A more apt title for this blog post is “My Adventure in Vegan Baking.” While living in Boston a few years ago, one of my roommates spent a great deal of time in the kitchen (she has since graduated from culinary school) and whipped up the occasional vegan baked treat. I was very intrigued by the substitutions, particularly the use of applesauce, to replace eggs and butter. Moist and delicious, vegan baked treats pack more nutritional value than the average box brownie mix. I entered 2012 not only with the goal of beginning a food blog, but also venturing into foreign culinary territory. With the passing of Valentine’s Day–one of the few times out of the year I bake, and with glee–the timing was perfect to visit Vegan Baking Land myself.
Thank you to Munchin with Munckin for the golden ticket to the world of Vegan Baking. I was truly in unknown territory and in need of guidance, and blogger Kris’ Healthy Vegan Red Velvet Brownie recipe provided just that. These brownies, which contain beets, ground flax seed, applesauce, and kidney beans, were a delightful surprise. With a rich red hue and a fudge-like texture, Fabio’s voice spoke softly in my head as I took a bite because I could not believe it was not a brownie! (Well, a brownie in the conventional sense). Several friends served as taste testers for my first batch of vegan baked goodness during the Superbowl, and they emptied the plate.
With a practice round under my belt and a successful trial run, I decided to bake these brownies again for Valentine’s Day, but with several twists. I prefer a thicker brownie, so I doubled the original recipe. I also added dark chocolate, almond extract, and cinnamon to the batter to try out new flavors. Instead of boiling, steaming, or using jarred beets, I roasted fresh ones. Although it tacks on more prep time, I find that roasting beets really adds a deeper dimension of flavor to a dish. (I incorporated my beet roasting tips in the recipe below). The final result of my vegan Valentine experience? A fudgy cinnamon treat…with less guilt. Because the brownies are thicker, the texture was more reminiscent of fudge than brownie. The smell of cinnamon emanated from the oven, and lingered with each bite. My boyfriend was happy with this tasty Valentine’s Day treat, and I didn’t feel guilty eating a brownie for breakfast this morning, either.
Vegan Valentine Brownies
*Adapted from Munchin with Munchkin
1 cup roasted beets (5-6 beets total, depending on size), washed and peeled
2 cups red kidney beans
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup ground flax seed
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
8 tablespoons applesauce
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Dice peeled beets into 1″ pieces and place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Toss beets with a little cooking spray. Do not salt or season. Place another sheet of foil on top of the beets, and crinkle the bottom and top sheets together to form a packet.
3. Roast beets for 40 minutes or until tender and can be pierced with a fork. Remove from packet and set aside in a bowl to cool.
4. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees. Spray 8″ dish with cooking spray.
5. In a food processor, combine kidney beans and beets. Pulse until smooth and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
6. Add remaining ingredients (except for chocolate chips) and combine by hand with a spoon.
7. Fold chocolate chips into batter and pour into dish.
8. Bake for 40-45 minutes. (When you test with a toothpick, there should be a little bit of batter on the toothpick).
9. Cool the brownies completely and then refrigerate for two hours before serving.
10. Slice and garnish with whipped cream (vegan friendly, if you choose) and cinnamon.