Vegan Brownies

I am perpetually in the pursuit of a good brownie. There is something about the rich, dense chocolate fudge texture that I dream about after a good meal. It's a craving that follows me around as I mix up a batch of waffles for breakfast or it tucks me into bed with a bowl of ice cream at night. Every few months the brownie bug bites and I find myself in the kitchen with batter up to my elbows trying to create the next great brownie.

Sometimes I succeed and the results are beautiful.

Sometimes I don't succeed. I often keep those moments to myself, a private moment to mourn as I take a fork after the brownies that didn't live up to my expectations. Earlier this month, I had lofty goals of making a delicious vegan brownie to share with you. Brownies often use a substantial amount of butter for flavor and eggs to set the brownies into the classic texture we know and love. There would be a challenge, but after a little research into vegan substitutions and comparing vegan recipes side-by-side, I was certain I would succeed.

After an hour of interrogating the internet for information, I set off to make what I was certain to be the next great vegan brownie.

Hot from the oven, the smell filled the house with a fantastic aroma. I dug in with a fork before allowing the brownies to cool to a palatable temperature. The first bite made me crinkle my nose in disgust. After all of my hard work, it seems I had managed to create the world's worst brownie. It was thick, cake-like, and stuck to the roof of my mouth like paste. I gave up on vegan brownies, believing them impossible to create.

Even so, my craving for a good brownie didn't falter. A few weeks later I found myself back at the kitchen counter with a wild idea. Remembering these chocolate avocado cupcakes, I channeled the idea, using ripe avocados with a few other healthy ingredients (and tossing in a few chocolate chunks for good measure). When I pulled these out of the oven, my avocado-hating, box-mix-brownie-loving sister and I managed to finish off half a pan of the brownies before they could even cool off.

Perhaps the moral of the story is that sometimes you need to throw research out the window and trust your own baker's intuition instead. Or, maybe it's that vegan brownies can actually be delicious and you should give them a try to taste them for yourself. I think I like the second one better.

These vegan brownies are rich and dense like chocolate fudge. A surprising mix of good-for-you ingredients, including whole wheat flour, olive oil, and avocados, come together to create a relatively healthy brownie that makes you believe dreams can and do come true. Don't be wary of the avocado; it may be an unusual addition, but the flavor is completely masked by the cocoa and chocolate chunks.

Please do not over-bake these brownies or they will end with a texture similar to cake. In fact, I urge you to under-bake the brownies just so the middle sets and the batter is no longer runny. There is nothing in these brownies you couldn't eat raw (in fact, much of the batter disappeared before the pan made it to the oven) so don't be frightened to take the brownies out of the oven before a toothpick inserted into the center comes out completely clean.

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Vegan Brownies

Yields 8 by 8-inch pan

1/4 cup pureed avocado (about 1/2 of an avocado)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vinegar (or lemon juice)
3 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees F). Grease an 8 by 8-inch pan.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the pureed avocado and olive oil until smooth. Add in the flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, water, and vinegar. Mix until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chunks.

Pour into the prepared pan and spread the batter evenly throughout the pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out moist with a few crumbs (not clean), but does not come out with runny batter. Do not over-bake or the brownies will have a cake-like texture. I prefer to slightly under-bake the brownies because it results in a fudge-like texture.