We spent a second Saturday sewing and watching Project Runway with Clamps and Bec. During the week Bec had sent this over-the-top recipe for salted caramel brownie bites with salted caramel buttercream to me with little comment, and I took it as an oblique request that I veganise them and bring them over.
My first step was to get hold of some soy-based dulce de leche from the Radical Grocery. From there I just subbed margarine for butter and ground up some flax eggs - not too complicated. Not wanting to go completely overboard, I halved the brownie recipe and cut down the buttercream further still (I really can't handle the towering clouds of frosting used in so many recipes).
What they lacked in grace, they overcompensated for in sugar. They held a surprising and pleasing set of textures. The cooled brownies had felt rock hard, and were actually just crisp round the papered edges and chewy through the middle where the fudgy caramel sat. The buttercream had a much lighter, smoother feel but if anything was richer and sweeter still - like the Mars bar's nougat.
In the (unlikely) event that I were to make these again, I'd probably try reducing the brownies' sugar content and increasing the chocolate (or adding cocoa) for a bit more depth. That's just a personal preference, though, and their current form more closely resembles the chocolate bar I've named them after.
Mars brownie cups
(adapted from a recipe at Bake It In A Cake)
1 1/12 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
60g dark chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain flour
half a 340g can soy dulce de leche
3/4 cup icing sugar
generous pinch of salt
2 tablespoons soy milk
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line a cupcake pan with 10 papers.
Grind the flaxseeds in a spice grinder, then mix them with 1/3 cup water in a mug. Set them aside.
In a small saucepan, gently melt together the margarine and chocolate. When they're completely melted, take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the sugar, then the flaxseed mixture, vanilla and salt. Stir in the flour.
Drop tablespoons of the batter into the cupcake liners, ensuring that they are no more than half full. Drop a teaspoon of dulce de leche into the centre of each cupcake, then cover each one with another tablespoon of brownie batter.
Set aside the remaining dulce de leche for use in the buttercream. Bake the cupcakes for around 30 minutes, until firm on top. Allow them to cool entirely before decorating.
Once the cakes are cool, make the buttercream. Beat the margarine in a medium bowl until fluffy. Beat in half of the icing sugar, then 1/2 cup of the dulce de leche and the salt, finishing by beating in the remaining icing sugar. Spoon or pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes.
Whisk together 1/4 cup dulce de leche with the soy milk and drizzle it over the top of the cupcakes.