Ultimate is not something that I throw around lightly, especially for vegan brownies. I've had my share of vegan and regular brownies and been baffled by how lacking vegan versions are. Growning up on my Grandmother's brownies, I learned that a good brownie should be dense, fudgy and soft; not light, cakey and dry. Why is it so hard to emulate a traditional brownie recipe that simply consists of a few simple ingredients? Hint: it's due to the egg, which emulsifies, binds, slightly leavens then bakes up as part of the actual base of the brownie itself. To emulate this takes an expedition deep into the innards of brownie science.
I started by emulating two eggs with water and golden flax meal. I then added some baking soda to the flour to emulate egg's subtle leavening tendencies. Cocoa powder along with semi-sweet chocolate and espresso powder allows the complex chocolate flavors to truly shine. I tested these brownies with canola oil but later settled on Vegan Butter or margarine because it allowed the flavor to mingle and slightly evolve along the flavor profile, rather than diminishing in a downward spiral which was the case with canola oil. This is why chocolate baked goods with canola oil rarely match up to chocolate baked goods with Vegan Butter or margarine. In order to make dense, soft vegan baked goods like brownies and cookies that are similar to their egg-laden counterparts the dough must be extremely thick because the egg is not going to be there to bake into the base of the baked item and act like flour. Thus, you have to add extra flour so it can take over for the egg. The result of this brownie R and D is a dense, fudgy, soft brownie with a complex chocolate flavor.
3 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons golden flax meal
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
7 Tablespoons cocoa powder
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ cup boiling water
1 ½ cups sugar
6 Tablespoons (80 grams) Regular Vegan Butter or non-hydrogenated stick margarine, melted (not tub margarine)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
In a small mixing bowl whisk together the water and flax meal. Let it sit for about 10 minutes so the mixture gets goopy. Place your oven rack on it's lowest position and preheat your oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with parchment paper allowing excess parchment paper on opposite sides so you can pull the brownies out of the baking dish later.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour and baking soda. Set aside.
In another medium mixing bowl add the cocoa powder, semi-sweet chocolate, espresso powder and salt. Add the boiling water and using a spoon, mix in the ingredients into a paste, making sure that all of the chocolate pieces are melted. Add the sugar, Vegan Butter, vanilla extract, flax meal mixture from Step 1 into the chocolate mixture and mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in the walnuts if you're using them. Using a spoon, mix in the flour until well combined. The mixture will become extremely thick and you may need to use your hands to mix. Refrain from mixing this dough with an electric mixer at this point; this will overwork the dough and activate too much gluten, negatively affecting the texture of the brownies.
Transfer the batter to the baking dish. You may need to use your fingers or a spatula to press the thick dough into place. Bake for 35 minutes on your oven's lowest rack. Transfer the baking dish to a wire cooling rack and allow it to cool for about an hour.
Transfer the brownies to the wire rack by lifting them out of the baking dish by taking hold of the exposed parchment paper on each side. Allow them to cool completely before slicing into squares.
A big thanks goes out to (never home)maker for the above picture.