True story: the first vegan brownies I ever made were the double-chocolate brownies in Food52 Vegan. I’d made raw brownies and raw brownie bites aplenty, but no traditional brownies. Given my robust love of chocolate, this is a little crazy. Now that I’ve dived into the vegan brownie waters, I’m hooked. These dark chocolate espresso brownies are not only vegan, but gluten free as well, and they’re my new favorite. After all, they combine two of my favorite pleasures: chocolate and coffee!
Today’s recipe was inspired by my friend Kimberly, who writes the lovely blog The Little Plantation. A few weeks ago, Kimberly reached out to say that she was trying to put together a little blog party in order to call attention to Malawian coffee. Kimberly had recently watched a program highlighting the dire poverty affecting many people in Malawi. She had the idea to celebrate one of Malawi’s exports, coffee.
Malawian coffee is generally known to be excellent, and it’s usually fair trade, which is great. But because it doesn’t have as much fame as Kenyan coffee, and because Malawian coffee producers don’t have as many marketing resources as growers in places like Brazil or Colombia, coffee traders often have a hard time selling Malawian coffee to roasters. Kimberly’s thought was for a bunch of bloggers to create recipes using coffee–Malawian coffee, that is–as a means of celebrating the coffees of this part of the world. As soon as Kimberly asked me to participate, I knew I’d be making something with both coffee and chocolate. These vegan, gluten free espresso brownies fit the bill.
The most accessible source of Malawian single-origin coffee I found here in the US was from Tom’s. The coffee is fair trade, and it’s lovely: a little light and fruity, but plenty bold. I ground it very finely and brewed it strong in this recipe, so that it would be espresso-strength. But you could use any strongly brewed coffee, or you could use 1/4 cup (about 2 ounces, or 2 shots) of espresso. The coffee gets folded right into the brownie batter, infusing it with a wonder mocha flavor and aroma.
The resulting brownies, which are also packed with dark chocolate chunks, are so wonderful. In the great cakey vs. fudgy vs. chewy debate, I’d say these are in the chewy camp. The key to getting perfect texture is to not overcook them–I’d suggest taking them out of the oven when a toothpick inserted has a few crumbs on it, rather than being totally clean. This assures that, as they cool, they stay dense and moist.
I use a combination of sorghum and oat flour in this recipe, but you could use an equal amount of spelt, whole wheat pastry, or all purpose flour in their place. For the dark chocolate chunks, you can chop up a bar of your favorite fair trade chocolate (I love Endangered Species chocolate), or you can use packaged dark chocolate chunks or chips instead, if you’d rather not bother with chopping.
- 3 tablespoons lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
- 1 cup sorghum flour
- ½ cup oat flour
- 1¼ cup coconut sugar or organic cane sugar (use 1 cup to make these less sweet)
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup almond, soy, or rice milk
- ¼ cup brewed espresso (2 ounces, or 2 shots) or very strongly brewed coffee
- ⅓ cup safflower, grapeseed, canola, or melted coconut oil
- ⅓ cup applesauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup vegan dark chocolate chunks or chips
- Preheat oven to 350F and lightly oil and flour an 8-inch square baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk together the flax seeds and warm water. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, espresso/coffee, oil, applesauce, vanilla, and the flaxseed mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until they're combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks or chips, reserving a few to sprinkle on top of the brownies.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the brownie center emerges with just a couple crumbs. Start checking the brownies at the 22 minute mark, just to be safe: if they're burning at the edges or getting very firm in the middle, use a toothpick to check. You want to avoid overcooking for a perfectly moist, chewy texture!
- Transfer the baking dish to a wire cooling rack and allow the brownies to cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
Storage: Wrap leftover brownies tightly in saran wrap or place them in an airtight container. Store them in a cool, dry place for up to four days.
The best part about this blog party, for me, isn’t the coffee or the chocolate. It’s the fact that Kimberly asked so many cool and talented bloggers from around the world to participate, and I’ve had the most wonderful time exploring their recipes. I love that both sweet and savory recipes are included!
Aimee | Twigg Studios | Winter Spices Coffee Cake
Bettina | Bettina’s Kitchen | Coffee Crunch Chocolate Mousse
Kimberly | The Little Plantation | Vegan Malawi Coffee Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Swirl
Maria | Marrbell | Christmas Coffee and Vanilla Eggnog
Jenny | Jenny Mustard | Tofu Skewers with Chocolate Coffee Sauce
Carole | Mademoiselle Poirot | Coffee and Hazelnut Buns with Orange Icing
Dorota | Plants on Your Plate | Cream of Celeriac with Coffee Drizzle
Valeria | Life Love Food | Zabaione al Caffé
Sophie | The Green Life | Coffee blondies with homemade nutella (vegan, gf)
Joscelyn | Wife Mama Foodie | Salted Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes
Ksenia | At The Immigrant’s Table | Gluten-free Jewish doughnuts with cardamom coffee cream
If you’d like to read more about the challenges facing coffee farmers in Malawi, which include climate change, pests, and disease, you can do so here. And if you feel inspired to try Malawian fair trade coffee, you can find it through Tom’s and also through Utica Coffee Roasters.
No matter what coffee you use to prepare this recipe, I hope you’ll savor its rich, deep flavor and wonderful texture. I already plan on making the recipe again to give as a gift this month–in spite of the fact that baking brownies in the small apartment I share with my chocolate-allergic boyfriend (who can’t bear the smell, as it reminds him of being sick from eating chocolate as a kid) is a little tricky. (Thanks, Steven, for letting me test the recipe this past weekend!)
I wish you all a wonderful day. And you have time, don’t miss the other blog entries in this party–they’re all so creative.