Friday, September 21, 2012

Brownies - without the eggs!

I have been very fortunate in that so far, neither of my girls have any food allergies (nor do hubby or I!).  My young niece, on the other hand, has not been so lucky, and cannot eat nuts or eggs.  Because she is often placed in the unfair position of not being able to share foods being enjoyed by others, we try to make family get-togethers as seamless as possible so that at the very least, any unsafe foods are easy to avoid and not something she'd really want to eat anyway.

While nut allergies are certainly scary, we have found that with some careful ingredient checks, they are fairly easy to avoid when cooking at home.  Eggs, on the other hand, are in everything, especially dessert!  The good news is with the rise of both egg allergies and veganism, it's getting easier and easier to find ideas for egg free recipes.  I've had success so far with cookies and cupcakes (recipes to come!), but one of the most elusive desserts has been brownies, since eggs are really integral to the texture.  I love rich chocolate desserts, though, and after a few holidays with some version of chocolate mousse/pudding made without eggs, I was really antsy for a true brownie that we could all share.

So off to the internet I went, and found a recipe on a vegan website promising the "ultimate" brownie, which got some strong reviews.  I gave it a try mostly as written (only eliminating the walnuts and subbing real buter for the vegan "butter") and found the texture to be great, but the flavor severely lacking.  They looked like brownies, but barely tasted like chocolate!  So even though baking chemistry is not my specialty and I am especially inexperienced with vegan-style baking, I decided to take a chance on some modifications.  Miraculously, the second batch was delicious!  I still think I prefer my one bowl brownies, which are incredibly rich and smooth, but these are certainly a great alternative if you have any need for an egg-free version - they are dense, with a fudgy texture and rich chocolate flavor.  Plus, they even have a great crust on top.

And as an added bonus, since I made this recipe 4 times in 1 week, I came up with some ways to streamline the process from the original, which was pretty fussy, so now they're not even complicated to make.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Brownies (Egg-free!)
adapted from Vegan Baking

7 tablespoons water (this is 1 tablespoon short of 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons golden flax meal

2 ounces good quality dark chocolate (I used 70%), chopped into ½ inch pieces
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or more chopped chocolate pieces)

1 1/2 (rounded) cups all purpose or white whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together water and flax meal, and let it sit (and gel) while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on 2 sides so that you can easily remove the brownies when they're done (or just grease your baking pan!).  Preheat the oven to 350.

Melt the butter and chocolate together over a double boiler* or in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until just melted.  Remove from heat and mix in sugar until thoroughly combined.  Then add cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, and water/flax mixture and mix well (I used a silicone spatula, but you could use an electric mixer at this point if you prefer). Check to make sure your mixture isn't warmer than room temperature, and then gently stir in chocolate chips (if your mixture is too warm and your chocolate chips melt, no biggie, you'll just have extra fudgy brownies without chocolate chips!).

Next, add the flour and baking soda to the chocolate mixture.  Use a spatula or a spoon (or even your hands if needed) to incorporate all of the flour.  The batter will be VERY thick, more like a dough.

Dump batter into your prepared pan, using a spatula or your hands to spread it out evenly.  Bake for 28 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack, leaving the brownies in the pan for at least an hour, and then remove brownies to the rack to cool the rest of the way.

Makes 16-20 smallish brownies

To double recipe, use a 9x13 pan and bake for an extra 3-4 minutes.

*Not sure what a double boiler is?  Find a heat-proof bowl, either metal or tempered glass, that fits securely on top of one of your pots.  Put 1-2 inches of water in the pot, heat until barely simmering, and then place your bowl on top with the butter and chocolate.  The indirect heat of the steam on the bottom of the bowl will melt them gently without burning the chocolate.  If you use a big enough bowl, you can continue with the rest of the recipe right in the same bowl!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Zucchini Fritters

As a follow up to my previous Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread recipe, I wanted to share with you my other favorite use for extra zucchini - fritters!  I just tried this recipe for the first time last month, and I think I've made 4 batches since then.  This one is great if you have TONS of zucchini, since this recipe, which calls for 4 zucchini, doesn't even make a huge batch.  I think I can eat an entire zucchini's worth without even blinking!  The other benefit of this recipe is that they freeze perfectly, just needing to be reheated in the oven when you're ready to use.

These fritters are perfect as a side dish with any meal, but I also love to serve them with poached eggs on top for a delicious, complete, simple dish.  As an alternative, you could serve them with apple sauce, sour cream, or even tomato sauce - they are really incredibly versatile.  So make a double batch, freeze leftovers (if you have any!), and enjoy the taste of summer whenever you feel like it :)

Zucchini Fritters
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 pounds (about 4 medium) zucchini
1/2 medium onion 
2 teaspoons sea salt
2/3 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
Oil (choose one that is stable at high heat, like coconut or sunflower), for frying

(If you want to have multiple batches hot at the same time for serving, preheat your oven to 200 degrees.)

Trim ends off zucchini and grate both zucchini and onion either on the large holes of a box grater or food processor.

In a large bowl, toss mixture with salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the mixture by wrapping it in a clean dishtowel and twisting over the sink.  Try to get as much liquid out as possible, as too much liquid will make your fritters soggy.

Return zucchini and onion to the bowl.  Stir in the egg, flour, baking powder, and pepper, plus some additional salt if you think it's needed.

Heat a shallow layer of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until oil is shimmering.  Drop small scoops of zucchini mixture into the pan (I used my 2 tablespoon scoop) and flatten slightly.  Cook for a few minutes until the bottoms are nice and brown, then flip and cook on the other side until brown.  Drain on paper towels and then, if you'd like, place on a baking sheet in your warm oven until you are ready to serve (this also helps to crisp them up, and Deb at Smitten Kitchen recommends this step, but I think they are delicious straight from the pan as well!).  Repeat process, adding oil to the pan as needed, with remaining mixture.

Serve with your choice of topping - fried or poached egg, apple sauce, sour cream, a sprinkle of salt, or anything else that sounds good to you!

Make ahead: These fritters keep well in the fridge or freezer (for best results, freeze on a baking sheet, then transfer frozen disks to a bag and seal well).  Reheat on a baking sheet in a 325 oven until hot all the way through.
Makes approximately 16-18 fritters

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread/Muffins (Whole Wheat)

People like to talk about seasonal food, but with modern transportation and grocery stores, it's sometimes easy to forget that most of us do not live in an area where a wide variety of produce grows year-round.  And yet even though you can pretty much always get things like lettuce, carrots, bananas, and apples, in my area there are a few staple items that stand out during the seasons.  Like zucchini.  In the winter you might be able to find a couple of sad looking zucchinis on the shelf, but in the summer it seems like they are growing from every corner!  Whether it's the grocery store, the farmer's market, your CSA, or your garden, in some parts zucchini seems to be unavoidable in late summer.  Personally, zucchini is not my favorite vegetable, but I like it enough and find myself buying entirely too much.  Luckily, I have a few go-to recipes to use it up, both for easy meals and some freezer items for those winter days when we actually start to miss them again!

My favorite easy zucchini dinner is as part of a pasta toss - sauté some zucchini in olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and basil...add some grape tomatoes if they're around...squeeze a lemon over the mixture once it's soft, along with a spoonful or two of tomato sauce, and add a ladle full of pasta cooking water to make more of a sauce if needed.  Serve over whole wheat pasta - so yummy!

But when it comes to storing the zucchini for the longer term, I have two other favorite recipes to share.  The first one up is this chocolate chip zucchini bread recipe I came across a few weeks back (hat tip to my friend Amanda at Vintage Savoir Faire!).  You might remember me mentioning this as one of our road trip snacks, and let me tell you, it is delicious!  Even packed with whole wheat and zucchini, this recipe is definitely a treat - sweet, moist, chocolaty (note that I've included amounts for slightly reduced sugar and chocolate if you want to make these a little less dessert like - I've tried both variations and the healthier version is just as delicious!).  Perfect for preserving some of that summer zucchini, if they last - I just made my third double batch because we just can't seem to keep these around.  I'm going to hide some of these in our extra freezer in the basement to see if we can make them last a little longer this time!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread/Muffins (Whole Wheat)
adapted from King Arthur Flour

2 large eggs
1/3 cup honey (can reduce to 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup brown sugar (can reduce to 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup vegetable or melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
1/2-1 cup dark chocolate chips (depending on how chocolaty you want it)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional, I omitted)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan or muffin tins.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, oil, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Add the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon, mixing with a spoon until well combined.  Stir in the zucchini, chocolate chips, and nuts (if using).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake 55 to 60 minutes for bread, or 15-20 minutes for muffins (this will vary depending on what size muffin tins you use!), until bread/muffins are completely set on top, feel a little firm to the touch, and a tester inserted into the center comes out without any batter (a little melted chocolate is ok!).

Cool bread for a few minutes in the pan before removing to a rack to finish cooling completely.

Loaf of bread will keep well wrapped in foil for a few days on the counter, or stored long-term in the freezer.  Muffins that will not be eaten within a day or 2 are best kept in the freezer and thawed in the microwave or on the counter.

Makes one loaf, 12 standard muffins, or a lot of mini muffins.