Back-to-School Brownies

This summer, I’m teaching a one-month ENG102 course that meets four times a week for two hours a day.  At this point in my pregnancy, I need to eat at some point in the two hours, even if it is just a little nibble.  So, I thought I would start a snack sign-up for the students, bringing a snack for them on the first day so that they knew I meant business.  🙂

Brownies are a decadent, sweet, rich treat that seems to please even the pickiest of eaters.  Because these are Fresh Formula brownies, you can additionally expect my version to be healthier than the boxed variety or even those homemade with animal products.

The health benefits of what makes a brownie a brownie—cocoa powder—are numerous, and detailed in my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie post.  Before we get to baking, I am going to cover two other featured ingredients:  pecans and coconut oil.

Pecans, besides being easy to chop and chew, are buttery and delicious.  Pecans are notably high in fiber and magnesium, which has anti-inflammatory benefits.  While pecans are high in fat, they boast healthy fatty acids, such as oleic acid (also found in olive oil), and contain no cholesterol.  Nut allergies?  Don’t worry – this formula does not require nuts to work.  I just really enjoy them for their protein content and yummy crunch!

DSC_2139Speaking of fat, coconut oil is loaded with it…but a lot of other amazingness, too.  Brownies rely on some fat to achieve their fudgy texture and glistening appearance, but you can make smart choices about what type of fat and how much you are going to use.  Coconut oil is everywhere in health news of late.  It can be used as sunscreen, hair conditioner and even toothpaste!  When it comes to ingesting it, it doesn’t contain many health benefits, per se, but can withstand a higher cooking temperature than many other oils, lessening your exposure to free radicals or carcinogens.  And of course, it doesn’t contain cholesterol.

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Whichever oil you choose, keep it mind that some will affect the flavor of the brownies; I found that coconut oil did not.

Finally, brownies are an excellent canvas for all kinds of chips.  Like my classic chip cookie formula, “chips” here can be a lot of things:  chocolate, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc.  My chips for today’s take on the formula are pecans.

As I’ve mentioned before, dessert is dessert and it won’t be the healthiest item you put into your mouth all day, vegan or not, but we can always strive to do better.  For me, they really are a special treat, popping out of my oven only two or three times a year.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, my students gobbled these up…even after they learned they were vegan.  Plant-based victory!

FORMULA BASE:  BROWNIES

Fills a 9 x 13 pan with approximately ¾-inch thick brownies

  • 2 cups flour –> I’m using all whole wheat except for the last 1/3 cup; I ran out and used brown rice flour to fill in the rest.
  • 1 cup plant milk –> I’m using unsweetened, unflavored almond.
  • 1 cup sweetener –> I’m using turbinado sugar.*
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup oil –>  I’m using coconut.
  • 1 tbsp ground flax or chia seeds + 3 tbsp hot water (“egg”) –> I’m using flax.
  • 1 tsp extract –> I’m using homemade vanilla.
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
  • OPTIONAL:  ½-1 cup chips

*What’s this?  See my cake formula.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients, sans sweetener.  In another bowl, mix your wet ingredients, plus sweetener.  This includes your “egg,” which should be prepared separately before adding it to the rest of the wet ingredients.

Slowly mix your wet ingredients into your dry until a dough forms.  That’s right, this mixture will likely be more dough-like than batter-like, although different sweeteners and oils may change the consistency slightly.  Point is, don’t be concerned if what you expected to be a drippy batter turns out thick.  🙂

DSC_2144Mix in your chips or save them to sprinkle on top.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13 backing pan or dish (I prefer glass).  Spread your dough evenly throughout and top with chips, if you’d like.  Lightly press any toppers into the dough with a spatula before heading into the oven.

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Bake for 20-22 minutes for a fudgy brownie or 23-25 minutes for a cakey brownie.  Enjoy!

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