It’s Teacher Appreciation week, and my kids’ school has decided to do something different this year. This week, parents are providing a lavish lunch spread for teachers and staff, each day with a different theme. Somehow I lucked out because both of the classes I’m responsible for got assigned to today’s lunch — an Italian feast!
Being waaaaaaayyyyy more a baker than I am a cook (or at least enjoying baking waaaaaaayyyyy more), I was the first to sign up to bring desserts.
Italian desserts… hmmmmmm. The only thing I could think of off the top of my head was tiramisu, which didn’t seem very allergy-friendly.
Of course, since this was a treat for the staff and not for my allergic daughter I didn’t have to make it without milk, eggs or nuts. But honestly, I’m not sure if I can bake with those things anymore. After nearly a decade of baking without them, it just feels wrong to put milk or eggs into my cakes and cookies. Plus, I like a challenge, so…
I decided to make my version of tiramisu without milk, eggs or nuts.
Traditional tiramisu is made with ladyfinger cookies dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese. Um, hello allergens!!!
I wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle the mascarpone/egg/sugar layer with tofu for this particular occasion. I’ll try it one day, I’m sure, but not today. There had to be something simpler. I had seen a couple recipes for tiramisu brownies, and that seemed easy enough to adapt for allergies, so that’s what I decided to do.
I took our favorite moist & delicious brownie recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and adapted it by using coffee in place of non-dairy milk. You can also use coffee extract in place of vanilla to give it a stronger coffee flavor. I stuck with vanilla because, well… it’s what I had in my cabinet.
My brownies came out with just a hint of coffee flavor, which is perfect for me because *GASP* I don’t like coffee. I hope I didn’t offend anyone. I mean, I don’t hate coffee. I’ll occasionally get a frothy Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks drink if I’m out with a coffee drinker. But I have to add so much cream and sugar to make it drinkable that most of you wouldn’t call it “coffee” anymore. The closer to chocolate milk I can get it, the better!
My mom and my husband are both rather obsessed with coffee (as is a good chunk of America from what I can gather), so I had to rely on their taste buds to give me the real low-down on my brownies. Mom said just enough coffee flavor; Tal wanted more. Of course Mom drinks her coffee practically like I do, and Tal likes it black. So there you go. Use coffee extract if you’re a black-coffee-lover.
At first, I wasn’t sure whether to leave the brownie bites plain or try to add some kind of icing/topping. But leaving out the creamy layer of the original dessert doesn’t really make these guys “tiramisu” brownies, does it? Just mocha brownies. That wouldn’t do.
There’s no vegan version of mascarpone cheese (that I know of, anyway), so I had to get creative. Tofu would have worked for texture, but I was concerned about flavor.
That’s when it hit me — vegan cream cheese! It tastes sooooooooooooo much like regular cream cheese — which is not too far off from mascarpone cheese — and the icing you can make with it is to die for!
I turned to Isa’s vegan cream cheese icing recipe and played around.
The original cream cheese icing recipe is wonderfully scrumptious on red velvet cupcakes, but it’s a bit too thin for what I wanted. My solution? Simply double the amount of powdered sugar to stiffen it up. Perfecto!
I’m so glad I decided to add the icing on top. Not only did it make them friggin’ gorgeous, but it added that perfect amount of silky sweetness to each and every bite.
I hope the teachers and staff enjoy them today,
And Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to all you teachers out there!
- 3 ounces firm silken tofu
- 1/4 cup strong-brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla or coffee extract
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup non-dairy margarine
- 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or coffee extract if you want even more coffee flavor!)