Andrea Maunder, locovore, wine expert and pastry chef, is the owner and creative force behind Bacalao, a St. John's restaurant specializing in "nouvelle Newfoundland" cuisine.

Gluten-Free Vegan Brownies

I think the universe might be offering me baking challenges. I find myself getting together with friends who have various food allergies and dietary restrictions, frequently all at the same event. While preparing a dessert for a party where some guests were vegan, and others had egg, coconut and gluten allergies, I thought to myself, “That eliminates pretty much everything – what’s left to put in?” So, I had a glass of wine and then an idea came. Practically everyone loves chocolate, and I had this gorgeous black cocoa on hand. Shortly, gluten-free, vegan brownies were born. And they are soooo delicious, I swear you won’t feel you are missing anything. 

Back-to-school time presents similar dilemmas, with so many schools prohibiting foods, so I thought I’d share this recipe with you. Free of most common allergens, these brownies are sure to make you a lunch box hero for some students you love.

That black cocoa I used is available at the bulk foods store. If you can’t find it, use more regular cocoa and double the espresso powder. If you can’t find instant espresso powder, replace the water with brewed coffee.

Gluten-Free Vegan Brownies

• 1 1/4 cups gluten-free flour blend (Robin Hood is widely available and is just the right blend for this recipe)
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1/3 tsp kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
• 2 tbsp black cocoa
• 2 tbsp regular Dutch process cocoa
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips (check ingredients if baking for vegans)
• Chocolate Sauce (optional)
• 1/4 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips
• 1 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8"x8" baking pan with non-stick spray (or brush with oil) and line with parchment paper (leave extra paper hanging over two sides to lift the brownies out later).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Sift in the cocoas, as they are generally lumpy. In a large measuring cup, combine the oil, applesauce and water. Add to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add chocolate chips. Transfer to pan, smoothing the top.  

Bake for 26-28 minutes until the top feels slightly firm. (They will still be a little gooey in the middle.) Cool in the pan for 20 minutes then lift out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a rack. Cut into 16 squares.

If you’d like to add some extra chocolatey goodness, melt chocolate chips and vegetable oil in the microwave in two to three 30-second increments. Drizzle resulting sauce over cooled brownies. 

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