Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

Brownies, a Failure

vegan brownie failure 1Once, I had a good vegan brownie. Once. It was my friend Megan’s birthday, and a bunch of ladies met at the Peninsula for high tea. The vegan offerings, while extremely appreciated in such a traditional setting, were hit or miss. The hits: tiny lemon-poppy-seed muffin tops, cranberry-chutney-and-arugula sandwiches, mushroom stacks with pesto. The misses: peanut butter muffins that tasted like freezer burn, under ripe strawberries covered in crunchy unremarkable chocolate, and anything involving tofu (watery parfaits, grainy cheesecake). But the brownies saved it all (well, those and the champagne). They were dense, moist, fudgy, with a crispy top, studded with tiny walnut bits. They were real brownies. They were everything a brownie should be, vegan or not.

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See, the problem (or I guess I should say problems) with vegan brownies is that the name usually holds no weight. They’re not brownies. They’re flat chocolate cake, too moist and fluffy. Or they’re square chocolate cookies, too dry and crumbly. They never seem to achieve that balance of gooey and firm, resisting and melty.

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So I decided, screw it, I’ll skip all of those inferior vegan brownie recipes and take my chances with a solid-sounding traditional one. Armed with Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet and a bar of Scharffen Berger 99% cacao unsweetened chocolate, I headed to the kitchen. For the seemingly manageable two eggs, I subbed some extra gooey flax goop and a bit of soy yogurt. I melted the chocolate with an unseemly amount of Earth Balance. I dutifully pre-toasted the walnuts. And everything seemed to be going well. The batter looked thick and fudgy and tasted amazing. But that’s when my luck ran out. The oven did little to turn my promising batter into the brownie perfection I was hoping for. It baked for the recommended thirty minutes. Definitely not brownies yet. That’s fine; vegan baked goods always seem to take a bit longer than their egg-laden counterparts. In they stayed for the additional five minutes the recipe said might be necessary. Hmmm. Is that a layer of wet, bubbly fat resting on top of the deep brown still-not-brownies? Another ten minutes. And another. And perhaps another. But then I gave up. By now I had a heavy chocolate brick, unappealingly caramelized on the bottom, covered in melted, unabsorbed margarine on the top.

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Maybe I’ll eventually overcome this utter baking disaster and go on to discover the perfect vegan brownie recipe, but it may be easier to set my sights on becoming a lady who lunches so I can spend many more afternoons sipping earl grey and nibbling on pastries at the Peninsula.

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Dandies Dessert Pizza

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I always try to come up with something interesting when we have friends over for pizza, but sometimes I get stuck in a mushroom-olive-spinach rut. Luckily tonight we had some leftover dough and a fresh shipment of (new extra-puffy) Dandies vegan marshmallows on the counter and Dan suggested that we put them together. Ryan, the Dandies maker himself, was resistant to the idea, preferring to gorge on Teese-piled pies, but by the time the dessert pizza was out of the oven he admitted, into the video camera even, that he was wrong and what was in front of him was nothing short of genius. And I think Dan—who insisted I put chocolate only on half the pie, decrying the combination of strawberries and chocolate as “sex food”—realized the error in his thinking as well.

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Dandies Dessert Pizza

1 batch pizza dough

1 cup frozen strawberries

scant 1/4 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for sprinkling edge

1 Tbsp cornstarch

enough Dandies to scatter over dough

coarsely chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips)

1 Tbsp or so agave nectar or simple syrup

Preheat oven to 550.

Puree strawberries in blender until smooth. Add a splash or two of soy milk if needed to get it going. Sift in powdered sugar and cornstarch and transfer to a small saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring continuously, until the sauce thickens.

Prepare your pizza dough and spread with strawberry sauce. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the outside edge of the crust is just beginning to get a little golden.

Heat broiler to high. Scatter Dandies onto pizza and place under broiler. Broil until marshmallows begin to brown, then scatter on chocolate and continue to broil until marshmallows are puffy and toasted, chocolate is melted, and outer rim of crust is crispy, but watch it closely so nothing burns.

Thin agave with a touch of water (simple syrup should be good as is) and bush on edge of crust. Sift a bit more powdered sugar on top of the agave-glazed crust.

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