Feb 1, 2011

Gluten-Free Brownies

I love to bake. And I've spent years experimenting with recipes to find the one version of something that stops me in my tracks. The one that means the search is over. The one I will want to continue making forever. Like these chocolate chip cookies. And this shortbread. And this crumble. And these brownies. These are holy grail recipes. I would say that they are the recipes I would grab if the house caught on fire. But I think I know them so well, I wouldn't need to. I've made them so many times I can remember them.

But going gluten-free means redefining those old favorites so that I can still enjoy them. This will take time and experimentation. But I'm working on it. These brownies are the first to go gluten-free. They seemed like a good candidate. They are so easy to make, you don't even need a mixer. They are mostly eggs and chocolate and butter with a little flour to keep it all together. As a gluten-free flour, I used equal parts brown rice flour and tapioca flour. A lot of gluten-free recipes you see have combinations of a long list of alternative flours and even gums to hold things together. You don't have to fuss with all of that here. Just the two flours. One note, though: rice flours can be gritty if they are not very finely milled. I tried several brands. I kept seeing recommendations for Authentic Foods brand rice flours because they are milled superfine. I know, it's an extra step to have to mail order your rice flour, but it's truly worth it to avoid the grittiness. Other alternative gluten-free flours would probably work here as well, but this one works for me. Experiment and let me know what works for you.

These can be made in a square baking pan or as mini or full-size cupcakes. I've made them for several parties as cupcakes. If you're using a square baking pan, be sure to spray it and then line it with a strip of parchment hanging over the sides (seen here) for easy removal from the pan after baking and cooling.

The recipe below is for straight up, traditional brownies. For a spicy Mexican version, you can add 1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the flour and give it some heat. These are my husband's favorite.

Substitutions note: I've also experimented with making these dairy-free, using Earth Balance baking sticks (trans fat free!). I'm hard pressed to tell you which I like better. The margarine gives them a little more chewiness in the texture which I love. But the butter is a little richer. I made batches of each and asked friends to give me a favorite. Even my 13-year-old buddy, Jackson, had a hard time picking a favorite, although he put in a good effort tasting one, then the other, then the first one again... Either way, you'll have fudgy brownies with chewy edges and big chocolate flavor.

Most important note: these are best made the day before serving. They'll be good after cooling from the oven, but the flavors develop overnight. They will be spectacular the next day. So make them a day ahead.

Gluten-Free Brownies

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon Authentic Foods Superfine brown rice flour
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon tapioca flour (or tapioca starch, same thing)
8 ounces 60-70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup or 228 grams)
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, measure out your brown rice flour and tapioca flour and stir well to combine. (If you're making the Mexican spicy version, add the spices to the flour and stir together.) Set aside.

With softened butter or cooking spray, grease a square baking pan (mine is 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches when measured across the top). Now cut a strip of parchment paper or foil a little narrower than the width of the pan and long enough to hang over on both sides. Place the foil/parchment in the pan and press it against the sides. It will stick to the pan. Now grease the paper as well. This seems fussy, but will insure that you get these babies out of the pan in one piece. The overhanging sides will act as a sling to lift out the brownies -- only when they are completely cool! You hear me!

In a cereal or soup-sized bowl, put the chopped chocolate and the butter. Microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments until the butter is completely melted. The chocolate won't look melted, but stir them together and it will melt completely. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk or stir together the eggs, salt, sugars and vanilla. (I use a giant whisk for this. Seen here.)

Add the melted chocolate to the egg mixture and whisk/stir together. Add the flour and gently whisk together completely.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is crackly and shiny. (You want fudginess, so the toothpick test doesn't really work here.) If you make these as mini-cupcakes, bake approximately 20 minutes. For full-size cupcakes, 30-40 minutes, depending on how fudgy you want them.

Let cool completely. COMPLETELY. Then, if you can't stand it, using the sling you made with foil/parchment, lift the brownies out in one piece, slice and eat. But if you are made of stronger stuff than most, cover the cooled brownies in the pan and refrigerate or let sit on a cool counter overnight. The next day, use the sling to remove them, peel off the parchment/foil, slice and enjoy.

From the square pan, these can be cut into 9 giant brownies or 12-16 smaller ones. They are very rich so a little goes a long way. (Yields 12 full-size cupcakes or 24 minis.)

Adapted from David Lebovitz and Nick Malgieri.

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