These fudgy, chocolate-rich brownie bars are named Vegan Crackled Midnight Brownies because of all the nights I’ve stayed up until midnight trying to perfect the recipe!
In an attempt to create all that I seek in a good brownie, I’ve tried no fewer than 25 variations of this recipe before . My aim? To strike the perfect balance between fudgy and cakey, chocolate-rich but not overwhelmingly so, and of course, to produce the highly-coveted glossy, crackly top.
The entire process has been as intense as the cocoa solids in the chocolate I was baking with.
A great vegan brownie recipe
My final bar is everything I look for in a truly wicked brownie. Squares of dense chocolate fudge, 2.5cm deep, encased in light chocolate cake, and crowned with a glossy, paper-thin “meringue-ish” patina. They’re moist, but not so much that they don’t benefit from being washed down with a glass of cold milk. And most importantly, they’re not so intensely flavoured that they feel too grown up to be a nostalgic treat.
Brownies will only be as good as the chocolate you use
Brownies made with dark chocolate will produce a brownie with more more bitter notes than brownies made with milk chocolate. I follow the school of thought that advocates the use of the best quality chocolate you can afford. After all, brownies are all about showing off great chocolate.
I’m yet to find a vegan milk chocolate I love, so I stuck to my two favourite dark chocolate brands in this recipe. If you do makes these brownies with milk chocolate, note that the recipe will result in brownies that are lighter in colour and much sweeter than the original.
My best advice is to choose the chocolate brands you actually like the taste of. It sounds silly but this is an easy thing to overlook. Having said this, feel free to mix things up with a couple of different brands. Baker extraordinaire, Stella Parks suggests blending multiple chocolate brands in her fabulous cookbook, Bravetart. Using multiple varieties allows you to build depth of flavour in your brownies. It works.
These vegan brownies are the ultimate balance between fudgy and chewy, chocolatey and sweet.
Finding your flavour inspiration
Whilst the most important flavour of any brownie comes from the chocolate, there is a simple beauty in being able to customise them to your taste.
Some great brownie mix-in ideas
- Chopped nuts
- More chocolate (your favourite candy bar, for example)
- Crushed cookies or cookie dough
- Fruits like cherries or raspberries
- Spices. If you know me, I’m all about masala magic
My midnight brownies are flavoured with star anise and orange zest. It’s a truly breathtaking combination that was meant to be paired with chocolate.
The eight-pointed star releases a delicious liquorice aroma when ground into a fine powder. Muddling it with the zest of an orange mellows it down for Asian vibes your brownies will welcome.
Baking for relaxation
Do you ever get an itch to wander into the kitchen and bake? I do. It’s an inexplicable longing to make magic for the people you love (including yourself because self-love is important too).
It’s not often I go in to the kitchen completely sure of what I’m going to make. I’ll have something in the fridge or cupboard I know I want, then I forage about until I find the perfect partners for what I fancy and they could be totally bizarre combinations I’ve never tried before.
If I’ve learned anything from all my years of experimental cooking is that you have to be fearless. FEARLESS. Yeah sure, sometimes things don’t turn out the way you plan but that’s what takeaway pizza and shop-bought ice cream is there for.
Ingredients you’ll need to make my Vegan Crackled Midnight Brownies
- Plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- Icing sugar
- Cocoa powder (not hot chocolate mix)
- Baking powder
- Ground flax seeds
- Aquafaba (water from a can of unsalted chickpeas or beans)
- Refined coconut oil
- Dark chocolate (1-2 of your favourite brands)
- Light brown sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Ground star anise
- Orange zest
- Fine salt
Time needed: 1 hour.
How to make Vegan Crackled Midnight Brownies
- Make up a flax “egg”
In a small bowl, mix together the ground flax seeds and aquafaba. Allow to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Combine some of the dry ingredients
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cornflour, baking powder and salt.
- Melt the chocolate
Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together over a bain marie or in the microwave. Stir gently and infrequently. Allow to cool slightly.
- Gently whisk the following ingredients into the melted chocolate mixture
Icing sugar, brown sugar, flax “egg”, hot water, orange zest, ground star anise and vanilla extract.
- Combine the dry and wet ingredients
Whisk everything together until the mixture is smooth and shiny.
- Pour and bake
Pour the thick batter into a greased and lined baking tin and bake at 175°C/350°F for 25 minutes. The middle should still be slightly wobbly.
- 20cm x 25cm x 10cm-deep (8" x 10" x 4"-deep) non-stick baking tin or 9" x 4"-deep square
- 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
- 120 ml aquafaba hot
- 100 g plain flour
- 50 g cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 125 g dark chocolate chopped (I used a blend of two of my favourite brands)
- 60 g coconut oil
- 200 g icing sugar
- 50 g light brown sugar
- 60 ml hot water
- 1/4 tsp ground star anise
- Zest of 1 medium orange
- Grease and line a 20cm x 25cm x 10cm-deep (8" x 10" x 4"-deep) traybake tin with coconut oil and baking parchment. Leave an overhang at either side to lift the brownie out easily later.
- Pre-heat the oven to 175°C/350°F.
- In a small bowl, mix together the ground flax seeds and hot aquafaba. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cornflour, baking powder and salt.
- Place the chocolate and coconut oil over a bain-marie and allow it to melt, stirring gently. Once melted, remove from the heat and set aside. You can also microwave them in a glass bowl on high power in 30 second intervals until melted. Stir gently between each blast. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Add the icing sugar, brown sugar, flax-aquafaba mixture, hot water, orange zest and ground star anise. Whip for 2-3 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth and shiny.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients and whisk again until smooth and glossy, about 90 seconds.
- Pour into a lined pan and bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the tin before slicing for perfect squares.
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If you like this recipe, you’ll love these Vegan Rice Krispie Treats made with REAL vanilla!