Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (the warm, welcoming city I’ve lived in for a little over half a year now) has a slew of truly exceptional ways to sate a sweet-, savoury-, sweet-savoury-, coffee-, tea-, beer-, wine-, etc.-tooth.
One Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to a brownie (brownie, Allison; Allison, brownie). This brownie, marshmallow topped and burnished, was, in my not so humble opinion, one of the best brownies I’ve ever tasted. It was salty–strikingly so–in a good way. It was salted with purpose, with confidence. It was a fudgy, rich, milk-needed type of deal. This brownie maker was bold, risky, flipping the baking bird to the brownie status-quo. And this brownie, while it may work without the salt, wouldn’t be as I mentioned, “one of the best brownies I’ve ever tasted.” Audacious? Sure, but this is the brownie that will make other brownies run home to their mommies.
And then in my home kitchen last weekend, I introduced Maldon salt to the pantry ranks, and my eating life shone a touch brighter, looked a bit more promising.
These are my homemade, hippie’d-up black bean interpretation of the transcendent brownie base I mentioned above. Black beans create that fudgy, dense texture that’s wanted in all brownies, without the need for as much flour or butter. There is absolutely no bean taste. None. Just rich chocolate nirvana in every salty-sweet bite. To take these above and beyond, I’ve browned the butter, which lends a deeper, nuttier quality that works well here.
If you don’t have Maldon salt, which lends a bit of crunch to both the interior and exterior, then you can’t make these. Just kidding! (Or am I?). Any large-flake sea salt will work, but I’d recommend against fine-grain salts as they’ll make this salty in a spit-it-out way (though if you only have fine-grain salt, simply lower the amount called for and skip garnishing the top). These are basic–not to be confused with plain–brownies, so be my guest if you’d like to jazz them up with nuts, chocolate chips, orange zest, peppermint oil, chopped dried cherries, etc. I prefer my brownies unadulterated and extra-salty, exactly as I’ve done here.
Itch that sweets scratch with the deference a baked good this chocolaty deserves.
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 (19-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed (about 2 cups cooked; OR use chickpeas)
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon Maldon salt or other flaky sea salt, plus more sprinkling
- ⅓ cup whole wheat pastry flour (I lowered the amount from ½ cup after success with less–it makes them even fudgier and richer this way) OR gluten-free all-purpose flour OR rye flour
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper on all sides, leaving overhang for easy removal.
- In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Continue to cook over medium until a light brown and nutty (2–3 minutes). Immediately transfer to a bowl (including a brown bits). Set aside to cool slightly.
- Add brown butter and remaining ingredients except flour to a food processor and puree until smooth. Scrap down sides and puree again. Add flour and puree until smooth. Scrape down sides and briefly puree again. Transfer to prepared pan and smooth completely with an offset spatual. Sprinkle with additional salt on top. Bake for 15 minutes, until dry on top and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out still wet (this is important to keep them fudgy). Remove brownie from pan using parchment overhang; transfer to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely, slice into squares or triangles, and store airtight at room temperature or refrigerate or freeze (I like them chilled, straight from the refrigerator).