Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In Synch: These Fudge Brownies Are Perfect For Cinco de Mayo AND Vegan Tuesday

I know, I know. You're going to look at the photo immediately to the right of this text and ask, "Pfft, who are you to judge? You just take pictures of the food you make with your phone." To that accusation I would have to plead, as the Great Dewey Cox once sang, "Guilty as charged." But, I would also have to add that I'm not a professional food stylist, nor am I in the food packaging business. The manufacturers of the box housing the product that I'm about to criticize, however, are. And if it weren't for trusting Lon's judgement on this, I never would've used said product, and I might still be waiting for these vegan fudge brownies to set. So, what's the offending party? The artwork on the front of the box containing the egg substitute that I used. After all, I had to ensure that these brownies could be both Vegan Tuesday and Cinco de Mayo compliant. 

If I hadn't seen the Ener-G Egg Replacer - the egg substitute in question - being pulled from a grocery store bag with my own eyes just a few months ago, I would've sworn that it was an artifact left behind when our kitchen was renovated the first time. In 1968. Oddly outdated, and even vaguely foreign looking, the box of Ener-G Egg Replacer that Lon purchased earlier this year looked like something that had sat neglected and covered in dust on the top shelf in a kosher butcher shop; the kinda place that my sister-in-law Amy describes as "having sawdust all over the floor and an 80 year old man behind the meat case who says to the 60 year old woman in line, 'And what can I get for you today, young lady?'"

As I've ventured into vegan territory for over a year now, one of the things I have often noted is how the products themselves don't look very appetizing or appealing. Maybe it's because we don't have any idea of what some vegan foods are supposed to look like? I don't know. But aside from the dishes they're displayed in, I can't tell one food apart from the other on the front of the Ener-G box. The ice cream, the veggie dip, the custards? All the same color.

But as we all know, don't judge a box or anything else by its cover. And while I had my doubts about using this egg substitute in my vegan brownie recipe, I gotta tell you: The results were amazing. The flavor and texture of these fudge brownies could fool any carnivore. You would never know they weren't laden with beaten eggs, butter and cream. 

I'll leave the rest of my yammering to the NOTES section of this recipe. The recipe below was hacked from a fudge brownie recipe that Lon found, actually, on Martha Stewart's Whole Living web site. Since it already has an unconventional ingredient - as you will soon see - it was already destined to have a different texture, if not taste, but again, the surprise was solely mine. 

I devised this recipe when I realized that Cinco de Mayo was falling on a Tuesday, and since I've been keeping, and writing about, Vegan Tuesday since January of 2008, I had to find a vegan alternative for what I planned to eat today. So the vegan aspects of the recipe will be obvious, as will the inspirations of the Mexican table. I spiced these up with a light addition of cinnamon, cayenne, and almond extract. I never got around to making the avocado cream for them though. Maybe later this afternoon. 

Hit me up if you have any questions, I need to get to the recipe as my posts keep getting longer and longer and... well, longer. 

Vegan Fudge Brownies for Cinco de Mayo
For the brownies.... 
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (make sure it stresses "no animal products") and more for the pan
2/3 cup unsweetened, natural cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour (you can use almond flour in this but be prepared as it might be gritty)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne (if you want to rely on a pinch, go ahead, a little goes a long way here.)
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup sweet potato puree (see NOTES below)
2 TBS prepared Ener-G Egg Replacer (see NOTES below)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract 

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Rub sides of square 8 inch baking pan with vegetable shortening.
2. Melt 1/4 vegetable shortening over medium heat. Remove from heat, stir the cocoa powder in. Mix well. Set aside. It will get very thick and clumpy but that will be addressed below. 
3. Measure egg substitute according to package directions. Set aside. (I made a double batch because I wasn't sure how it was going to produce once mixed. I only added the equivalent of one egg, though.)
4. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cayenne and salt to a large bowl. (I dump all of the dry items into a large strainer and tap them through the sieve, into my mixing bowl. I find this works similar to sifting and disperses dry ingredients more thoroughly than whisking alone.) Whisk to mix further.
5. Mix sugar into pureed sweet potato mix. Add egg substitute. Stir well. 
6. Add vanilla and almond extracts to cocoa mix. Stir well with a fork. If it still seems to clumpy try adding warm - not hot and not cold - water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Mix thoroughly before adding more liquid. This will smooth out. 
7. Combine sweetened potato puree to cocoa mixture. Stir well. 
8. Combine this potato/ cocoa mixture to flour mixture. Stir well. Try to break up any lumps of flour. Using a wide rubber spatula - one that you might want to coat lightly with canola oil first - scoop batter into baking pan. Spread top as evenly as possible. Bake in oven about 20 minutes but start keeping an eye on them at 17 minutes. Insert toothpick to make sure it's coming out almost entirely free of mix. I had to leave these in for about 22 minutes total. Half way through the baking I noticed that the vegetable shortening was lightly pooling on top of the brownies. I smoothed these out, carefully, with my fingers. They got absorbed back into surface. Allow to cool for at least twenty minutes. They will be very dense and moist. Cut, carefully, into squares, then refrigerate. I found that keeping them cold balanced out the cayenne flavoring very well. 
NOTES: For the sweet potato puree, I bought three small sweet potatoes, peeled them, cubed them and par-boiled them. I gave them a whir in the food processor, and voila, sweet potato puree. They help keep the fat content low while keeping the brownies moist. A word about the egg replacer. It is plant-based, and its active ingredient comes from cellulose. It has the very ability to bind and expand when its hot but melt when its cool. So when you're mixing the powder, use warm water for best results and don't let it sit around. I also wasn't sure how the egg substitute was going to work so I doubled the baking powder. The original recipe only called for 1/4 tsp. I added 1/2 and it was fine. As for the cayenne, add as much, or as little, as your tastes prefer. I could see these brownies making an excellent Cinco de Mayo dessert with ice cream - but since the holiday falls on Vegan Tuesday this year, I won't be serving it that way. Maybe next year....? Feedback is appreciated, as always. 

1 comment:

Charles G Thompson said...

Brownies (or anything with chocolate) are a favorite. Always good to have another brownie recipe for the arsenal. Hope they were a big Cinco de Mayo hit!