Vegan Walnut Brownies

Chocolate brownies with coffee and walnuts

I have made several types of brownies during the last six months as Jr.H is fond of them and after she became allergic I felt sad that she could not have them. One doesn't need a reason to make brownies just as one does not need a reason to indulge. I am sure you caught that! These brownies are an indulgence and though healthier than a regular brownie, it is definitely not low calorie. Though I say this myself, I know my brownies are very good! Not that I am being arrogant, but I do have a sense of pride in them. The realization came because the brownies I make are generally loved by friends and they generally ask me to make it whenever we meet. These are also certified as decadent and very tasty by my 'lunch group' friends. So, be it an anniversary, a birthday party or a potluck, one thing I confidently volunteer to make are brownies - nut-free, soy-free, gluten free or any other kind.

Recently my daughter asked me why I haven't posted the recipe despite the fact that I make them often, and that I have shot many pictures of them. Just happens that I had never measured the ingredients earlier. I have been told, and read this over and over that baking is an exact science, but being an experimental learner, I still haven't let that part sink in! I have been baking mostly by feel. I measure 'fistfuls' instead of cups, add a generous or small pinch of this and that rather than teaspoons and feel the batter's consistency instead of going by the amount of wet and dry ingredients. Consequently, most of the bakes hardly make it to the blog, considering that not everyone's fist measures the same as mine, and what I mean by a 'pinch' may not make sense to any one else.

This week I have been at home as my son is having his final examinations and he feels good if I stay at home during this period. I felt proud thinking he liked the way I taught him until he said, "Mummy, it is good you are staying at home." This is the point where I smiled endearingly and self-indulgently! Just then he continued, "Exam time makes me very hungry all the time. You will make some nice snacks every day, won't you?" The balloon burst! But we all know how kids are. They do not mince words and do not camouflage their sentiments. It was my son's way of saying he loved my cooking, or so I assume!

Baking various cakes, savoury and sweet has become a daily affair ever since he said that. This time, I paused, measured and wrote down the amounts of flour, sugar, chocolate etc., that I use, and I discovered that if I made the same thing a day or two later without measuring, the texture if not the taste, did change. Something I had not cared about earlier while making brownies. I am now convinced that baking is definitely an exact science! If the flour exceeds, the brownies become dry, and sort of sticky if the liquid ingredients do not measure right. It is just that I kept adjusting the quantities whenever I made these before, because I knew what was less. I am glad I didn't post the recipe earlier!

I came to know about brownies fairly recently, about 10-12 years back. Before that these weren't all that famous, and all I knew were brownies that pranced around with pixies in Enid Blytons and most brownies were mean or lazy!

The recipe I am sharing today is not for people with allergies to gluten and nuts, although vegan. Even my hardcore non-vegetarian friends like these better and ask for the recipe, so I guess it is as good, if not better than those made with eggs! You can adapt the recipe to make whichever flavour you like. Use fresh, naturally sweet orange juice (not canned, not tetra packed) instead of coffee, macadamia or hazelnuts instead of walnuts and a dash of cinnamon if you fancy the spice.

The product itself is soft, very chocolate-y, has a mild hint of coffee (which I add in brownies to ever since I gave up the beverage), cake-like and yet very moist. Do try them and let me know whether my friends are right that this is indeed a great recipe.

Many readers had written in or commented that I use coconut milk a great deal and that they find it difficult to make their own, especially those who like me will not use the canned versions. I have tried to minimise the effort here. The change surprisingly is even better and the idea has come to stay in this blog and you will find it being used more often.

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Chocolate brownies - deeply chocolatey with a dollop of cream!

Dish: Chocolate brownies with coffee and walnuts

Yield: 12 large pieces
Baking time: 20-25 minutes
Note: Indian cup sizes measure 20% less than American cup sizes.

For batter:

Dry ingredients:
Sorghum flour (Jowar) - 1/3 cup
All purpose flour (Maida) - 1/3 cup
Cornstarch / Arrowroot powder - 2 tbsps.
Instant coffee powder - 1.5 tsp. (increase by 1/2 tsp. if you like a strong flavour)
Baking powder - 3/4 tsp.
Salt - a small pinch
Granulated sugar - 1/2 cup (that is because my bakes are always less sweeter than others! - Add 1/4 cup more if you like your cakes sweet)
Walnuts, roughly chopped - 1/3 cup + 2 tbsps.

Wet ingredients:
Neutral flavoured oil (I used sunflower) - 1/3 + 3 tbsps.
1 medium sized tender coconut:
Water should be about 2/3 cups and the white portion should be soft and tender and measure 1/2 cup loosely packed
Water - about 1/3 cup or more if needed.
Dark chocolate, shaved/grated/roughly chopped - 175g (75g + 100g)

Dark chocolate and whipped cream (optional)


Measure dry ingredients and aerate the flour by running briefly in a mixer for a minute. This also ensures uniform blending.

Drain water from tender coconut and scoop out the white portion. Measure as needed and eat the rest as it is. Chop the measured coconut white roughly.

Melt 100g of dark chocolate in a double boiler or microwave in spurts for a minute. Mix well.

Run the oil, coconut water and coconut in a mixer till well blended and the coconut pieces are almost ground. A few small chunks are fine as they add texture.

The result will be an emulsion. Pour into a bowl and mix the melted dark chocolate to this.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well till you get a pourable batter. The batter should not be hard. If needed add water by tablespoons. Add the rest of the chopped chocolate. Mix once again to distribute the pieces evenly. The batter should not be too thin, should be like regular cake batter.

Pour into a prepared 8x4" jelly pan. I find a jelly pan better than a cake tin as brownies are not meant to rise like a cake. A jelly pan ensures that your brownies, however fudgy or soft, do not break when they are turned over.

Pre-heat oven to 160 deg. C and bake for 20-25 minutes. Check after first 20 minutes. The top should not be sticky and a toothpick inserted in the corners will come out clean but in the center will come out with a few minute crumbs. Please note that ovens are different. Some ovens need a higher temperature and more cooking. If you have burn points in your oven, change the position of the tin by 180 degrees to ensure even cooking and prevent burning.

Let cool for ten minutes before turning out. If you are skeptical about the brownies breaking up, cut into pieces in the pan itself.

These are very soft and crumbly, but hold their shape in hand. They absolutely melt in the mouth and taste best served warm, with a dollop of whipped vegan cream. I believe that the fudgy texture is because of the use of gluten free flours.

I melted some dark chocolate and added cream making a ganache and applied it on one piece for my son but he felt it was chocolate overdose. So I had to pipe more cream on top to neutralize the overdose!

If you love chocolate maybe you should try the ganache!

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The vegan whipped cream I used this time was a new one for me. It is called tropolite and is ready vegan whipped cream made with vegetable oil. It appears to be soy-free but I need a confirmation from the manufacturers for that. I found this at Arife's in Crawford Market. I also felt that the texture and taste was much better than Rich non-dairy cream. Tropolite non-dairy cream is available in smaller packages than Rich which works well for me!

This brownie has the softness of chocolate, the richness of coffee and the crunch of walnuts! I loved the batter as well. Cleaning up the bowl with my finger was a nice experience, as well as scraping the bits that stuck to the pan!

The batter is your canvas! Fill it up with what ever fancies you - berries or nuts.

Hazelnut chocolate brownies
Hazelnuts with chocolates instead of walnuts
The tender coconut blended with coconut white makes an easy substitution for coconut milk and I found that it is a great substitute for egg. I have used this in making savoury cakes as well and even the gluten free version comes out as soft as the one made with all purpose flour. If you do not have access to tender coconut use your preferred choice of vegan milk. You can choose from rice milk, soy milk, nut milk, hemp milk or my favourite - coconut milk. You will require about 3/4 cup of the substitute.

I made a gluten free, nut-free version for my daughter that I will post later.

Long back I had tried a vegan cheesecake brownie adapted from David Lebovitz. Cheese or not, it definitely was a winner!

This recipe has been tried by Zwieselchen. The entire blog post can be found at Du bist der Fruhling.

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