You guys, I’ve done it. I’ve just checked off a maaaajor item from my baking to-do list. Chewy, fudgy, box-like, dark chocolate whole grain brownies are finally a reality in the Swoon kitchen. Triple dark chocolate whole grain brownies to be exact. And they are so. unbelievably. good.
Let me back up. I’ve been working on this recipe in earnest for months (years even!), on a quest to make the perfect homemade, from-scratch brownie. Okay, what I really mean is, the perfect homemade, from-scratch brownie to rival (and top) store-bought box-mix brownies. Growing up, my Mama baked from scratch. Birthday cakes, cookies, muffins, quick breads. Always and wonderfully.
…except for brownies. Those nearly without fail, came from a box-mix. They were perfect every time. A shiny, crackly top. A dense, moist, fudgy center. A satisfying, chewy texture. I was looking for that elusive combination of textural qualities, but with a bolder, deeper dark chocolate flavor. No small task, it turns out, to recreate in a home-kitchen.
So I went through all of my cookbooks searching for brownie recipes. I scoured the internet and my favorite cooking magazines. When I read a feature on baking with alternative grains in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living, which happened to include a recipe for dark chocolate spelt brownies, I was intrigued, and got it in my head that my “perfect brownie” should also include whole-grain flour.
A dozen or so test batches later, with lots of tweaking and taste-testing – it’s been a tough job, I assure you – I’ve arrived at just the right ratios and combination of ingredients. I found that using three types of chocolate (melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and whole chocolate chips) provides multiple layers of chocolate flavor, which a bit of espresso and vanilla only seek to enhance. Adding brown sugar helps to create a chewy texture, while granulated sugar produces an unmatched crackly top. And the whole-grain flour? Extra nutrients and fiber, and you wouldn’t even know it.
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I’ve got a date with these brownies. Well, the Honey and these brownies. Seriously, make these for someone you love. Or, make them for yourself, just because…
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- 2 oz unsweetened chocolate (100% cacao), finely chopped
- 1–1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1–1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1–1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cups whole-grain spelt flour (or sub whole-wheat flour)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/3 cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 inch metal or oven-proof glass pan with parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overlap on each side. Butter the parchment paper and two remaining sides of the pan, and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the boiling water to the cocoa powder, and whisk until smooth and completely combined. Set aside.
- Place the butter, chopped chocolate, and espresso powder in a heat-proof mixing bowl. Using a microwave or a double-boiler, melt the mixture together. If using a microwave, check and stir the mixture every 15 seconds or so until melted together.
- Add the melted butter/chocolate mixture to the cocoa mixture, and whisk to combine. Add the vegetable oil and vanilla extract and continue whisking. Add both sugars and whisk until smooth.
- Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, whisking thoroughly between each, until the chocolate mixture is completely smooth and creamy. Using a spatula, gently fold in the flour and salt. Stir until combined, but be careful not to over-mix.
- Fold in the chocolate chips, then pour into the prepared pan. Smooth out the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake-tester inserted into the middle of the brownies comes out with few crumbs attached. Cool on a baking rack for at least an hour before removing from the pan or cutting into bars, waiting longer if possible.
Brownies are all about the chocolate, so use the best-quality cocoa (I like to use a rich, dutch-process cocoa baking powder) and chocolate you can find.