Last week this email popped into my inbox:
“Elizabeth--I hate to ask you this but could you convert a recipe for me? I feel silly asking because the recipe is for brownies and I know you already created several brownie recipes. Right before celiac, I made Martha Stewart's brownies which use semi-sweet chocolate and cocoa powder. There's just something about these brownies that I loved. If you'd take a look at it, I'd be so grateful! “
First, never apologize for asking me to convert a recipe! We all like what we like and I love discovering new recipes for old favorites. Second: Brownies! I love brownies.
As Tammy mentioned in her email, this recipe combines melted chocolate and cocoa powder to create thick, rich brownies. They're totally different than the brownie recipes I've shared here or in my cookbooks.
What Martha did.
Here's the original recipe:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
You first melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler. Then, away from the heat, you whisk in (one ingredient at a time) the granulated sugar, eggs, cocoa powder, and salt. Then you simply fold in the flour and bake in a 8x8x2-inch pan. Easy enough.
What I did
I didn't need to tinker with the recipe much. Brownies don't rely on a heavy gluten structure; so converting the recipe to gluten-free was a fairly simple matter. I did do a few things differently, however.
1. I reduced the granulated sugar from 1 1/2 cups to 1 1/4 cups. Not a huge reduction but the first batch I made tasted too sweet. This happens sometimes with gluten-free baking when you're converting a non-gluten-free recipe. I knocked the sugar back by a quarter-cup and the brownies lost that cloying sweetness.
2. I melted the chocolate and butter separately. While the melting points of butter and chocolate are similar, I find it easier to melt them separately. The consistencies are so different that it's often messy to melt them together. You do dirty one more dish this way but I think it's worth it.
3. I didn't use a double boiler. I melt chocolate in the microwave. As long as you keep an eye on it (melt in 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval), it's a gentle way to melt chocolate. Same goes for the butter. Cut it into large pieces and pop in the microwave. To prevent it from “spurting”, melt on medium-high heat and stir every 30 seconds.
4. I added the cocoa powder and flours at the same time. In the original recipe, the cocoa powder gets added by itself and then the flour is folded in. I'm sure this is to prevent gluten from forming and making the brownies tough. We don't need to worry about this. I whisk all the dry ingredients together and then stir them into the batter.
The baked brownies are thick and really fudgy, almost like a brownie version of a chocolate bar.
Here are a few things to keep in mind so your brownies turn out perfectly:
1. Whisk the chocolate and butter together until smooth. At first the butter sort of floats on top of the chocolate. Use a wire whisk and whisk until the chocolate-butter mixture turns smooth and creamy.
2. Don't use a handheld mixer. There's no baking powder or baking soda in the recipe for a reason, we want to keep these brownies from rising. No rise=thick, rich brownies. (The eggs do give a little lift but not much.) A handheld or electric mixer beats air into the batter. For this one, avoid that and use a wire whisk. The batter is a little thick to mix but it's worth the elbow grease.
3. Add the eggs one at a time. Don't try and save time by adding the eggs all at once or adding them to the batter too quickly. Ensuring the eggs are fully incorporated makes the batter smooth and smooth batter produces lovely brownies.