I am a naturally introverted person.
I still like being social and being around other people, but doing so really drains me. To recharge my batteries, I like doing things alone: reading, writing, and of course, baking.
This gives me time to think and reflect on everything from what I’ll have for lunch or the day’s events, to my life choices and the future. But that’s when all this “thinking” can backfire. (Not saying this happens to all introverts, but this is what happens to me.)
I’ve been accused of “thinking too much” and being too self-aware. I analyze every decision I’ve made or will have to make. I worry and stress about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. When I’m sitting at my kitchen table writing in my recipe book or perusing the archives of Thought Catalog, my mind naturally drifts – sometimes it’s to whether or not Orlando Bloom will be in the next Hobbit movie, and sometimes it’s to whether or not I will ever be happy.
One time, though, it drifted right over to the idea for these brownies.
I got the idea for this recipe by sort of combining three different recipes: the brownie pudding from Barefoot Contessa, the brownies from Flour Bakery (recipe here), and a basic chocolate genoise cake. What’s the cake doing in there, you ask? Well I noticed that Flour’s brownies are made by starting with whipped eggs and sugar, which is the same as Ina Garten’s brownie pudding, as well as a basic genoise cake. Flour’s brownies use only melted chocolate for chocolate flavor, no cocoa powder, and a bit of baking powder for leavening. Garten’s beats the eggs longer and uses only cocoa powder for chocolate, no melted chocolate. And a genoise typically uses a tiny amount of cocoa powder in place of some of the flour if going for a chocolate flavor, and very little butter (which accounts for it’s cakey-ness). Here’s a chart to help you guys see what this looks like in my head (the green are the ideas I took from the recipes to use in my own):
. Barefoot Contessa Flour Bakery Chocolate Genoise
Leavening: eggs beaten 5-10 min eggs 1 min + baking powder eggs beaten 5-10 minutes
Butter: 2 sticks 1 3/4 sticks 1/2 stick
Flour: 1/2 cup 1 1/4 cup 2/3 cup
Cocoa: 3/4 cup NONE 1/3 cup
Chocolate: NONE 5 1/2 oz unsweetened NONE
. + 2 1/2 oz bittersweet
Baking: water bath, 1hr 30-35 mins 15-20 mins
What I set out to do was essentially to make the brownie pudding into regular brownies, while simultaneously recreating Flour’s brownies without using flour. (Flour without flour, seewhatIdidthere?). I wanted Flour’s brownies’ deep chocolate flavor, so I knew I was going to use melted unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate. I looked to the Brownie Pudding recipe to see how much cocoa powder I would need to replace all the flour, and how much butter I’d need to make them as delicious as the brownie pudding is. Because the brownie pudding is baked in a water bath, I couldn’t really tell how to ensure the texture of my recipe because I wouldn’t be baking them in a water bath – so I looked to the genoise. Beating the eggs and sugar for at least 5 minutes, or until they ribbon and are very thick (as opposed to the 1 minute for Flour’s) seemed to give the cake the structure that I knew would be lacking in my brownies without using flour. So I got started, and after couple of tries, this is what I came up with.
Funny thing: they taste a little like hot fudge sauce. Good, bittersweet hot fudge sauce. This was totally an accident. And I’m totally okay with it.
Their texture, while fudge-y, is not like actual fudge. They are just very rich, chewy, yet also very delicate, chocolate-loaded brownies. These are decidedly bittersweet, but even my older sister, who is a milk-chocolate girl through and through, went crazy for these bad boys.
Best of all?
They are naturally flourless, and therefore gluten free! No weird flours or starches, just cocoa powder. But no one will know the difference. These are some of the best brownies I’ve ever had, including any made with flour. Honestly, my sister was really surprised when I told her they were gluten free. My brother, who refuses to eat anything gluten free because he associates it with dry baked goods (not mine ;) ), ate half the pan.
You can easily half the recipe and make them in an 8×8″ pan if you don’t want to be as tempted. I also used Kahlua, which you can’t taste at all, but I think that extra coffee flavor enhances the chocolate flavor secretly. The alcohol bakes out, but you could use a pinch of espresso or instant coffee if you don’t want to use Kahlua. You could also use any other flavored liqueur if you wanted, or leave it out completely. They taste just as good without any frills.
If you don’t have an electric mixer to beat the eggs, don’t want to kill your arm but still want a flourless brownie? I HIGHLY recommend these.
Flourless Bittersweet Brownies
by Braver Baker, partially adapted from Flour Bakery and Barefoot Contessa
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp Kahlua or liqueur of your choice (completely optional)
1 cup cocoa powder (I used half dutch process and half natural, either would work)
1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9×13″ pan with parchment paper.
- Roughly chop both types of chocolate into melt-able sized pieces and throw into a bowl with the butter. Melt completely (I use the microwave for 1-2 minutes), stir to combine, and set aside to cool.
- On high speed with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs to break them up (for a few seconds), then add the sugar and continue on high speed for 5-10 minutes, or until at least double their original volume, light, and they ribbon when you lift up the whisk.
- Add the vanilla and optional flavoring, beat until combined.
- On the lowest speed, slowly pour in the melted butter/chocolate mixture. When it’s all in, raise the speed and mix until just combined (you don’t want to overmix and deflate the eggs).
- Turn off the mixer and add in the cocoa powder and salt. Starting on low, beat until cocoa powder is slightly moistened then increase speed and beat until all combined and smooth. The batter will be thick and gorgeous.
- Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly into the corners and sides – they will not even out that much in the oven, you have to make sure to spread it as evenly as you want them to be.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the top has formed a cracked crust and a toothpick comes out with wet crumbs sticking to it. Don’t over bake them!
- Let them cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then refrigerate (or freeze if you’re impatient) until completely cooled. They have to cool to firm up and be chewy, because they are very delicate otherwise. Cut and serve with a tall glass of milk, and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt on top if you feel so inclined. Can be kept for a few days in an airtight container at room temperature, a week in the fridge, or a month in the freezer.