These adorable brownies are a fun baking project for you and the kids and a welcome addition to any holiday dessert spread. The brownies are slightly crunchy around the edges, but fudgy on the inside and packed with cherries and nuts, but you can use whatever kind of filling you like. They're topped with simple strawberry Santas stuffed with rich dairy-free buttercream. Little chocolate chips or cacao nibs serve as the eyes. Just before serving, sprinkle them with a dusting of confectioners' sugar to make "snow."

Peeping Santa Brownies [Vegan]

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Ingredients

For the Brownies:

  • 7 ounces vegan chocolate
  • 4 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cups, plus 2 3/4 teaspoons self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • 1 cup, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup crushed walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

For the Santas:

  • 1 vegan chocolate bar
  • Vegan frosting (recipe below)
  • A handful of strawberries

For the Frosting:

  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
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Preparation

To Make the Brownies:

  1. Preheat your oven to 355°F.
  2. Line a baking tin with grease-proof paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
  3. Sieve the cocoa powder and flour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the salt and sugar. Mix until fully combined, then add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and mix in.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients (melted chocolate, oil, and milk). Mix until fully combined.
  5. When the mix is fully combined, throw in the cherries, walnuts, hazelnuts, or any nuts.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the lined tin, making sure you get into the edges.
  7. Pop the tin into the middle of the hot oven for 20-25 minutes.
  8. The brownies should be firm and crumbly on the outside, and moist in the middle.
  9. To make sure the brownies are cooked, place a sharp knife or skewer into the center to see if it comes out clean.
  10. If they are not fully cooked, pop them in the oven for an extra few minutes.
  11. With oven mitts, take out the tin and place on a wire rack to cool for around 10 minutes.
  12. Cut the brownie into little squares and serve with a light dusting of confectioners' sugar.

To Make the Santas:

  1. Melt the chocolate, and make little drops on grease-proof paper. These will be the Santa eyes. Pop it into the freezer to set.
  2. Slice the strawberries in half horizontally and pipe some frosting on the base. Place the tip of the strawberry on top of the frosting and decorate with the chocolate drops to look like little eyes. You could even use some cacao nibs.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Using a hand mixer, cream the butter in a stainless steel bowl.
  2. When your butter is smooth, creamy, and light in color, carefully sift in the sugar and drizzle in the vanilla extract.
  3. Mix together until fluffy and fully combined.
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