I read somewhere the other day that the best meals are not those we have in expensive and fancy restaurants, but in fact those we share with friends and family. And I think that is true. In fact, I had one of those meals on Saturday.
One of my friends here in Brussels is moving to the US for six months for work this weekend. So last Saturday a group of us decided rather spontaneously to get together for dinner to spend some more time together before she is off. And so just after 8pm on Saturday evening, 10 of us found ourselves sitting around the long dining table in the flat of our friend Marc.
Marc is part of a wider group of friends of my sister Helena here in Brussels, all of whom have welcomed me with open arms when I first arrived in Brussels (2 years ago this month!). In one way or another, they have all helped me settle in – letting me sleep on their sofa while I flat-hunted, helping me assemble furniture, inviting me along to parties so I could meet people, helping me find a new GP etc. And on some level I feel like I still need to show how much I appreciated that. So while Marc was in charge of dinner (there was a velvety root vegetable soup followed by these incredible spicy pork salad wraps and mandarin sorbet with fresh fruit), I decided to bake and brought along a tray of these brownies. And like all of Claire’s recipes, these brownies were a roaring success.
It has been a while since I have been truly excited by a brownie, whether homemade or bought. But these are incredible. While my personal preference is for fudgey brownies I happily enjoy a cakey brownie too. But there is one thing that is non-negotiable when it comes to a good brownie, and that is flavor. Brownies have to be perfectly chocolatey. They should practically reek of chocolate. And this is exactly where Claire’s brownies deliver. It must be something about the combination of dark chocolate and cocoa, the two types of sugar, the rye flour and a whole teaspoon of salt in the batter that just amplifies the chocolate flavor.
So yeah, if you want to say thank you to someone or you just really fancy a tray of brownies, make a batch of these.
In other news:
- Bien Cuit is worth adding to your collection of books on baking bread – I have only baked one loaf so far (the 30h sourdough loaf, with rye and buckwheat flour) and both the flavour and texture of the loaf were incredible. I am excited to try out other recipes from the book (high on the list are the buckwheat sourdough bread and the various rye breads);
- with spring dragging its heels a bit here in Brussels, the Heidi Swanson’s Rasam from Near and Far has been on heavy rotation in this household;
- I signed up to Food52’s new app (Not)Recipes and am a little bit in love – it is a bit like instagram but for foodies and a great app to peruse for dinner inspiration. There are still some kinks in the app that need to be sorted out but I already love playing with it;
- also, this made me chuckle (and wish I had written it myself – I mean ‘boom is bad-free’ is just too good!).
Wholegrain Rye and Sea Salt Brownies
Barely adapted from Claire Ptak / The Violet Bakery Cookbook
Note: Claire’s recipe calls for wholegrain rye flour and that is what I used here. That being said, my wholegrain rye flour (which I typically use to bake bread) is a high extraction flour, so contains lots of bran. Comparing the pictures of my brownies against those in Claire’s book I suspect hers were baked with a lower extraction flour or she simply sifted out the bits of bran prior to mixing the brownie batter. Feel free to do either but just be warned that if you use a wholegrain flour with the bran left in, the surface of the brownies will not be as smooth and shiny as you may be used to from brownies made with all purpose flour.
270g dark chocolate (min. 70 per cent cocoa content)
180g caster sugar
180g soft brown sugar
180g wholegrain rye flour
45g cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp fleur de sel
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a buttered 20x30cm pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water (or in a bain marie) melt the chocolate and butter. Once both are fully melted take the bowl off the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
In a separate bowl whisk together the caster sugar, the soft brown sugar and the eggs until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is light and airy. While whisking continuously slowly pour in the melted chocolate and butter. Next, add the rye flour, the cocoa powder, the baking powder and the sea salt in one go and fold in until just combined. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the fleur de sel all over the brownies.
Bake for around 25 minutes or until the brownies are set but still have a slight wobble in the centre. Leave to cool completely before cutting into squares.