Thursday, January 30, 2014

Palm Oil No More, and Mocha Teff Brownies

These brownies round out my Ethiopian collection, so I thought it'd be nice to post the recipe here, especially since I feel like I finally broke the crinkly topped xgfx brownie code. The method for making these is a little unconventional, but it's what gives them such a good texture and finish.
I don't really think I need to post this for accountability's sake, but it won't hurt, so here goes: over the last year, I've made a notable effort to reduce our household consumption of palm oil. I just listened to The Vegan Option podcast from September 2013 about Palm Oil and it made me more committed than ever to stop consuming it. 

I'm not sure how long Earth Balance has been around, but I'm guessing I was vegan for at least 12 years before it ever surfaced, and I did just fine without it. Not only that, but nowadays there's coconut oil and excellent palm-free homemade butter recipes (see Miyoko's here and Bryanna's here).

The podcast I linked to is really informative and does address green certified palm, but since I don't need palm, I'm not gonna eat it, and I'll sleep better at night, too.

This new dedicated shift won't be hard for us in the house--I don't bake that often and we don't eat a lot of processed foods, but I think it's going to be really challenging when we go out to eat. And I might find myself surprised at the grocery store, since until now, I haven't checked for it in shampoo and stuff like that.

What do you think about consuming palm? I don't consider myself an expert, but I'm interested in what other folks think, or don't think about the subject.

I'm proud to say that all the recipes in my forthcoming Ethiopian cookbook are palm-freeable.
I've reworked my favorite xgfx brownie recipe and thought it'd be nice to post here--it's sad to say, but I don't think I've posted a recipe in over a year! These are a cross between fudgy and chewy, but not cakey at all, which is an abomination where I'm from. I'm also happy to report these have the ever important crinkly top (thanks to the melted sugar), and are gum-free and won't crumble into your coffee, unless you want them to.

The brownies pictured contain chocolate chips and walnuts, but my favorite are the rocky road, since the marshmallow sorta explode inside and caramelize on top.

Mocha Teff Brownies
Makes 12 brownies
I could never be mistaken for a coffee drinker, but I do love a fudgy, crinkly topped brownie with chewy edges and corners. The coffee in these brownies highlights the cocoa and is my way of offering a nod towards Ethiopia’s ancient coffee tradition.

Teff and chocolate are one of my favorite combinations, and these brownies are perfect for hoarding, or for your next vegan bake-sale. If you’re like me and so ridiculously sensitive to caffeine that one bite will keep you up all night, make sure to use decaffeinated coffee!

1⅓ cups sorghum flour
¼ cup potato starch
¼ cup tapioca starch
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unbleached granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee
⅓ cup teff flour
¾ cup brown sugar, unpacked
⅔ cup fair trade cocoa powder
¼ cup coconut oil (refined or unrefined)
¼ cup organic canola oil
2 tablespoons finely ground flax seed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅓ cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line an 8x8-inch glass pan with parchment paper. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the sorghum flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, baking powder, and salt

Put the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring almost constantly, until the sugar has mostly dissolved, about 6 minutes (don’t let it boil, but small bubbles around the sides of the pan are OK). Transfer the hot sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and rinse out the saucepan.

Combine the coffee and teff flour in the same saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble and thicken. Once the teff mixture has thickened into a smooth, pudding-like texture, continue to cook and stir for another minute. Transfer the teff mixture to the mixing bowl with the sugar and add the coconut and canola oils. Beat until smooth (be careful of splashes, the mixture will be hot), about 1 minute.

Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, flax seeds, and vanilla to the teff mixture, and beat together until creamy and smooth, about 1½ to 2 minutes.

Slowly add in the flour mixture and beat, scraping the sides down a few times, until you have a smooth, thick batter, about 2 more minutes. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan spreading it evenly into the pan, making sure to get all corners, and smooth the top. Bake for 35 minutes, until the brownies have risen, the top is shiny and set, and the edges and corners are firm.

Cool to room temperature and cut into rectangles.

Rocky Road Brownies
Replace the chocolate chips with 5 ounces of vegan marshmallows.

Mocha Nut Brownies
Add ½ cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts to the batter and stir in along with the chocolate chips.



  1. Oh ho ho, I've kept a palm-free household for a couple of years now! My parents and in-laws both keep EB in their refrigerators for my kiddo, which is HUGE-O-RAMA. She rarely eats at either house and we're still in a pick-your-battles phase over the palm issue, but we're getting there. At home, I actually make my own vegan butter (usually from or Bryanna, but I'm dying to try Miyoko's and the one from Non Dairy Formulary!) and pour it into old EB containers, keeping my daughter in the dark. I feel bad doing it, but I'd feel worse if she was eating palm. Just a little bad - she's only 7 and I'm swapping out a processed food, not her favorite toy or anything.

    LOVE these brownies, I cannot say it enough! Eating one right now, nom nom nom.

    1. Yes, so interesting! I didn't have the heart to have the Earth Balance conversation with my Mom over Thanksgiving, because she's always been SO accommodating, but also, she is seems to be going the more salads, less carbs route for the holiday side dishes, so I don't think it's gonna be too hard next time around.

  2. These brownies look so spectacular!
    I stopped using palm oil a while ago and since I love to bake and bake a lot I experimented with a couple of substitutes and use a lot of refined coconut oil now.

    1. Me too! I usually use unrefined in my baking, if the coconut flavor will be OK, since the refined is really really really $$$$$. I need to find a cheaper source for it.

  3. Rocky road brownies! Which vegan mallows did you use? I can't remember whether Dandies contain palm oil or not, and I've been trying to avoid it too. It's daunting, especially in personal care products. I don't trust any of the certifications, either, after doing some reading. Even with coconut oil, I'm picky and only use organic or fair trade lately, if I can. Coconut production is better than palm, but for workers it can be dangerous.

  4. Delicious looking brownies!

    I too am doing the best I can with palm oil, but it is freakin' hard. Once I started paying attention to it, I noticed it was seriously in so many things. Disguised with other names. It can be so overwhelming sometimes. Since discovering Miyoko's butter recipe, we've ditched Earth Balance completely which was the biggest and most obvious consumption of palm oil in the house. Right now I'm having trouble with the more not-in-my-face palm oil. We try not to, but we buy packaged things some times and I know they probably have palm oil in it somewhere. I go between consistently checking for palm oil to forgetting to check.

    Your post is inspiring me to be more diligent about it. I recently wrote some science curriculum about the Earth's ecosystems including rainforests, etc and the research I did was quite depressing in terms of animals losing their habitats.

    1. Oh gosh! What are some of the hidden names for palm?

  5. kittee!! ohemgee, mocha teff!! and they're so SUPER lookin!! way to crack the crinkle code!! I will def. be making the rocky road variation since Dandies are my vice of choice these dayz.
    way to be palm free! no more orangutans shall perish on our account!!

  6. I have gone palm oil free and I'm happy to see others have too. I buy my refined coconut oil in gallon size from tropical traditions. I make a huge batch of veg butter, pour into old containers, and store in the freezer. Once you have all of the proportions increased it takes less than 10 minutes to make a lot of butter. I also got some vegan butter flavor from silver springs so I can't even tell the difference between mine and EB.

    1. Oh awesome! Which recipe have you been using?

    2. The one from

  7. Wow these look great! I will def make them soon. I've heard a lot about palm oil being a terrible industry and would love to go without too! I think from now on I'll be more vigilant to avoid it too. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Those look fantastic! Good luck with reducing your palm oil consumption :)

  9. This looks so delicious. I have not been using palm oil a lot but thanks for sharing this great recipe :)

  10. Hi. Thanks for sharing great recipe. Have to say I started using refined coconut oil a while ago.

  11. I have been using coconut oil for years now. But I have allways been asking myself what about palm oil, now you opened my eyes. Thanks.
    By the way...this is a great recipe :)

  12. Delicious looking brownies! I have gone palm oil free. I usualy buy refined coconut oil. Thanks for all the info and great recipe!

  13. Those look fantastic! I will also try to reduce palm oil but have been using it for several years now. But I will give it a try :)


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