Monday, May 2, 2011

Vegan Bittersweet Chocolate Brownies (Sister Time, New Knitting Project And Returning to My Kitchen)

I returned to my kitchen yesterday and first order of business: bake something chocolate, dammit! It was like seeing a long lost friend again when I pulled out my little brownie pan. I was having withdrawl from not baking. And don't ask me why no cake in a while? All I can tell you is that I get distracted easily. Having my sister here for a week was a welcome change given all we have going on around here right now. However, I am in a bit of a "state" as we are heading into some procedures for hubby in a few weeks. My sister can attest to my rather wired self right now, watching me try to 'live in the moment' through all this drama--and do so calmly, telling me: "You need to RELAX! Try Meditation for crying out loud! Are you like this ALL the time?" And my answers: What is relaxation. . . I relax when I sleep! Meditation: Ha! And yes, I am like this ALL the time! Ah life.

So last night we were watching the comb over's show when the Breaking News announcement came with just fifteen minutes remaining of this episode--and the big "You're Fired" was about to be announced. (Heh-heh, personally, I thought that this was a brilliant thing for our sitting president to do. Timing IS everything you know.) However, as we watched and listened, hubby and I both imagined this was going to be an entirely different announcement: that somewhere in another country another nemesis had been eliminated. Well past our bedtime by now, we had to stay up to hear what all the hoo-haa was about. Finally, it was announced, we had rid the world of him. About. Damn. Time. And thank god for good news for a change.
 If I counted, I am sure I'd find I have over a hundred brownie recipes scattered about this house. It was a little over two weeks ago that I had once again tried veganizing a brownie recipe. Sad. Very sad. A gooey, separated mess. What really bothered me was not so much the glob I pulled from the oven, but the wasted chocolate. Chocolate is a terrible thing to waste. I felt my cooking mojo declining once again. It has happened several times over the course of my vegan food blogging--the kitchen and I go our separate ways. It was all I could do to get in there and make a meal or two during my sister's visit. I just could not focus. 
This is me and sis, outside on a long overdue crisp, clear day. We had a girl's retail therapy day. And planned two visits with our friends: both recovering from cancer. First up, we had my dear friend who just finished her chemo treatment for breast cancer cut our hair. A salon day. A big deal for me because I typically do not like anyone touching me (and my friend knows this)--but I said, What the heck, lets hit the wash bowl and go crazy with a wet haircut today! I usually can only sit still enough for a fast trim and only with DRY hair! So, when I called my friend to tell her my sister was coming to town and that she would love a new cut, my friend said, Well, that will be the first week I go without my wig--so be ready. I was like, Be ready? She then said, Kelly, I know you--you'll gasp and worry! She added, I am fine--it's just that I am so tired of that wig! When we arrived at the salon and saw my friend's hair growing back in a lovely, super chic silver/grey, short pixie cut, I told her, "Girlfriend, You could so be the cover model on Ms. magazine!" She looked amazing! I Loved it--she looked so good after all she's been through. She is having radiation treatments now, but has worked through nearly all of her chemo treatments--incredible!

Then, the next day, we visited my sister's best friend from high school who has been going through chemo treatments--only hers is for stage four cancer. If ever there was a story of courage and hope and gaining perspective on life--spending the afternoon with both of these ladies--this was it. My sister's best friend has spent the last five months with doctors and nurses here in St. Louis receiving more chemo than you can imagine. It certainly left me walking away with a bit less of a pity party over my circumstances. We all could take a lesson from these women. They were both a bright, shining ray of sunshine. I was so very happy my sister and I could spend time with both of them. 
We went shopping in St. Charles. Someone had a special day last week and wanted ice cream. Someone is also sporting a new hand knit sweater from sissy. She loved it! I thought it looked great on her.
Last day together for a while. I will miss her terribly--my best friend.
After I dropped sister off at the airport, I headed to the Book Fair. A tradition of mine for the past few years. It's held in the garage at a major mall. I've not missed it in four years. Seemed like the perfect thing to do. Go in and wander the tables of cookbooks alone. I needed to clear my head. Seeing all the other cookbook geeks in the crowd somehow grounded me. Then my eye landed on this buried little treasure: A Passion for Chocolate. Truth be told, I had eyed another chocolate cookbook, but alas, it was scooped up just as I rounded the corner. That's okay. I am sure half the folks around me were unaware they were walking past this jewel of a find. This is an oldie but goodie cookbook that baking maven Rose Levy Beranbaum cobbled together after visiting France and spending time in the Bernachon bakery. This book is her translation of the time she spent with one of the world's greatest chocolatiers. I didn't even open the book, I knew, for two bucks, I had just found a treasure and a somewhat cure for the blues.
The brownie recipe was the best yet. Dr. Thyme declared it so. I had to concur. These tasted remarkably like our back-in-the-egg-day brownies. We served these over vegan vanilla ice cream. Perfect. Meantime, I worked on a new knitting project I bought on Ravelry last week. The "Mitered Crosses Blanket". The gals at Mason-Dixon Knitting conjured this pattern up and are donating all proceeds from the pattern to earthquake relief in Japan. I love knitting this. I have one square finished and realized very quickly that I will need more yarn to complete it. Yarn therapy and LYS visit: Yeah! I have used Lion Brand "Amazing" from my stash for my cross. For my border color I used "Elsebeth Lavold Classic AL". The yarn was in the clearance bin at my LYS. I need to get like ten more balls of it to complete the blanket. I think I'd like to have more of this yarn in a light cream color to mix my border colors a bit. Will have to wait til tomorrow to shop for it. But I love this pattern and can't wait to make another square. Great TV knitting. Wonderful cause.

Here is my apdatation of Le Brownie recipe. I highly recommend you use a scale for the ingredients when a weight is given. Anyone familiar with Rose's recipes is well aware of the precision required when it comes to baking from her cookbooks. My trouble began with the eggs. To my surprise this brownie recipe only calls for two eggs. That's when I began to imagine pulling my pan from the oven and smiling vs. crying--fewer eggs means: No separation. No dry, cakey, pseudo-brownie residue. This here is the real deal. Enjoy!

Vegan Bittersweet Chocolate Brownie Recipe
*Adapted from "A Passion for Chocolate"

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli squares)
6 tablespoons unsalted vegetable margerine
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (weight: 5 ounces--give the flour a little stir before weighing)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (table salt)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Florida Crystals sugar (run it through a food processor first, then measure and weigh--it should weigh: 6 ounces)
2 eggs (3 teaspoons of Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 6 tablespoons of water, lightly stirred)
3/4 chopped pecans (*optional)
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (*optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8" baking pan with non-stick baking spray. Then cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and spray it with non-stick spray again. Place chocolate squares in a microwave safe bowl with the margerine and heat in 20 second increments. Don't burn the chocolate. Just heat for 20 seconds or so, then stir--only do this a couple of times because the heat in the bowl will eventually melt the chocolate. Just keep whisking until it is melted and smooth. Prep your vegan egg substitute mixture. Note: I added more water than is typical for the eggs in this recipe because in the total "liquid" amount listed in the recipe, it indicated 1/2 cup would be measured once the eggs were cracked. I was no where close to this amount of liquid called for (a half cup!) after mixing my usual amount of Ener-G Egg mix together for two eggs, so I added another two full tablespoons of water to the mixture to offset this lack of liquid the eggs would impart. Next, prep your sugar amount in the food processor. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Now, with a spoon, add the sugar, egg substitute mixture and flour and pecans/chips (if using) to the melted chocolate mixture. Use a spoon to incorporate, there is no need to use a blender. Just mix the batter until a fairly smooth consistency is achieved. About ten strokes should do it. Now, pour the batter into the pan and spread it out to the sides of the pan with a spatula. Bake for approximately 25 minutes. I baked mine for almost thirty minutes and found this to be a bit too long. I had my oven pre-heating for longer than I had anticipated which may have contributed to the doneness of the brownies--but they were still incredible and no gooey separation. Next time I make these, I will cook them 25 minutes. Check the brownie mixture with a toothpick and it should come out "barely" clean (according to Rose). Remove from oven. Allow brownies to cool for ten minutes in the pan. Then, invert the brownies onto a cookie sheet (they will be upside down), then invert them again onto a cooling rack (they will be right-side up). Allow to cool for another half hour before slicing. I sliced mine and have them stored in an airtight container. Yum!
  





5 comments:

  1. Those brownies look delicious! I'm so glad you're knitting the mitered cross blanket. I think it looks gorgeous.

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  2. I love book fairs ... you are like the knittn' cookin' craftin' queen. I am glad you got to see your sister, and that you are okay after all the tornadoes ... Goodbyes are always melancholy, but it looks like you found the right cures!

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  3. Glad you found a brownie recipe that worked. Book fairs are wonderful things. There should be more of them!

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  4. Those brownies look terrific. Our library system has book sales two or three times a year. There are huge line ups, but it can be so worth it. It sounds like you are on the road back from the blues - all your knitting, brownie-baking and retail therapy sounds wonderful.

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  5. Hi Ladies! I am so happy when I see your notes, you have no idea!

    Bonnie--I LOVE knitting this blanket--it will be with me while I wait for hubby to get through some upcoming procedures. Very relaxing knitting.

    Trixie Girl--I think I left you a note this morning, dear. Thank you so much for your note to me!

    Hi Cher--I absolutely LOVED the recipe. I keep brownies around for well over their "expire" time because I tend to think they are better the longer they sit in a container on my counter!

    Hi onewetfoot--Thank you so much! I was just on your blog earlier this morning--loved those photos! I loved the book fair and spent twelve dollars. Such good deals!

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