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Kitchen Witch - Vegan brownies that don't suck (really)

Brownie Bites

Ever try one of those well-meaning dairy and egg-free cookies or cakes made with date paste, pumpkin puree or flax seed? You could use them as bricks for a mud hut. There's got to be a better way to a happy ending.

Of course, the answer to all these problems is fruit, and fruit is always lovely — a fiber-filled treat, nature's candy, what the Doc ordered. Yeah, yeah. I bet you 50 bucks that no vegan friends of mine would be happy about having a peeled banana to blow out their birthday candles.

As already mentioned, eating the vegan way is a choice. But being allergic or unable to digest wheat is not. Dessert time must be a serious drag.

Always on the lookout for tweaks to sweets that accommodate all kinds of diets, I recently came across a double-whammy do-gooder. Not only is it vegan, but the recipe for the mini-brownies below are gluten free, which makes them celiac-friendly.

Featured in the current issue of Food & Wine magazine, this recipe comes from the kitchen of BabyCakes NYC, a vegan bakery in New York. Despite the pretty magazine spread, I must confess to low expectations. I had to shell out extra cash and energy for gluten-free all-purpose flour and a natural binder called xanthan gum, for crying out loud. Was it really going to be worth the work and learning?

Damn straight it was. A huge score, a vegan victory and better still, an opportunity for gluten-less gluttony. Run and hide these babies from your carnivorous, doughnut-eating friends. They're that good.

Brownie Bites

From the Sept. 2006 issue of Food & Wine

Vegetable oil spray

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose baking flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 cup applesauce

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (I used Sunspire brand organic semi-sweet chocolate chips, which are dairy free)

· Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray mini-muffin pan with vegetable oil spray. (If you can find them, mini-muffin paper liners are ideal; they make a better presentation and seem to hold up better than their unlined counterparts.)

· In a medium bowl, combine baking flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum.

· In another bowl, whisk applesauce, oil and vanilla, then stir into dry ingredients.

· Stir in chocolate chips.

· Spoon batter into muffin pan, filling each cup three-quarters full. Bake for 15 minutes, or until set.

· Allow brownies to cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

· Makes 24 servings.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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