Of men and brownies
It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are two camps of brownie-eaters: those who prefer cakey brownies, and those who prefer fudgy brownies. I am definitely in the fudgy brownie camp, especially if the fudgy part is ever slightly toothsome (i.e., not too soft or squishy) and comes with a crackly top. Nuts and chocolate chips optional.
This is one of those fudgy-crackly brownies.
The back story
Saturday was Australia Day, when we welcome new Australian citizens, have any number of backyard barbecues, and enjoy a public holiday on Monday. The long weekend was also a perfect opportunity for a trip away to beautiful Tasmania. But, after four nights away from home and eating out in restaurants, we were both hankering for a good home-made meal. I was also hankering for snacks that came from our oven rather than a cafe’s cookie jar.
I baked some super-fudgy brownies on our first proper evening back at home.
I usually take my baking to work, to share the love and the calories. Since a colleague and good friend is gluten-intolerant, I tried a gluten free version of Alice Medrich’s magical brownies recipe, from Gluten-free girl and the chef.
I have been captivated by Alice Medrich’s recipes since I stumbled on her book, Bittersweet, in a chocolate cafe in Canberra. Over the next few months, I went to that cafe every weekend, and lingered over my coffee while reading Medrich’s book. Sadly, that chocolate cafe had to close down when its landlord wanted to renovate the building, but my love affair with Medrich’s chocolate recipes endured.
How are the brownies?
Fudgy! With a slightly crackly top.
The basic idea behind this brownie recipe is that you mix together lots and lots of dark (bittersweet) chocolate, butter and sugar, and use two eggs and a handful of flour to give the mixture some structure. What’s not to like?
My colleagues made appreciate noises about these, some kept coming back for more (‘look, no one has eaten that slice, it needs a home.’). And they didn’t notice it was different from brownies made with regular flour.
And the gluten?
Being a novice at gluten free baking, I picked this recipe because the original recipe only uses a small amount of flour, and the fudgy texture of the brownies does not require gluten for texture or body.
I followed the ratios in Gluten free girl’s recipe but made a couple of tweaks to the ingredients.
I couldn’t find tapioca flour in our tiny local grocers, so I used a mix of quinoa flour, toasted besan (chickpea flour) as well as brown rice flour. I think the quinoa and besan gave the brownies an interesting, slightly grainier texture. You can see the difference in texture when you compare my photos and the Gluten-free girl’s photos. I think these flours also gave a hint of nuttiness to the brownies – just enough to be interesting and complement the intense buttery chocolaty-ness.
And the important stuff?
For the chocolate, I used a mix of 85% cocoa and 70% cocoa chocolates. Yes, I’m a dark chocolate fiend – it’s practically a health food, right? (No, but one can dream.) I also used a mix of castor sugar and raw sugar, because I recall that raw sugar produces a drier crust on cakes and slices.
The trickiest part of the recipe is dunking the just-baked brownie pan into a sink of iced water (without water touching the brownies). This stops the brownies cooking, and maximises the chance of a fudgy-centre-crusty-exterior result. I used a silicon pan, which did a kind of belly flop into the sink, and thankfully landed the right way up. Other than this, it was all quite easy and smooth sailing.
My gluten-intolerant colleague likes Gluten free girl.
Fudgiest fudgy brownies (gluten free, or not, it’s all good)
(adapted from Gluten-free girl and the chef)
8 tablespoons / 114 grams unsalted butter
4 ounces / 114 grams bittersweet chocolate (I used a mixture of 85% and 70%)
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup castor sugar and 1/4 raw sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown rice flour*
1/4 cup tapioca flour (I used 1/8 cup chickpea flour or besan, and 1/8 cup quinoa flour, just for the fun of it)*
* I think you can use 1/2 cup regular wheat flour, if you want brownies with gluten.
1. Toast the besan: place the besan into a small saucepan, and toast over the lowest heat possible until it smells slightly nutty rather than ‘raw’, and the colour just begins to darken. Alternately, place the besan onto a lined baking tray while the oven is pre-heating (see step 2), for about 20 minutes.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 400F / 200C. Grease an 8 inch / 20cm square metal baking pan. Don’t use a glass pan, as it could shatter in iced water (see step 6). Break the chocolate into small pieces and cut butter into similar sized small pieces. Mix the flours together, if using gluten-free flours.
3. Melt the chocolate: Put a large metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, make sure the water does not touch the bowl. Put chocolate and butter into the bowl and stir gently as they both melt. Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth with no streaks. You are basically making a ganache, so if you have another fool-proof method by all means use your own method.
4. In another mixing bowl, vigorously whisk together sugar and eggs until they are creamed together. I mixed by hand, and found it needed about 30 seconds of vigorous whisking. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt. I whisk the mixture again at this point, just to make sure it’s properly creamed. Add in the (gluten-free) flours and stir until no lumps are left. Pour in the chocolate-butter ganache and stir or fold carefully until the mixture has become smooth.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Smooth the top with your spoon or spatula. Bake for about 25 minutes. (Mine baked for 20 minutes, and was just right. Maybe my oven is extra hot, but check your brownies from about 20 minutes to avoid over-baking)
6. While the brownies are baking, fill the sink with ice cubes and enough water to come halfway up your baking pan (about 1 inch / 2.5 cm). When the 20/25 minutes are up, place the baking pan immediately into the ice water (don’t let any water splash onto the brownies), until the brownies have cooled completely and become much more solid. Place in the fridge overnight.