Late last year, my sister, a friend and I agreed to start on a new project with the new year, making different recipes in 3 different ways, each putting our own spin on it. (For more on our Variations on a Theme project, check out the main page)With the new year now underway, there has been some discussion back and forth for a few weeks now as to what we should make for our first recipe, and last week we lit on brownies. No firm plans were made yet, but we each agreed to start thinking about what we wanted to do and to set a date soon to lay down the ground rules and to cook. And then this weekend I was on night shifts on a very busy surgical ward (we barely sat down all night). Around about 4 in the morning I had a craving for brownies, which obviously couldn't be satisfied then and there, but I sent out a message asking that we have a call and make our brownies Sunday evening or Monday. The other two agreed, and I am extremely grateful, as last night I was able to satisfy the previous night's craving! So here is our first Variation on a Theme!
Traditional Brownies with a Twist by my Sister
Ever since I was a kid, I considered my dad's brownie recipe to be immutable. Why mess with something that was already perfect? It seemed almost sacrilegious to try. It is only very recently that I have tried new variations. Now hardly any batch is the same as any other... I have at times added chocolate chips, nuts, Reece's chips, green tomatoes, orange zest, peppermint, etc. And I have even successfully made an amazingly tasty gluten-free variant using coconut flour instead of regular flour. I think my favorite variant has been with peppermint and walnuts, so that was what I decided to do for this challenge, although I decided to also try two new additions - crushed candy cane and cherries. Drop-down for the recipe!
Ingredients: 2 cups white sugar 4 large (or 5 small) eggs 1/4 cup espresso - my favorite is Mystic Monk's Royal Rum Pecan
1 cup vegetable oil 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 1 tsp peppermint extract 1 1/2 cups white flour 1/2 cup (heaping) Cailler chocolate powder 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped 1 candy cane, crushed (optional) 12 fresh or frozen cherries (optional)
1) Preheat the oven to 350*F or 177*C.
2) Add all ingredients except the candy cane and cherries to a large bowl (in order), beating thoroughly after each addition. 3) Pour into a 9"x13" brownie pan.
4) If topping with cherries, place them so as to end up with one cherry in each brownie. If using the candy cane, unwrap it, put it in a baggie, and beat it until it crumbles, and then sprinkle the brownies with candy cane powder. (NB: Learn from my mistake - apparently candy canes are harder than my rolling pin, so the latter ended up dented. I recommend using something much harder - like a hammer or a cast iron pan - to crush the candy cane). 5) Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a knife inserted in the centre of the pan comes out clean. Both the brownies with the cherries and those with the candy cane came out delicious! The cherry-side of the batch was very gooey though. I think I would happily make either of these again, but if using the cherries, would do it for the entire batch rather than just half the pan, and would then cook them for 5 minutes longer. Perhaps if I had used fresh cherries they would not have been as gooey...
Experimental Peanutbutter Brownies by me
I spent a few days turning the idea of experimental brownies around in my head. I've tried a variety of ways of playing with brownies in the past, from something as simple as adding nuts, chips or chilli seeds to the batter, to replacing various ingredients with others. I wanted to try something for this that I hadn't tried before though. At some point, it occurred to me to try replacing some of the oil in the original recipe with either peanut butter or tahini. As oil is a key ingredient, I had no idea what this was going to do to the consistency or flavour of the recipe, but the flavours are a well know and loved pairing (especially by Hubby), so I figured that at least on that front I couldn't go wrong! In order to compensate for the peanut butter qualities, I added some milk, cut the sugar, and for the hell of it, I added a mashed banana. I also eliminated the habitual coffee, swapping it out for a little more milk, as I wasn't sure how that flavour would play with the others. Drop down to see how it went!
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c peanut butter (I used half crunchy and half smooth)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c cacao
1 3/4 c flour
3/4 c milk
140g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or chocolate chips if you have access to that kind of thing...)
1) Mix all the ingredients together in order in a large bowl.
2) Pour into a brownie pan (or a cast-iron skillet) and bake at 180°C for 30 - 40 minutes (depending on the goo-factor and your oven).
I served these up with some of the Salted Caramel Ice Cream. The flavours all played very nicely together, each holding its own while leaving room for the others, except maybe the banana which is a bit retiring and introverted at this party. The brownies on their own are a little too rich for me though, and peanut butter and chocolate is not my favourite flavour combo. As a result, these are not my favourite brownie variant ever (for that, see the Blood orange Brownies).
I also have a slight issue with textural inequalities. The brownies were super gooey at the centre of the pan, to the point that they were hard to serve and cakey at the edge, which speaks to the fact that I may need to put less batter into my cast-iron skillet or get an actual brownie tin. On the other hand, the variation in textures means that there is something to suit all tastes.
Today, a day after baking, Hubby tells me he is divided on which he prefers which is surprising as he usually definitely, hands-down prefers super extra gooey brownies. This time though, he opines that the cakey ones have a better-developed flavour while the gooey ones are a more delightful texture.
The chocolate pieces were maybe a bit too large a pile for the amount of batter. To be honest, after a couple of night shifts, I thought the pile looked too big, but I didn't have the energy to find somewhere to put the chopped chocolate, so I chucked them all in. It works, but it makes the brownies that bit richer and meltier in parts.
Vegan Pomegranate Fudge Brownies By Hibiscus Kook
Preparation time: 1 night to soak dates and 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 12 brownie slices
100gr of dark chocolate
1 soup spoon of coconut oil
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
14.5gr of cocoa powder
50gr of dates (soak them overnight in 1/2 cup of plant-based milk)
1/2 cup of plant-based milk
1/2 lemon juice to create buttermilk wait for it to curdle
1/4 of a smashed banana
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 cup of flour
(4 soup spoons of pomegranate seeds 2 soup spoons for decoration)
1 square pan
Preheat oven at 180°c
Making the Brownies
1. On low heat Melt while stirring continuously the dark chocolate and coconut oil.
2. Once it's melted remove from the stove add the salt, vanilla extract & cocoa powder
3. Separate the dates from the milk and add the dates
4. In a separate cup mix the plant-based milk with 1/2 lemon juice (this will create buttermilk wait for it to curdle and add it to the brownie mix)
5. Mash your banana and mix it in
6. Use a hand blender to create a smooth batter
7. Mix the baking powder with your flour and then mix it in
8. Add 4 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds
9. Dip a paper towel in some coconut oil and coat the square pan so the brownies won’t stick
10. Fill up the square pan with your brownie mix and cook brownies for 20 minutes
11. Let it cool down and cut them in bite sizes or your choosing.
P.s the more flour you add and the more cake-like your brownies will be! If you want cakier add 3/4 cups of flour instead of 1/2 cup of flour.
Enjoy your brownies with a nice tea or coffee!
All in all, this was a very fun project! Looking forward to trying Hibiscus Kook's brownies, and I really enjoyed seeing where each of us went with these. And for the next one, pancakes coming up! SO watch this space...