Vegans, it’s time to show you some of this chocolate & caramel lovin’ I’ve been giving to everyone else. Caramel has got to be one of the the things vegans miss the most, so when we had our friends Jay and Kurt over for dinner, I decided to give vegan caramel a shot. My first attempt was an almond milk disaster that hardened into the bottom of my Pyrex measuring cup and had to be throw out… Pyrex and all. So I was a wary but hopeful with my second attempt, which involved coconut milk.
Hopeful because if there is anything I have learned, it’s that coconut is a vegan godsend. I use coconut milk for ganache in place of heavy cream if I want coconut flavor or to make it vegan. I also have used coconut oil in place of butter in crusts and to make a chocolate shell type drizzle. As far as I’m concerned, coconut is the great unifier of omnivores and vegans. Except those wackos in either category who don’t like coconut. What’s up with those people?
I turned to The Joy of Vegan Baking for the brownie recipe. And because I wanted some gigantosaurus brownies, I doubled it and put it in a 13×9 pan. They. are. massive. Hallelujah. I mean, I guess you could cut them smaller. In fact, I did cut them smaller when I served them after dinner, because I didn’t want to be judged for serving humongous brownie slabs. I mean, the fact that the smaller servings afforded me more leftovers had no influence whatsoever.
So the original recipe calls for chocolate chips, but my chocolate chip supply was dangerously low. Not low enough to set off the very high-tech chocolate chip emergency siren I had installed, but still pretty low. So instead, I chopped up my Scharffen Berger dark chocolate and put that in there. Because there is no dairy diluting the batter, the dark chocolate is strong. The melted chocolate permeates the dough and makes these super fudgy, which I happen to like.
I took some leftover brownies (sans caramel) to my parents that weekend. My dad scrunched up his nose and said, “These taste like dark chocolate.” So, um, mission accomplished? My dad is more of a milk chocolate guy, and traditional brownies get closer to that milk chocolate taste because they have butter in the batter. I had just finished explaining how to make vegan buttermilk to him, so he said, “Can’t you just put some of that buttermilk in it?” Yes, Dad, because in vegan baking anything can be substituted for anything else. In place of butter you can also use: raw sewage, a handful of nails, or turnips.
Due to the fact that this recipe uses applesauce in place of butter or oil, there is a slight fruity undertone to the brownies, but it’s not overwhelming. You probably won’t even notice once you’re shoveling this fudgy, sticky dessert down your gullet and thinking of how animal-friendly you are.
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Cake Magic
- 3 cups (600 grams) granulated sugar
- 1½ cups unsweetened applesauce
- ¼ cup water plus 1 cup water
- 4 teaspoons ground flaxseed
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2⅔ cups (320 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups finely chopped dark chocolate
- 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- Chopped, toasted pecans for topping (optional)
- [Before starting, refrigerate the whole can of coconut milk for the caramel for at least 4 hours so that the cream separates from the water. Do not shake the can.]
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush a 13x9 baking pan with Cake Magic. (Alternately, grease the pan with shortening, then flour the pan.)
- In a large bowl, mix together sugar, applesauce, and ¼ cup water. In a blender, blend together remaining 1 cup of water and flaxseed until foamy. Add flaxseed mixture and vanilla extract to the applesauce mixture. Stir to combine.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate and pecans.
- Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist clumpy bits clinging to it. (If you like cakier brownies, bake until the toothpick comes out clean.) Remove pan from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
- While brownies are cooling, prepare the caramel sauce. As per the above note, your coconut milk should have been refrigerated for at least 4 hours so that the cream and water are separated. Carefully skim the cream off the top of the coconut milk and place into a small bowl, leaving the coconut water for another use.
- In a medium saucepan, bring sugar and water to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer without stirring for 15 minutes, until deep amber in color. Remove from the heat and slowly stir in ½ cup of the coconut cream. Mix until smooth, then stir in salt and bourbon. Place back on the warm burner and stir for another minute.
- Transfer caramel sauce to a jar to cool slightly. It will thicken up a bit as it cools. Pour the warm caramel over the brownies. Top with toasted pecans, if desired.