Makes 12-16 insanely decadent squares
In the culinary world of dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, grain-free, soy-free, you know what I’m getting at
cooking, I felt the incredible need for a traditional brownie. I’m a health-supportive chef, as you know, and my culinary training has taught me to cook and bake for all people despite their dietary restrictions, and to do so deliciously. (I love NGI!) So, I have the utmost respect for all those xxx-free dishes. I do.
Often, you have to start at the beginning, where tradition dictated how things were made. That our food landscape has changed so much gives us both the opportunity to explore and play with recipes with new ingredients, but it also makes it necessary in many cases. Rising food allergies, especially among children, is an issue that can’t be ignored. What we have done to damage our food supply can’t be ignored either. It’s a correlation that’s screaming for attention. Until it gets it, my colleagues, alumni, and I will continue to make delicious foods with whatever ingredients work best, working from the traditional to the new and improved.
But I digress. My tendency to get serious about food and the issues around it, is being usurped by my tendency to get serious about chocolate, and today about brownies. I was a bit tired of the usual recipes calling for chocolate bars or chips. I’m not a fan of the extra sugar and I wanted a truly homemade brownie, especially because my little one would want one of these. I did a little search and found the Smitten Kitchen had one that was intriguing.
I’ve followed her for some time now. Who doesn’t? She’s great and her photos are brilliant. And, she blogs like a champion. I know I’ll never find xxx-free recipes on there so I can rely on it for that. It turns out, the search for a chocolate bar-free brownie (haha), took me to FOOD52, another blog with all the allergens included. This is what I found:
“This recipe is one part of a master brownie recipe [Alice] Medrich designed to use whatever chocolate you have in the house — but the best version happens to be the one that only requires cocoa powder. By taking out the chocolate, with its inevitable fat and almost-inevitable sugar, Medrich was able to control and fine-tune the proportions of both. When she added back in the fat (via butter), the middles stayed softer. When she added back in granulated sugar, the crusts were shinier and more candy-like. Any cocoa will work, but natural (not Dutch process) will taste more richly of chocolate. Recipe adapted slightly from Bittersweet (Artisan, 2003)” (bold is my own emphasis)
That was it. That was enough to send me and my girls to the kitchen. Of course, we don’t have granulated sugar in our house ever, so that’s one substitution I had to make (and one I will always make. Sorry, Tradition). If you’re afraid of the fat/butter, don’t be. If you’re worried about the amount of cacao, then you may not really want a brownie! If you’re concerned you may not be able to stop eating these, just invite some friends over and get some tea going. It’s going to be a fun afternoon.
adapted, every so slightly, from Alice Merdich (original recipe here)
*10tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted pastured butter
*1+cups (170 grams) coconut sugar (this is a GREAT substitution)
*3/4cup plus 2 tablespoons (80 grams) unsweetened fair trade and organic (if possible) cacao powder
*1/4teaspoon sea salt
*1/2teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*2 cold large eggs
*1/2cup (65 grams) spelt flour (unsifted, measured by stirring briefly, spooning into the measuring cup until it’s heaped above the rim, then leveling it with a straight-edged knife or spatula — it should weigh nearly 2.5 ounces)
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan (I only had an 8X13 rectangular glass baking dish) with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
2. Combine the butter, sugar, cacao, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
3. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.
4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25* minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.
5. Lift up the ends of the parchment liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into squares.
*It took mine 30 minutes to set completely (like Smitten Kitchen’s).
P.S. For my gluten-free friends, I’m thinking of trying a few combos such as almond meal, oat flour and rice flour. Once I get over these, I’ll experiment with other versions. Stay tuned.