Yesterday, we kicked off our short series on vegan holiday dishes with a recipe for brussels sprouts and cuneiform bean soup. Today, we’re looking at desserts, with brownies and the ever-elusive pie crust.

Raggedy Anarchy Brownies
This recipe is lifted from the awesome Raggedy Anarchy’s Guide to Vegan Baking and the Universe, a zine someone gave me in 1999. I have no idea where to get it these days. The texture of these bars is lovely.

Preheat oven to 350 F
In a saucepan cook over low heat – stirring constantly – until quite thick

½ cup flour
1 ¼ cup water

cool this mixture completely, then add

2 2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered cocoa
2/3 cup vegetable oil (I once made it with peanut oil, which was tasty)

when this is well mixed-in add

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

then finally add (optional)

¾ cup chopped nuts (or ½ cup chopped mints! Or for chocolate overload, ¾ cup choc chips)

Pour this mixture into a greased 9×13” pan and put in oven for about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Not Your Momma’s Pie Crust (with non-vegan alternative)

Ingredients

Crust (makes one 10” double-crust or two 8-10” single crust pies):

2 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup coconut or other oil, cooled in fridge
(Solider fats are better. Liquid oils will result in tougher and less desirable crust. Using some or all coconut or perhaps palm oil is ideal, but remember you’ll have to put the jar in warm water first to soften the oil, pour it out to measure, and stick it in the fridge to cool. Cold or even frozen vegan margarine may work all right. Non-vegans can just use butter. If using solid oils like coconut, cut into 1″ squarish chunks)
1 tsp salt
¼ to ½ cup of COLD water (do not use soymilk! Water quantity varies with climate)

I’ll be honest, pie crust is both easy and takes a little practice. Crust texture is perhaps 37 percent of the enjoyment in pie, and for optimal crust, serve pie the day of baking. Raw crust can be refrigerated for up to a week.

The cardinal rule of flaky, light crust is it should remain cold until it hits the oven and the fat and flour should be incompletely mixed. That means minimal fondling with hot hands. Furthermore, minimize water in the crust.

Good texture to begin adding water

In a food processor pulse fat and flour together a few times until the pieces are around pea-sized or the mixture looks like coarse meal. Or, if without food processor, cut cold oil into flour with two knives slicing against each other – one knife in each hand.

Add cold water, drop by drop, while either pulsing the processor or mixing with a utensil. The amount of water needed will vary depending on outside humidity, but the dough should be sticky enough that it can exist as a ball, but not one iota stickier than that. When it begins to fall away from the sides of the food processor, stop. You’re done. The idea is you don’t want uniformity with the fat and you want as little water as possible. It should be combined, but not perfectly homogenous. Too much mixing leads to cardboard crust.

With your hands, quickly collect the dough into two balls and wrap them in plastic or foil. Refrigerate at least 60 minutes before rolling out to 1/8” thick. When rolling, minimize contact with hands and use flour to keep the dough from sticking to rolling device or your cutting board. Lightly fold dough up to move it into the pan, then unfold.

Filling: It’s pretty forgiving as long as you use enough sugar. Remove unwanted fruit peels, pits, seeds etc. Add ½ to 1 cup sugar – more if it’s a sour fruit – maybe a teaspoon or two of lemon juice OR (not both) a squirt of vanilla extract if it goes with your fruit. Other filling partners are ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, raisins. For example, in an apple pie: add ½ tsp vanilla and 2 tsp cinnamon. OR 1 tsp lemon juice and some crushed ginger and raisins. Most good fruit speaks for itself, less is more.

Mix a tsp of cornstarch in a tiny bit of water and add that if you like that gloopier pie texture. A tbsp of flour will have a similar but less gloopy effect.

Roll out dough, oil pan, put dough in pan, put filling in dough, put more dough on top but don’t forget to cut a few gaps in the crust, or easier yet, just put mismatched strips of dough on top, somewhat parallel to each other. Seal edges. If they don’t stick, moisten with water.

Bake maybe 50 minutes at 350 F. Check on your pie often after 30 minutes. It is done when fruit is bubbling and crust begins to turn brown. Cool before serving. Do not bike or drive with hot pie – it will ruin the crust.

Anrica Deb

Anrica is a science reporter and twice Cal grad, with a degree in engineering and a master of journalism. She's a Bay Area native and lives in Oakland. She's enjoyed wide-ranging professional endeavors,...

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