You probably know Germany has a long, outstanding tradition of great desserts. Especially on my first visits to Germany in the late 90s, I enjoyed many apple strudels, cherry, plum, and peach cakes, and lots of other fruity and nutty delights. Germany is also famous for Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies), Stollen (fruitcakes), and tons of other decadent treats, increasingly available as vegan adaptations. The best, of course, come from home kitchens. In addition to the pastry shops and bakeries, the cafés almost always have great sweets, too.
In these cafés, you’ll see something that looks a lot like a brownie. There might even be a card next to it that says: Brownies. However – I grew up (mostly) in the United States – with awesome brownies at home, friends’ homes, from school bake sales, and just about anywhere else baked goods are found. Sadly, most of these German “Brownies” are imposters. They’re lackluster chocolate cake cut in the shape of a brownie! Fluffy and cake-like, and maybe pretty, but not gooey or chocolatey. I stopped ordering them years ago, probably after the third or fourth time someone told me: “No, no, this one really is a brownie!” Only to be fooled again.
Sure, I like chocolate cake as much as the next guy. In all honesty, I’m certainly not addicted to chocolate or super-sweet stuff. There are plenty of treats I like that are mild and not so decadent. But when I want something, I want it right: Brownies have to be chocolatey.
For years, I tried to make vegan brownies that look and taste just like I remember them from childhood. A few times I pulled off a good batch and distributed them among German friends, anxious for them to experience the real thing. But I must confess, I’ve never been a disciplined baker, and I’m kind of afraid of ovens. I wanted a good brownie recipe for the cookbook and website. Something unique for everyone, a sort of American-German collaboration. But something that could still be called a brownie!
So, I turned to Jasmin at Baking the Law, and humbly asked for advice. She has far more experience with the baking arts, and I totally dig her style and character. Sure, I could’ve found something to start with in a cookbook, or online. But I wanted to come up with something special. My original idea was double or even triple chocolate brownies. That seemed too commonplace. Jasmin suggested roasted walnuts as a nutty twist. I immediately liked the idea; Many traditional German baking wonders involve ground hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts. She came up with the starting recipe, so I wouldn’t have to play 3 or 4 batches of Brownie Recipe Roulette. Did I mention I have trouble following baking instructions and mistrust ovens? Cooking is art, Baking is science.
The brownies turned out fantastic and delicious. Better even than my most successful experiments over the years! But I can’t claim full credit on this one. I know that it’s cool to ask for help when you need it. If my secret plan works out, getting this recipe out in Germany will help put the chocolate back in “Brownies”… and give Brownie-lovers worldwide a taste of something a bit new and different.
Roasted Walnut Brownies
makes 12-16 / time 50 min
- 150 g walnuts
- 2/3 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g dark chocolate finely chopped or chips
- 1 cup / 135 g flour
- 1/2 cup / 40 g cocoa
- pinch cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup / 120 ml vegetable oil
- 1 cup / 225 g sugar
- 1/2 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g silken tofu
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup / 80 ml soy milk or almond milk
- Lightly roast walnuts on a tray in oven, or toast in small pan on stove, 3-5 min. Watch carefully, do not burn!
- Grind roasted walnuts until fine in a food processor, or with mortar and pestle.
- Combine flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt in large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix oil and sugar. Add tofu, vanilla, soy milk, ground walnuts. Mix until smooth.
- Gradually add flour mix to wet ingredients, continually stirring, followed by chocolate chips.
- Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C / level 5.
- Lightly grease baking form or pan. Pour and spoon batter into pan and spread evenly.
- Bake for 25-35 min, until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.
- Allow to cool at least 30 min before cutting. Garnish with powdered sugar or melted chocolate and serve!
No Tofu: Substitute 2-3 Tbsn soy flour (or cornstarch) + 1/4 cup water. Nuts: Try crumbled walnuts instead of ground. Use slightly less soy milk and oil, especially if omitting. Orange: Get seasonal with 1 Tbsn orange zest!