Bittersweet Cocoa Brownies, Gluten-Free

Today I want to share an adaptation of a recipe by one of my baking goddesses, Alice Medrich.  As I have discussed before on this blog, I had the opportunity to meet and bake for her Seattle book event a year and a half ago.  I can’t tell you what a dream come true that was for me! To my delight, she is funny, friendly, and incredibly down-to-earth.  I had so much fun chatting and hanging out with her.  She will be in Seattle later this month to promote her new book, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, and I have another opportunity to bake for her–squee!

I’ve been an admirer of hers since I visited her Cocolat shop in Berkeley when I was a teenager.  I don’t remember what I ordered, but I do remember thinking, as I savored it, that it was one of the most delicious chocolate desserts I had ever tasted.  Somewhere inside of me I knew it was good in a way that was special.  Later I got the cookbook based on recipes from the shop. And over the years I got her other books and now have a fabulous Alice Medrich cookbook library.

One of my favorite of her cookbooks (although it is really hard to choose between them) is Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate.  This book won the IACP Cookbook of the Year award–and for good reason.  It is a wonderful,charming, informative, and accessible book about chocolate and Medrich’s relationship with chocolate, and it contains 150 terrific recipes.

One of my favorite of her recipes from Bittersweet is her Best Cocoa Brownies.  These are as close to the perfect brownie as I think you will ever get.  And they are so easy to make.  Over the years, I have tinkered with the recipe and have come up with my own version.  I think you will agree with me that this recipe is just about perfect.

Bittersweet Cocoa Brownies, Gluten-Free
-inspired by recipe in Bittersweet, Alice Medrich

Yield: 16 brownies

1/3 cup (45g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All Purpose flour mix or gf mix of your choice–be sure it contains xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (65g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups (265g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks; 140g) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
2 extra-large eggs, cold
1 cup (120g) chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4. Line the bottom of a 8″x8″ baking pan with parchment paper (no need to grease).

In a small bowl, mix together flour and baking powder.

In a medium bowl, mix together unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, and salt.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter. When the butter is completely melted, turn off the heat.

Carefully pour the hot butter into the bowl with the cocoa mixture and, using a whisk, mix together until mixture is combined and smooth.

When the butter mixture has cooled to room temperature (i.e., so it’s not hot–if it’s too hot, the eggs will cook), add eggs, one at a time, whisking between each addition. Whisk until mixture is smooth.

Add flour mix and stir with a heavy spoon until combined (the mixture will be too stiff to use a whisk by this point). Add pecan pieces if using and stir until incorporated.

Spoon mixture into pan. Since the mixture is so stiff, I usually place equal blobs into each pan corner and one in the middle. Then, using a finger to stabilize the parchment paper, I carefully spread the mixture so it equally covers the bottom of the pan. Smooth top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until a tester comes out fairly clean (there will be a few crumbs).

Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then run a knife between the brownies and the edge of the pan to loosen and then carefully invert onto a cooling rack and remove the parchment paper. Let sit until completely cool. If you try to cut it too early, it will be more crumbly than if you cut it cool (although, hot brownie crumbles aren’t all that bad…)

Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 5 days.


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  1. says

    I baked these brownies yesterday and they came out perfect. It was just the chocolate fix I needed and one of the best brownies I’ve had. I’ve read your blog for some time now and you’ve changed the way I think about gluten-free baking. It’s not as intimidating as I used to think it was. I’m a baker by profession and very interested in different kinds of diet restrictions and how to apply them to basic confections. I think, that even though it’s not always possible for a special diet-product to be exactly like the regular one, they should be equally delicious, at least. You have been a great inspiration!

  2. Tracy says

    These turned out a little flatter than I expected, but they are soooo good! Perfectly chewy and fudgy! I did use 3 medium eggs (that’s all I had) which may account for the smaller amount of rise. Now if I could only stop eating them…

    • says

      Tracy: Yeah, the smaller eggs will produce less loft in the resulting product. But for something like brownies, it usually doesn’t matter all that much. :)

  3. says

    Ooooh! I love Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet cookbook! I never actually make anything (since I’m gluten and grain free), but I love to just look at the pictures and read her stories. :)

  4. says

    Oh, Jeanne, I’m imagining these brownies right now! Divine! It’s so wonderful that you will get to see and bake for one of your food heroes again! :-)


  5. says

    I don’t eat brownies often or make them, but I’d love these brownies! In fact these cocoa brownies have been on my to-try list for some time. I’ve only borrowed Alice Medrich’s cookie cookbook, which had gluten-free options, from the library, but didn’t get to trying any of the gluten-free variations.

    • admin says

      Zoe: Yay! They are so good! Also, Alice didn’t originally write these to be gluten-free–I adapted them to be! Enjoy!


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