Rye Chocolate Brownies
I’ve come to the conclusion that for a rather detail-oriented person like myself, the last weeks of pregnancy can feel like preparing for the apocalypse. I’m trying to fight this feeling with everything I have and remind myself that after the baby is born, grocery stores will still be open, we’ll have family visiting, and friends will drop by — but still, I’ve been cooking up a storm and straightening up the house as if the baby will really care. In recommending recipes to me in emails and in your comments on my last post, many of you mentioned not forgetting breakfast or something sweet, and I realized amidst the carne asada and beef stew, it’d be nice to have a small treat, too. As I scanned the archives of the blog, I realized that brownies are a bit underrepresented here, and this batch of super fudgy crackly-top, salt-sprinkled beauties is just the thing to remedy that.
Here in Seattle, we happen to have a handful of friends who either own their own food businesses, are food writers, or are generally enthusiastic eaters. Because of this, strong opinions abound regarding restaurants or recipes people are passionate about. For me, this takes the form of visiting new bakeries, and the first thing I tend to look for is the brownie. While there are certainly far more complex (and even interesting) additions to the pastry case, a good brownie is actually something that takes some thought to execute well. I love the brownie at Tartine in San Francisco, and will always make a special detour to get one if I’m in the city. The brownie at Flour Bakery in Boston is very, very solid. And the espresso brownie at Spruce Confections in Boulder, Co is worth a stroll down the hill if you happen to be a chocolate-loving college student in need of a distraction (It’s possible I’m speaking from experience here).
There’s always a lot of talk when it comes to brownies: cakey versus fudgy? Nuts or no nuts? Dense versus crumbly? The list of qualifiers and distinctions goes on and on. Personally I love a dense, fudgy brownie with a slightly chewy, crackly top. In her cookbook Date Night In, my friend Ashley gives some tips for how to achieve that crackly top — along with the recipe for her addicting Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting. While very different in personality, I also really like Thomas Keller’s brownie recipe, which are admittedly more in the cakey camp, but have a really deep, complex chocolate flavor thanks to the generous hit of both cocoa powder and dark chocolate. And then, a new favorite has strolled into my life this week thanks to The Violet Bakery Cookbook.
I received Claire Ptak’s cookbook in the mail last week and spent the good part of an evening in bed, folding down pages and reading about her approach to baking and opening a small London bake shop. I’ve had an odd from-afar obsession with Violet for a long time. I remember about five years ago when Sam was designing the website for my granola company, Marge, I’d brought up Claire’s bakery website as a model. I loved the simple logo and was drawn into the photos of cinnamon buns and beautiful little cupcakes. Like me, Claire started out at farmers markets and the storefront she opened in 2010 looked charming and unassuming. Violet became my bakery crush. My friend Janet visited London for work and I told her she absolutely must go. Had I been, she asked? What should I order? I explained to Janet that I had not, but that I had a really good feeling about it.
In addition to killer brownies, The Violet Cookbook has a really nice mix of sweet and savory recipes to suit everyone’s palette. Claire used to work at Chez Panisse and the influence is noticeable — there are lots of seasonal fruits and simple understated flavors, along with many recipes that rely on natural sugars. One of these days, I’ll actually visit Violet in person, mini brownie lover in tow. For now, these are a solid stand-in. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
Megan’s Note: I’d be remiss not to mention the rye flour here, one of my favorite flours to bake with. It’s smooth and silky and adds a subtle nuttiness to these brownies. If you can’t find rye flour, spelt flour would be great, too — or use what you’re comfortable with and have on hand. Brownies are forgiving.
Rye Chocolate Brownies
- Yield: 12 Brownies
- Prep time: 15 mins
- Cook time: 25 mins
- Total time: 40 mins
When buying chocolate for this recipe, splurge if you’re able as you really will taste the difference. I love Valrhona, but I used Ghiradelli 60% for these and I always find that it’s a really nice mid-range option. Claire doesn’t call for nuts in her version but I added a generous handful of walnuts so feel free to follow suit (or not). And the sprinkling of salt really does heighten all of the flavors — I wouldn’t skip this step and, in fact, I add an extra sprinkle when they come out of the oven. Claire mentions that the brownies are best eaten the day they’re baked but we had some sliced and covered on the counter for up to two days afterwards and they were just fine.
Only slightly adapted from The Violet Cookbook
Preheat the oven to 355 F. Butter an 8×12-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper.
In a heatproof bowl, melt together the butter and the chocolate over a pan of water that’s been brought to a boil and then taken off the heat. Allow the mixture to rest, stirring occasionally as it melts.
In another bowl, whisk together the cocoa, rye flour, baking powder and kosher salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the sugars, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Slowly add the melted chooolate, followed by the dry ingredients. Mix just enough to combine; fold in chopped walnuts. Pour into the prepared baking pan. Smooth the top with an icing spatula or rubber spatula and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon or so of big, flaky salt.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the brownies are set but with a slight wobble. Sprinkle with remaining bit of flaky salt. Leave to cool completely in the pan before slicing into squares.
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People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
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I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
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To Talk Porridge
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)
I never seem to bake with rye! It's such a shame but I need to buy some flour and get baking STAT! I'm missing out on these brownies!
And it was good!
PS: I'll never forget the time you returned a brownie in Carmel. Ha! I was like "this girl takes her brownies seriously. And I love it."
I can very much see that happening, Janet.
Ksenia @ At the Immigrant's Table
I have made brownies with spelt flour in the past, but never rye. These look great, and I'm sure they're going to give you a much-needed boost when the baby wakes up from his nap and wants to nurse, while you just want to keep sleeping :)
Helllo, brownies! These look fabulous! I'm a CU-Boulder to Seattle girl, too! When we lived there 5 years ago, between stints in Seattle, Spruce was the only place I found worth buying pastries at! Similarly picky :) (If you drink straight black espresso or Americanos, where do you find coffee there? That still needs to be discovered to make my visits back all the better.) Good luck nesting. Once you have that baby in your arms, you'll know exactly what you need and you'll already be surrounded by it.
making these today!! look so good and so necessary.
Maria @ Sift & Whisk
Man, just when I thought I was getting over my brownie craving, these pop up in my feed! I am going to try to make these this weekend, because I looove rye flour and I'm curious if it comes through the chocolate!
So excited to make these!! I did have a question about the eggs, as all I have are large, not medium. Should I use only 3 large eggs? LOVE the analogy of a baby's impending arrival to the apocalypse. It DOES feel like that :) Hope you're enjoying these last few days-truly excited for you guys!
Good question! I'd use 4 eggs. Mine were definitely on the larger side now that I think about it, and they turned out great. Thanks so much for your sweet comment, ~Megan
Heidi - Apples Under My Bed
A quick comment to say I'm very excited for you! You're a smart lady cooking up a bunch of goodies to stock your freezer with. Best move!! Also, eggs and/or avocado on toast is the best thing ever. Thinking of you during this beautiful crazy time! x
Thanks, Heidi! Loving your IG's lately of you + baby. Looks like you all are settling right in :) Thanks for stopping in to say hi. xo
Megan, I commented on your last post and I'd just like to chime in here that, 10 days into parenthood, we haven't touched a single thing in the freezer because of generous food offerings from friends and family. You are so ready! Whoever told you to make breakfast food and freeze it is GENIUS - I wish we would have known to do as it is the one meal we seem to be seriously lacking in here. And these brownies might be the first thing I make post-baby! My mouth is watering - I even have rye flour handy :) Best wishes to you as you count down - there is nothing comparable to the feeling of your baby in your arms - it's unbelievable!
Hi, Sarah. Thanks so much for the note, and congratulations to you! Hope you all are doing well. Good reminder on breakfasty things ... yes, I think you'll like these brownies. They're a winner. Happy almost weekend, ~Megan
It's exciting and also crazy to be so close, right? I'm due this Sunday and I'm hoping to make these brownies before baby comes! What can I substitute for an 8x12 pan? And any other suggestions for types of unrefined sugar that will work or would regular sugar work fine too? Thanks and a huge congrats on your impending babe!
Hi, Chana. Yes regular sugar will work just fine. Do you have a 9x12? A rectangular pan of some sort if going to be your best bet. Best of luck, and congrats to you, too! ~Megan
Mmmmm! I couldn't agree more. Brownies are a new mom's best friend. These look incredible, I love the addition of rye!
I've had this page bookmarked for a year and finally made them last night as a much needed pick-me-up project! They are delicious and today I'm passing them out to friends :)
I don't eat dairy so I used my go to butter substitute for baked goods: a 50:50 mix of olive oil and coconut oil.( I also use about 2/3 the amount of fat called for to account for the amount of water in butter.) I also used four extra large eggs, that somehow came out to be the same weight in grams as the four medium eggs called for. Weird :)
Yay, Rachel! So glad you liked the brownies - I love this recipe so much. Super fudgy! I'll have to try them next time with your olive oil/coconut swap - love the sounds of it. Have a great weekend.
Hello from Boquete Panama. I made these brownies 2 days ago as we are tying our best to cut out wheat. They turned out awesome.. we live off the grid and remote so I have to use what we have so I normally substitute butter for organic coconut oil . Also I used only half the amount of sugar and I had only 100% cacao. I will be making this again soon . Will look for more of your rye recipes. Thanks
Yum, Debra! Your version sounds terrific. Thanks so much for your comment, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe.
I had an intense craving for chewy brownies last night and these were the PERFECT solution. I used a combination of Trader Joe's Pound Plus Dark Chocolate and 72% Chocolate bars, dutch cocoa powder, 4 large eggs, and a combination of sucanat and blonde cane sugar for the unrefined sugar. I borrowed inspiration from your old Kitchn brownie recipe and added a cup of roasted hazelnuts. They complement the rye/chocolate so well. In a 9"x13" glass pan, the brownies were perfect at 25 minutes. I resisted them for a while but couldn't wait until they were fully cooled so my first one fell apart but it was right in that gooey/chewy range. Allowing them to cool fully put them all the way in the chewy camp (my personal fave). Delicious!