for a thicker icing).
Once the cakes are baked leave them to cool completely in the tins and move onto the icing. Retrieve the coconut tins from the freezer and scoop out the hardened cream from the tops. Place this in a stand mixer along with 3tbsp coconut liquid (from the bottom of the tin). Whisk with the icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth, thick and lump free (add another tbsp of liquid to loosen if necessary but you shouldn’t need it) then place in the fridge to firm up a little.
Once the cakes are completely cool and the coconut cream has firmed up slightly you’re ready to assemble. To do this just even off the cakes if necessary then spread a generous layer of icing over the first, sandwich on the second and repeat, creating a swirl design on top, if you like.
Garnish with pumpkin seeds, pecans, banana chips and cinnamon.