Soup Building and Vegan Black Bean Brownies: This is not a fully Vegan post.

I guess I should begin by saying that I am fascinated by the vegan diet. I have never been vegan, though I was vegetarian for a time, but have known several. I think it requires a particular discipline that I do not posses. Granted,I do not approve of the exploitation of animals purely for wares and consumption, but I do feel that if the animals are raised humanely, killed humanely, and nothing is wasted that they are here to co-exist with us and better our existence in the end.

After arriving back home from our short and warm vacation, we were welcomed by brisk 20 degree weather and no food in the home. It seemed like soup weather to me. Mere seconds
after entering the door, I had a stock started from the leftover Thanksgiving turkey. It was smoked, and lent its peculiar smokiness to the stock.

With ninja like reflex, I unpacked a couple pieces of luggage, sorted the laundry from the toiletries and decided to make some noodles
. I ate two things of particular remembrance while in Florida, and one was a cup of turkey noodle soup at a Cracker Barrel on Friday afternoon. It was thick and spicy with pepper, and full of fat egg noodles. I haven't made a soup with egg noodles for quite awhile, and I was already plotting to do this as soon as I got home.

Egg noodles are among the easiest things to make, since the more imperfect they are the more homemade they feel. Simply mix 2 eggs to a cup of flour by first making the flour into a little mountain with a crater in the top and breaking the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork, incorporating the flour gradually into a paste. When your fork no longer is useful, use one hand to form the ragged dough into a ball. Rest it in some plastic wrap for 30 minutes or so at room temperature, as I do, or in the fridge as some Italians do.

The dough will be rather sticky, but I like to add more flour as I hand roll through the settings on the machine. When I first started making egg pasta, I religiously followed Marcella Hazan's advice of hand kneading for 7 minutes, I think it was. Besides improving my forearm muscles, I failed to see how this improved my final product. Work smarter, not harder, I say and use a hand cranking machine to your advantage.

I'm fortunate to have the Atlas Pasta Queen that my Mom gave me since she never makes the pasta rolled out thin into fettuccine like I do. She prefers to make egg noodles by rolling pin, which is also fine. But since I have this fine piece of equipment, I like to roll the dough to setting 5 (of the 7 settings on my machine) and then cut by pizza cutter to varying noodle sizes.

When making soup noodles, toss liberally with flour and leave on a sheet tray until you are ready to cook them. I like to keep adding flour as they absorb it a little. The more flour added, the thicker the final broth of your soup will be. My soup was not as thick as I would have liked, but it was more than a gallon of stock I was starting with.

Finished stock.

Building the soup.

I was pretty bare bones on fresh ingredients, so the only veg wise ingredients in my soup were classic mirepoix ingredients: onion, celery and carrot. The final product included quite a bit of black pepper, aleppo pepper and salt - and just a bit of that sprouting lemon thyme growing in my dining room. I discovered that the sprouting thyme has a much cleaner and fresher taste than the woody, hardier growing thyme in the yard.

We both (of course the Boy-O wouldn't eat it) liked it, and I have 3 quarts leftover. I don't have to make supper tonight, or lunch for awhile I guess.

After dinner, I was earmarking recipes for Christmas Cookie baking which I will start tomorrow. I'm kind of thinking to make all Saveur recipes this year, since they send me such nice emails, and have many that look too good to pass up. The only problem I see is with food blogging at this time of year, any potential cookie recipients will already know what is in the tin.

At any rate, I came across a bookmark for Outpost's Black Bean Brownies. When I opened the link, however, there was no more recipe. I searched in vain for their lost recipe, and they must have taken it off the site. Fortunately, iPod googled me pages and pages of alternatives.

Most of my early clicks landed me on brownies that started with a pound of butter. Then, I decided to go with Vegan brownies. I found a winner at No Meat Athlete, in which Christine bases her whole wheat vegan version on a King Arthur Flour recipe.

Since I have really vowed never to buy canned beans (except for baked beans, which I really love out of the can) again, I couldn't use her recipe verbatim. She calls for one can of black beans, which I know to be 9 oz. of beans. My amazing kitchen math tells me that if if you have a 15 oz. can of beans, then 6 oz. are of water or bean stock. Since I used half the recipe so I could use a 9x9 pan, I utilized my quantum math skills to half the recipe. Since you simply mix the dry ingredients, then add the wet, I'll just list my amounts here (if you are going to make these, I urge you to visit the original post first!):

Vegan Black Bean Brownies:

  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 c. + 2 T. raw sugar
  • 1/2 c. + 2 T. cocoa powder
  • 2 t. espresso powder
  • 3/4 c. chopped pecans (or any nut)

for the wet ingredients, including the beans by weight, not volume:

  • 4.5 oz. black beans
  • 3 oz. water
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 t. vanilla

Really, just mix up everything (puree the beans in the water first), and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

After I read the post, I could tell she was really cutting back on the sugar, so I opted to throw in a handful of mint chocolate chips along with the nuts. The resulting brownie was so chocolaty and nearly fudgelike, I dare to say it was almost too much chocolate for me. Almost.

I did have one mishap since I used my new favorite pressure cooking method to cook the beans, and I was chasing a 3 year old around the house at the same time. I used the last of my black beans on hand, probably about a 1/4 of a pound, and didn't add enough water to the pressure cooker. Had I not set the timer for an hour, I probably would have been OK, but unfortunately, I started to smell burning black beans signaling me to take them off the heat and quick release the pressure. I thought it would be a no-brownie night, but the beans not touching the bottom of the pan were salvageable. Lesson learned. Try not to pressure cook less than a half pound of beans at a time, make sure you add enough water, and try to be too distracted with household duties when pressure cooking!

I've yet to see if this recipe passes my Husband's test, and haven't decided if I'll tell him the secret ingredient before he tries them. I also think that next time, I'll use dark brown sugar instead of raw sugar. It seemed to me that there was just a little something missing. After I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream, I thought it was pretty near perfect. So much for my Vegan Brownie experience... but they are worth a try, and are as good as guilt-free as far as desserts go.