The vegan brownie is a modern adaptation of a very old snack whose origin is clouded in mystery. But with a treat as widely beloved as the brownie, it’s no wonder crowds line up to take credit for its discovery! Popular American folklore claims the brownie came to be when a careless cook forgot to add baking powder to his chocolate cake recipe. Who exactly this legendary cook was, though, is anyone’s guess. More recently, the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago has claimed ownership of the brownie’s inception during the 1892 Columbian Exposition, when Bertha Palmer wanted a dessert to add to lunch boxes that wouldn’t get ladies’ hands dirty. These supposed first brownies were made with an apricot glaze and walnuts, and you can still find the same recipe being made at the same hotel to this day!
Today, brownie mix is readily available in supermarkets, gourmet shops and corner stores across the country. They can vary in quality from very low quality to extremely expensive and high quality. However these mixes are restrictive in their preparations and often require or already include pre-mixed dairy and animal products. So, those in search of a vegan brownie have to search a little harder for their treat, especially if they want something that tastes really amazing.
By substituting water, rice milk, soy milk or even almond milk in the place of traditional milk, conscious vegans and those with milk allergies can whip together a snack that’s every bit as scrumptious as its non-vegan counterpart. Other vegan-friendly additions include a few teaspoons of coffee for mocha brownies, or pecans, almonds, or other nuts to enrich the snacks texture. You can even add some vegan chocolate chips for increased melty gooeyness and texture. And, if you add apple sauce or mashed banana in place of butter, you may even end up with brownies that are more gooey and rich than conventional brownies! There is so much possible variability in brownie making, and working to eliminate animal products from your recipe will bring you to even greater levels of creativity and deliciousness.
The main challenges in making vegan brownies is the replacement of the fat and protein provided by butter and milk, and the binding proteins provided by eggs. Fortunately, nowadays it is fairly easy to replace these. Vegan butter products, such as Earth Balance, can be used in place of butter and are quite healthy substitutes that react very similarly to the dairy containing product. If you want to be even healthier, mashed bananas or applesauce can be used in place of butter. This often leads to a very rich, chewy texture. Finally, eggs can be replaced with vegan egg substitutes that are available at most health food stores, or with soy yogurt, silken tofu, or even ground flax seeds. The possibilities for making delicious vegan brownies are endless, and you are sure to have fun figuring out the perfect recipe!