People on planet Earth, I present to you the vegan dessert fusion of chocolate chip cookies and s'mores in a mini cake! This is decadent, super sweet, ooey-gooey, moist and crumbly all baked into a "mini" form via an 8x8 pan. The BEST part? One bowl and active time is 7-10 minutes. Yay for easy, yay for yum, and yay for this dessert; oh, and of course, yay for vegan marshmallows which make this whole thing possible!
Sustainability Spotlight: Gelatin; many of you know the ingredient as the "magical" congealing (thickening) agent in Jell-o, gummy candies, and in jams. Also, it happens to be the ingredient that allows for most marshmallows to be formed and stored at room temperature on grocery shelves.
If you aren't already aware, gelatin is derived from animal ingredients. According to peta.org, "Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and / or bones with water. It is usually obtained from cows or pigs." The boiled animal by-products are then clarified (set into large tanks for the suspended materials to settle out from the water). The tanks are drained of water which then leaves the remaining sludge (still "wet" materials in solid form) to be dried and ultimately ground into a powder form. Gelatin (like collagen), has a wide range of uses and can be found in many shelf stable products consumers purchase and consume (including vitamins).
What's this have to do with sustainability and pollution? Odor pollution. Yes, it's a "real" thing and it can cause extreme nuisance (encroachment on the enjoyment of outdoor air quality). The clarifier tanks (described above) are very large and have certain controls to avoid release of odor. That said, our infrastructure for manufacturing plants (including food & beverage) are getting older. As they age, the systems are degrading over time (just a fact of our structures and process equipment). The aging increases the opportunity for things to go awry - alarms failing, systems failing, and process equipment failing. When they fail, the sludge is desiccated and smells of rotting flesh, as described by citizens in Massachusetts in 2019 when equipment malfunctions at a gelatin plant resulted in odor pollution.
Even though the plant was able to remedy the situation quickly, the thought remains: why do we use / process gelatin in the first place? The process involves large scale water use (potential water pollution), energy use (to perform the process itself), and can result in odor pollution (as in the example above). All because we process from animals for our food & beverages. There are alternatives to the current ingredients that are derived from animals. Using plant-based ingredients such as tapicoa, agar-agar, and others can inhibit and change the reliance upon animal products which take great resources just to make the consumer-demanded products. Switching your allegiance to non-animal based products can increase the opportunity for reduction in these processing plants and lead to less potential pollution (including odor) as a result.
1/2 cup melted vegan butter (I used Miyoko's cultured vegan butter)
1 cup (not packed) brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla paste
1/4 cup oat milk
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup mini vegan chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life! semi-sweet)
6 oz vegan mini marshmallows (I used Dandies)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F
Microwave butter in a large bowl ~30 seconds until melted (Note: it's okay if there are still a bit of "solid" pieces. Swirl the bowl once removed from the microwave; the remaining pieces will melt).
Add sugar through milk to your butter and whisk until smooth (the batter will thicken)
Next, add flour through salt to your bowl and whisk again until the batter resembles traditional cake batter (do not overmix).
Add 3/4ths of the batter to an 8x8 square pan sprayed generously with cooking spray
Layer chocolate chips evenly over batter; layer marshmallows evenly over chocolate chips
Pour remaining batter over the filling and smooth batter to edges (as needed with back of a mixing spoon).
Bake for ~30-35 minutes (top & edges of the cake should be browned like a chocolate chip cookie and the middle should not be loose in any way); remove from oven and let cool for ~10 minutes before cutting and serving.
I hope you enjoy this mini cake as much as we did; fast, easy and limited ingredients make this a "go to" when you want something a bit special and a lot sweet!
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie