One of the nifty things about a blog is that you can easily revisit recipes and make revisions, while learning more about baking, and sharing those discoveries, as you go. When I wrote Ready for Dessert, I was able to update my favorite recipes, many created over a decade ago, and I had fun including the changes I’d made over the years.
Recently I got a message from a friend, asking about a brownie recipe from the book, and I decided to remake it to answer his questions. As I looked over the ingredient list, I thought it would be interesting to give a flourless version a try, swapping out the flour with a mixture of corn starch and unsweetened cocoa powder. And the result? A super-moist, fudgy brownie that used ingredients that most people already have on hand, which is another hallmark of a great brownie recipe.
This is a pretty amusing recipe to me because as I mentioned in the book, the first time I made it, it was a disaster and I blamed Robert Steinberg, who first gave me the recipe that this is adapted from. I made it, and the results were a grainy, broken mess – which I was sure to let him know about. After he scolded me for not following the instructions to beat the batter for a full minute to smooth it out, I sheepishly headed back to the kitchen and made it again.
And lo and behold, they came out beautifully; rich and dark, studded with crisp nuts and lots of deep chocolate flavor. I packed a few up for a friend who was taking a train trip out of Paris yesterday with her kids, and this morning I woke up to a note demanding the recipe.
One thing I did learn from making this over and over again is that one shouldn’t use an enameled cast-iron saucepan, which possibly holds heat too well, and the batter doesn’t emulsify and smooth out as effectively. So use a metal pan. Also I originally made them in a 9-inch (23 cm) square pan but decided I like the brownies better in a smaller pan so they’re a little thicker.
Curiously, in France, recipes often don’t call for pan sizes, and bakers, I suppose, are welcome to modify or create as they please. Or perhaps they’re just covering their bases and wisely leaving room for future inspiration.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies
Makes 9 to 12 brownies
Adapted from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz
You can use salted or unsalted butter for these brownies. If you use unsalted butter and want to add some salt, use 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt. I also like to add 2 to 3 tablespoons of roasted cocoa nibs along with the nuts for added chocolaty crunch.
Use very low heat for melting the chocolate and butter. A good trick is to add the butter to the pan first, which melts faster than the chocolate, so you don’t burn the chocolate. You can use a flame-tamer if you’re concerned but I always melt it right over the lowest heat possible and never have had any problems.
- 6 tablespoons (85g) butter, salted or unsalted (see headnote)
- 8 ounces (225g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch process
- 3 tablespoons (30g) corn starch
- optional: 1 cup (135g) nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1. Line the inside of an 8-inch (23 cm) square pan with foil so that it goes up the sides to the rim. Lightly grease the foil with butter or non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350º (180ºC).
2. Melt the butter and chocolate (and salt, if using) in a medium saucepan over very low heat on the stove top, stirring constantly until smooth.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time.
4. Sift together the cocoa powder and corn starch in a small bowl then stir them into the chocolate mixture. Beat the batter vigorously for at least one minute, until the batter is no longer grainy and nearly smooth. It will pull away from the sides of the pan a bit.
5. Add the nuts, if using, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
6. Bake for thirty minutes, or until the brownies feel just set in the center. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from the pan and slicing.
Storage: The brownies can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 days, or frozen for at least 1 month.
Troubleshooting: If the finished brownies are crumbly, that means you didn’t beat the batter long enough in step #4. You can use the brownie bits to fold into just-churned ice cream.
For readers in the United Kingdom, there’s now a UK-version of Ready for Dessert.