Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book club baking - Chocolate Beetroot Brownies and Chocolate Marshmallow Truffles

As my last post may have indicated, I did some baking over the weekend. And as a number of you deduced, it was a little more extensive than usual.

The reason? This week, it was my turn to host book club. My book club has a brilliant arrangement in place, whereby we meet at 7pm and the host provides dessert.

This combination of books, dessert-dinner, and familiar friends makes, for me, a perfect social event. And of course, if you're hosting, it provides a perfect opportunity to take to the kitchen.

When I last hosted friends, it was three days after we returned from Tasmania and I had little time to plan or prepare dishes in advance.

This time around, I was in a better position and I wanted to take full advantage of it.

I decided to make a vegan vegetable dessert trio, which I had immense fun planning (even as I chuckled to myself at the lentil-eating-hippy stereotype that "vegan vegetable dessert" conjures up!):

  • Chocolate beetroot brownies
  • Apple rhubarb pie
  • Apple zucchini spice cake

I also threw in a non-vegan, non-vegetable bonus:
  • Marshmallow truffle balls

The chocolate marshmallow truffles were actually a last minute swap in for Oh She Glows Itty Bitty Carrot Cake Cookies, which I managed to slightly under-bake (they were still nice, but not quite up to being given to others). I probably did make too much food, my book club having 10 people (3 of whom weren't attending!) rather than 20, but it was great to have an excuse to bake on a larger scale.

The brownie and truffle ball recipes are below, whilst the apple products will appear another time :)

Chocolate beetroot brownies

I used to make these quite regularly, but somehow got out of the habit. As a result, I managed to lose the recipe I used to use. Thank goodness for this blog, which prevents similar scenarios happening now...

Given my recipe-less state, I adapted this beetroot chocolate cake recipe from FatFree Vegan Kitchen.  Things turned out as I hoped they would: moist, chocolatey, and fudgy. 

Makes 16 brownies

Wet ingredients:

  • 400g tin of canned beetroot, drained
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Dry ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1/3 cup good quality cocoa
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • ~50g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks (or buy chocolate chips)

1. Preheat oven to 160'C fan forced (180'C non-fan forced) and line a square baking tin with baking paper.

2. Drain the canned beetroot and place beets in a food processor. Process until pureed, and then combine with the 1/2 cup apple sauce, 2 tablespoons water, vanilla, and apple cider. Mix well. 

Things will look quite red. Don't worry.

3. Mix the dry ingredients together, with the exception of the chopped chocolate. Then add in the beet mix and stir until well-combined.

4. Add the chopped chocolate and stir through until just combined.

5. Pour mixture into pan and bake for ~40 minutes (the original recipe noted 35 - 60 minutes depending on the size of your pan; if you're unsure, check after 35 minutes). 

Remove from the oven when a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, or nearly clean, depending on how moist and fudgey you like things (I took mine out when the toothpick wasn't quite clean).

6. Allow to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, and then cool completely on a baking tray before storing and cutting.

You could ice these, but I didn't.

It's hard to believe that these are oil and butter free. Even with the chocolate / chocolate chips, the nutritional profile is pretty impressive:

They don't taste vegan or vegetable-y, although they don't taste quite like regular brownies. Notably, they also don't leave you feeling slightly sick (which I recall regular brownies doing). I might be returning these to my baking rotation.

Marshmallow Truffle Balls

These balls went some way towards balancing out the healthy nature of the brownies, and they're certainly a little different to the nut / dried fruit balls I typically make. They are, however, incredibly easy and fun.

I adapted Anna Johnston's recent white chocolate marshmallow truffles recipe, which caught my attention last week. I can imagine a number of variations working well, including vegan adaptations, which I might try in future.

Adapted from The Hospitality Guru
Makes 16 balls (these were quite large, so you could easily make 20+ if you were more skilled with rolling smaller teaspoonfuls)

  • 100g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia light) *
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar + 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp good quality cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows, or regular marshmallows chopped up *
  • Coloured sprinkles
* If you use dairy free cream cheese and something other than marshmallows (dried fruit, nuts, biscuit pieces...), these could be made vegan. I just tried some of the cream cheese / chocolate mix and skipped the final product with the mallows (I'm less concerned with milk than with gelatin...) :P

1. Blend the cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add the sugar and process until well combined.

2. Add the cocoa and vanilla to the cream cheese / sugar mix, and process to mix.

3. Heat your chocolate in the microwave, or if your microwave has stopped working (true! ours broke!), in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

4. Add the cream cheese mixture to the melted chocolate, and fold through to mix. Stir until smooth. Add the marshmallow pieces.

5. Pour ~1/4 cup sprinkles into a large bowl. Roll teaspoonfulls of the chocolate mix into the sprinkles, then place on a foil lined tray.

6. Set in the fridge (or freezer) until set - at least 1 hour but preferably longer. I set these in the freezer and noticed they didn't get very hard even in there.

As a last minute aside, our book this month was The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. I'd recommend it!

Are you in a book club? Or have fail proof desserts for entertaining?


  1. Yay, thank you so much for the shout out lovely. :) Totes appreciate it. :) Now the brownie just sounds so good. Ivegot all these beetroot and Choc recipes around the traps, but have been kinda scared to try them. It looks amazing. I wondered how much the beet flavor would cut through? And you've answered that. Not to vegetabley. Can't wait to try. Mmmmmm!
    PS: Love that you do book club. I must start something like that. Brilliant idea. :)

  2. I do that, too: make WAY too much food for events all the time... I just can't help it! I get excited and then I want to satisfy EVERYONE's EVERY NEED EVER!!! Madness.

    I'm not with you on beetroot brownies... but give me black bean brownies, and I'm a fan! I think I would actually rather have fat in the brownies and *not* 1 cup of sugar---until the day that they realise that vitamin K is sugar-soluble or something, right? :) Oh sugar, you are so sweet, and so totally ruin my self-control...

  3. @Anna Johnston
    You are most welcome! And yes, do try the beetroot brownies...I've not served them to anyone who has guessed they contain beets. They don't taste quite the same as normal ones, but if you're happy to have brownies with a twist, these work well :)

  4. @Stephanie @
    Yep, we have the same hosting style :)

    Interesting thoughts on the sugar / fat issue. I'm probably for both in moderation, but do tend to pair sweet things with plain yoghurt or some such. With that said, 1 cup sugar / 16 = 1 tablespoon, which (I think) is about half of what's in a regular chocolate bar or similar. I guess balance is everything.

  5. I so wish I was in a book club! My mum has been most of her life, and while they meet at 8pm, the host always provides dessert too :) I'm so very, very excited by your beetroot recipe, because I've wanted to try something like this for ages but have never seen one that uses canned beetroot before. Ease for the win!

  6. Dessert and books...what's not to like really :-) I would like to be a part of a book club but never quite got myself oragnised enough to do it. With desserts like yours though, I'd happily crash one!

  7. Looks fantastic - ages since I baked with beetroot - but am curious that you use it from the tin - does that mean you use the sort that is pickled in vinegar and sugar or do you use a trendy one that is just beetroot in juice?

    Glad you mentioned the book - am always curious about what others are reading - and I hope your microwave recovers or is replaced - I would be lost without mine

  8. @Hannah
    My Mum was in a book club too...sometimes I feel like I'm turning into her on book club nights :P I hope you like the brownies, if you try them!

  9. @cityhippyfarmgirl
    I must confess that if I'd had to organise a book club from scratch, it may never have happened. Thank goodness for organised and socially minded friends :)

  10. @Johanna GGG
    Thanks Johanna - I'm glad it's not just me who is microwave dependent!

    I do use the standard tinned beets, never having found any tinned only in juice. Draining them well gets rid of all the liquid vinegar / sugar mix, but fresh would obviously raise the health stakes somewhat.

  11. They look great Kari - and I like that they're low in fat - I wonder if you could sub anything different for the flour - I react badly to wheat?

  12. @Liz@LastChanceTraining
    Hmm...good question. I don't honestly know, but I am sure you could. I think almond meal would work, but that would obviously change the final result quite a bit. I feel like ground oats might work, but think some experimenting might be required! I'll give it some further thought :)

  13. I don't really like beets, in fact I detest them, but the brownies still look amazing. I'd probably try them, as long as you promised me they didn't taste like beets!

  14. @Carolyn
    Well, I dislike tinned beets, so I think it's safe to say they can't be tasted. I promise :)


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