We need to talk about the vegan brownie situation. A state of the brownies address, if you will. All I have wanted for the last several weeks is a towering plate of kickass brownies. The kind with shiny, crinkly tops and chewy edges. Something that will give me heartburn almost instantly. Essentially, I wanted these brownies that I had a love affair with a few years ago… but without butter and eggs.
But all the other vegans in the world apparently want to ruin my life with healthy brownies made with black beans and blueberries and goddamn flax. (To be fair, I have eaten and enjoyed brownies made with all of those ingredients, but they aren’t the same.) I’ve seen so-called brownies that are just chocolate date bars masquerading as dessert. Brownies with dull, crater-y surfaces and fallen centers. Brownies that fall apart in your hands. Ugh.
But I get it, because my first several attempts to make my perfect brownies were spectacular failures. They were too greasy, or pockmarked on the surface, or crumbly. I spent about 7 million dollars in chocolate to test recipes until I made one I love. They are dense but not gooey, papery on top, and intensely chocolatey. And while, yes, there is avocado in them, its function is purely to add delicious fat in lieu of egg yolks, not to make the brownies healthy. Because they aren’t. And if you tell your coworkers they are healthy like my friend Alicia did, they are going to be pissed when they eat three of them and gain five pounds.
- 5 tablespoons hot water
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (15 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¾ teaspoon instant espresso
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) coconut oil
- ¼ cup grapeseed oil (or another neutral oil, such as canola)
- 1¼ cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 ounce (30 grams) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons aquafaba*
- 45 grams mashed avocado (about ¼ of a large avocado)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (120 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 ounces (85 grams) bittersweet (60-75%) chocolate, very finely chopped
- Confectioners’ sugar, for serving (optional)
- Set your oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 325℉. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a parchment overhang on two sides to act as “handles” to remove the brownies later.
- In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, bring water to a bare simmer. Add cocoa powder and espresso powder and whisk until smooth. Add the unsweetened chocolate and whisk until the chocolate has melted. Add the sugar, coconut oil, and grapeseed oil and whisk until the coconut oil has melted and the sugar is fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Make sure you fully dissolve the sugar to get the shiny, papery tops! Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the aquafaba, avocado, and vanilla until smooth.
- Use a rubber spatula to stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt until a bit of flour is still showing. Add the bittersweet chocolate and stir until no flour is visible and the chocolate is evenly distributed in the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and use your spatula to spread it evenly, making sure to reach the corners. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack for at least 2 hours, preferably longer, before serving. (The longer you let them cool, the more intense the flavor will be, so I like to let mine sit for 8 hours or so.)
- When ready to serve, use the parchment handles to lift the brownies out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into 9 or 16 squares. If you want to get real church-lady about it, sprinkle with a little confectioners’ sugar before serving.
- *The liquid from a can of chickpeas (or the cooking liquid from chickpeas). You can read my write-up on aquafaba and how to make your own here.