Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Vegan Blondies

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

Week One: Treat Yourself (and others)!

This past Sunday was full of frustration… and cookies. I’ve had a specific cookie concept in my head for a few weeks now, and I decided to work on the recipe this weekend. The first attempt failed, leaving Steven and I with a Tupperware full of cookies that were more like puffy biscuits. (Steven wasn’t complaining.)

Back to the kitchen I went, hoping some modifications would help. Nope. The second batch spread too thin and crumbled horribly, leaving us with a Tupperware now full of biscuit-y cookies and crumbly cookies (Steven still wasn’t complaining).

After that, I gave up — I’ll return to the concept soon, but I couldn’t bear a third failure in one day.

That’s the rub, when it comes to recipe development: you’ve gotta be okay with failure. As a semi-reformed perfectionist, I still get frustrated when things don’t go my way. I’m learning to be okay with it, and to learn from it, but it still grates on me.

So a few nights ago, when another idea surfaced in my MoFo-inspired mind, I headed to the kitchen with just a little trepidation. I knew what I wanted: rich, chewy vegan peanut butter blondie bars that would almost melt in your mouth, studded with chocolate chips for a slightly bitter counterpoint to the sweetness. I melted, mixed, tasted, and finally put them in the oven, hoping my baking mojo had returned and that the curious alchemy of cookie-creation was in my favor that night.

Vegan peanut butter chocolate chip blondies // govegga.com

It was — though I didn’t think so at first. As I tried the blondies, my initial reaction was disappointment. They weren’t sweet enough! I had failed! I kept chewing, though, and soon realized that they did indeed have a perfectly pleasant sweetness; a few tablespoons of maple syrup add complexity and mean that the sweetness grows slowly on your tongue. And you wouldn’t want them much sweeter — these are rich, buttery blondies; too much sugar would render them cloying and unpleasant to eat.

And so! With much relief, today I bring you vegan peanut butter blondies, an indulgent treat that’s supremely easy to whip up. I baked mine in my favorite Le Creuset ceramic 9×9” square dish, and they came out beautifully with just a spray of oil lining the pan. If you’re using a more persnickety dish, feel free to line with parchment paper for easy removal. (And keep your fingers crossed for another cookie recipe coming soon — I think I’ll crack it yet!)

Vegan peanut butter chocolate chip blondies // govegga.com

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

Makes 9 squares

  • 1/3 C Earth Balance, melted
  • 1/2 creamy natural peanut butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C white sugar
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 T ground flax
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and oil a 9×9″ baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the melted Earth Balance, peanut butter, and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the sugars and maple syrup and incorporate, then stir in the salt, baking powder, ground flax, and flours. (You might want to add the flour a little at a time for easier mixing.) Fold in the chocolate chips. The mixture should be similar to cookie dough.

Add the dough to the prepared baking dish and use a spatula to spread evenly. Bake for 23-25 minutes, just until a skewer or knife comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing and enjoying.

Notes

  • I’m sure you could omit the white whole wheat flour in favor of more all-purpose flour — though you might need to add a few tablespoonfuls more.
  • Feel free to substitute mini chocolate chips or even white chocolate chips.
  • These would probably cook up well in an 8×8″ pan — just cook for a couple minutes longer.

PIN IT

Vegan peanut butter chocolate chip blondies // govegga.com

Looking for a slightly healthier dessert option that’ll still leave you feeling like you’re treating yourself? Why not try my fudgy black bean brownies, a treat from MoFo 2014?

Cookbook Challenge: 500 Vegan Recipes

Today’s theme: Cookbook Challenge

Hey y’all, guess what? I made 3 recipes from 500 Vegan Recipes! I feel a Bon Jovi comin’ on: whoa, whoa, I’m halfway… a quarter… okay fine, .6% of the way there. Yeah, that was pointless.

Anyway, I purchased this cookbook a few months ago when I received a $50 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble for renewing the lease on my apartment. Score, right? I used the book a couple of times during the summer, but it’s been lazing about on my cookbook shelf ever since then. So I decided it was high time to give it another go. I actually made these recipes over the course of two nights, but I’m going to post them all in one shot.

First up – Spicy Frites. Okay, I know, this is sort of a cop-out recipe to make – I make oven fries in my sleep (Literally; I’m a pro at sleep-cooking. Okay I lied.), and they reallllly don’t require a recipe. But sometimes it’s nice to mix things up and use somebody else’s idea for a spice blend or a technique, y’know? These are flavored with garam masala and cayenne and definitely require a Kleenex or two when you eat ’em. Celine & Joni suggest serving them with a sprinkle of lime juice, but I 1.) didn’t have a lime, and 2.) get a little icked out by putting liquid atop something that has the potential to get mushy. Back in RI, people do the whole malt-vinegar-on-fries thing, which makes me want to vomit – I hate vinegar and I hate mushy fries. Nas-tay. These fries, however, were not nas-tay.

Taters, precious!

Pretty! Just ignore the little pile of peeing ketchup in the corner. Muir Glen ketchup is tasty but incontinent, apparently. On the subject of liquids, I should note that this recipe calls for peanut oil. I, however, do not keep peanut oil in the house, so I used the oil from the top of my peanut butter jar. I’m either a genius or a cheapskate. Your call.

Moving on! Up next: Chickpea Blondies. Now… I wanted to love these. I’ve been intrigued by bean-based baked goods for a while now, and the ingredient list was simple enough that I had [nearly] everything on hand. I made a half batch and baked ’em up in a loaf tin, and other than the issue where my roommate’s Magic Bullet didn’t want to blend everything very well (I don’t have a food processor, wahhh!), the recipe came together quite quickly.

Blonde chicks!?

They look sort of fudgy and chewy and intriguing, right? Well, they taste… meh. That’s really the best (and perhaps the worst) I can say. They’re not bad, and I don’t mind eating them, but I wouldn’t necessarily serve them to a skeptical omni and I can’t imagine waking up at night with a mad craving for them. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, though, because I didn’t have strawberry jam and ended up using a lackluster apricot variety, and then I didn’t even have enough apricot, so I added a tiny bit of canned pumpkin. Maybe if I made them with a bolder-flavored fruit, they’d have had a little more flavor.

I will tell you, though, that my final recipe was not at all lacking in flavor. No, this was the winner of the bunch, without a doubt. Take a look:

Gooey goodness.

Folks, that is the unlikely but ingenious Butterscotch Pumpkin Pudding, and it is heavenly. Like, I-can’t-stop-eating-this heavenly. Like, how-can-I-work-this-into-my-family’s-holiday-meal-plans heavenly.

I was a tiny bit skeptical before trying this, because I’ve traditionally been fairly ambivalent towards puddings in general, and I’ve always found butterscotch puddings to be wayyy too sweet for me. But this is a true, homemade butterscotch, and it’s sweet in a way that doesn’t give you a tummyache or make you want to go straight to the dentist without passing Go immediately after having a spoonful. What I’m saying is, it has a distinct flavor beyond just SWEET!!!1!!!111! It has just enough pumpkin-y flavor to add a fun twist without being overpowering and it’s wonderfully spiced, with notes of cloves, cinnamon, and a bit of molasses. Plus there’s a spoonful of rum for all you boozers out there. A winner is you, Butterscotch Pumpkin Pudding!

So there you have it, my 3/500. It strikes me that all three photos have a fairly similar color palette, despite their subjects having wildly different ingredients. And that’s only enhanced by the the horrible no-time-to-take-photos-in-natural-light side effect of MoFo being in November. Ah well. Anyway, I can’t wait to tackle some of the more substantial recipes from this cookbook, because Celine and Joni have really put together an outstanding collection. I’m lookin’ at you, Pumpkin Fauxsage!

Do you have a cookbook you know is full of fantastic recipes but that you just don’t use often enough?Alternatively, how do you feel about pudding?

The Great Cake Debacle (and some raspberry-chocolate goodness)

Fun fact about me: I hate failure. Obviously nobody likes it much, but it seriously grates at me. As a perfectionist with OCD, I can’t stand when things don’t work out correctly. Failure is like a festering wound into which I keep pouring salt in the form of continually obsessing about what went wrong and why things didn’t turn out perfectly. I feel the compulsive need to fix my problem, to make it right. Bear that in mind as I spin the following tail of woe.

On Wednesday evening, my family had a little get-together because my darling baby sister is going away to college in a few days, and we wanted to send her off properly. I found myself in charge of providing sustenance in the form of desserts of my sister’s choosing. First she decided that the Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars from Vegan with a Vengeance sounded mighty fine, so that went on the list, and after procuring a few choice items, we threw together the blondies with no problem. They came out perfectly; the Lindt dark chocolate bits we used in place of chocolate chips contrasted most deliciously with the raspberry filling. These were a huge hit – and they didn’t look too shabby, either.

Chocolate and raspberry delight.

Tantalizing, no? But we had to make something else, because a proper dessert gathering is all about having options. So, after much hemming and hawing, Sister Dearest decided she wanted something lemony. A lemon cake, perhaps.

But where to look for a sophisticated, lightly lemony cake recipe? It was obvious to me. I headed over to Have Cake, Will Travel to see what Celine could offer. I found perfection in the form of her Lemony French Cake. You all need to go check out Celine’s gorgeous photos of this cake to understand why I was so enamored with it. It’s truly a thing of beauty, understated in its elegance yet clearly sophisticated. Wildly eager to recreate this statuesque stunner, I followed Celine’s gentle hint to bake the cake a day ahead of time in order to to “let the flavors develop.” After successfully and easily pulling together the blondies, I imagined that this next endeavor would be – pardon the expression – a piece of cake. With only eight ingredients, I anticipated a surefire success. So imagine my dismay, friends, when ding of the oven’s timer revealed this to me:

Pancake-cakes!

Oh, the horror! I’m exaggerating, though; the baking of this cake was fraught with adversity and halfway through I knew with dreadful certainty that no good would come of it. First, my poor, helpful, little sister zested her finger instead of a lemon and was out of commission. Next, because of my local grocery stores’ lack of plain or even vanilla non-dairy yogurt, I had to resort to this “recipe” instead.* I’d used it successfully in the blondies, and it never fails in the muffins from Vegan Brunch I’ve made a few times, but I think that for this cake recipe, it’s just not right. Because I sort of eyeball the amount of cornstarch, I often tend to add a little too much, thus creating a quite thick “yogurt.” I also sometimes neglect to add the splash of lemon juice or vinegar the recipe includes, which in this case was a punch in the gut since I had lemons right there – this is, after all, a lemon cake. Then, because the soy yogurt was so thick, my cake batter was very, very thick. So I added a few squeezes of lemon juice (I was replacing the lemon extract with extra zest, by the by) and a dash of soy milk, and had to keep stirring to mix everything together. Only after I had thoroughly stirred my batter did I notice Celine’s note to “stir until just combined;” it was then that a 1000-watt lightbulb flashed on in my brain and I realized that this was a delicate cake, one that required a light touch and definitely not extra mixing.

Presentiments of failure began to stir in my head at this point, but I pushed them aside for the time. The final piece of kindling in this fire of failure was my lack of a 6″ x 4″ round cake pan; we only have the small 9″ x 1″ ones, so after doing some hasty math, my sister and I thought we might just make two of those size and layer them. But by the time I halved my batter and poured it into the two pans, it was too late to save the cakes. A few minutes in the oven revealed that they were obstinately refusing to rise; I’d overmixed them and allowed the flour to glutenize. And the shallower pans surely didn’t help matters; in retrospect, after seeing how little they’d risen, I realized that just one 9″ x 1″ pan would’ve worked fine. Anyway, 25 minutes later, I ended up with two very, very flat lemon cakes… they were more like pancakes, really. I felt irritated with myself because the failure was my fault; I should have intuited what sort of cake this was and not taken it for granted. There was no way I could show these cakes to my family the following night, but by then it was too late to do anything; I’d have to wait until the following day. I went to bed, and visions of tiny, mocking lemon cakes danced in my head.

I awoke the next morning with a few possible solutions. I could save the cakes for “personal eating” and make something totally new, or I could try again and work to perfect the same cakes. But neither of those possibilities satisfied the frugal penny-pincher that lives inside of me; it seemed like a waste to make something entirely new. So I decided that if the cakes at least tasted okay, they might be salvageable.

A tiny taste revealed to me that – hallelujah! – despite their refusal to rise and dense appearance, the cakes still tasted mighty fine! The way was clear for a salvaging mission. After a little quick thinking, I decided to stack the cakes and make mock-petit fours with a layer of raspberry jam in the middle, thus turning VeggaSis’s going-away gathering into a vaguely raspberry-themed event. I covered my faux petit fours with a simple glaze, and guess what? They didn’t turn out half bad.

SUCCESS.

These sweet squares looked charming and had a delicate lemon flavor that was complemented nicely by the raspberry filling. So even though my inner perfectionist is still bothered by my initial failure, I’m happy that I managed to save the cakes and turn them into something presentable. I’ll try the recipe again soon, armed with a little extra experience under my belt. ;)

I’ll leave you with another gratuitous blondie shot, because these babies were amazing. My one tiny criticism of the recipe is that the actual blondie layer is much more cake-like than blondie-esque, even if the flavor is spot-on. I might tinker with it some day and try to give it a denser, chewier texture. But even if I don’t, I’m definitely adding this recipe to my arsenal of no-fail favorites!

Yum.

* I found this recipe while Googling for a quick homemade soy yogurt recipe, and I do believe that this must be an older blog of Celine’s, which I didn’t realize until now. Interesting!