Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Baking Brownies for Springtime

I can’t believe it has almost been a year since Meals with Morri made its debut. Only, instead of pancakes, I have the pleasure to join a number of amazing gluten free bloggers in this month’s Gluten Free Ratio Rally… 

making brownies.

So much can happen over the course of twelve months, and I am always surprised how time quickly passed me by. Twelve months of recipes, life experiences, mistakes, laughter, sorrow, and change. Twelve months of coming into myself, and still learning something new every day.

And I couldn’t have done it without you all.

Spring is such a fascinating season, and a perfect time to reflect the past year. You think about all the things that stressed you out and left you in a tizzy, most of which don’t exist anymore. You look at all the experiences you had and the lessons you learned, some of them less than pleasant and a pain in the butt to deal with, and then you realize that you survived it. You made it to now, and that’s quite an achievement.

Like my very first post, I have found myself sleep-deprived because of hunger, eating an apple with almond butter and an AB & J socca pancake at two-thirty in the morning because my stomach won’t settle for less. So there I was, half asleep and staring blankly into the skillet, watching the bubbles pop on the surface of the huge pancake I made before I put it under the broiler to escape flipping my monstrous creation. I think of the dreams I woke up from, dreams of pouring muffin batter into a non-greased tin before realizing my mistake, of my camera lens chipping, of talking to an old friend like the conflict with their family never happened. Even without sleeping more than four to five hours at a time, even with the week of sniffles and coughing and delirious tendencies, I still went to work and exercised (when I felt I could), two things I know will bring me crashing sooner rather than later.

Springtime brings change and perspective just as bluntly as it brings pollen and allergies. It brings you finicky weather and it brings you a new season of plants to garden, harvest, and eat. Most importantly, at least I think so anyway, it shows you just how bountiful this new year is going to be for you.

For my Grandpa B, that means chickens.

For my household, that means a new compost heap. (Thank you, guys. I love it.)

For my job at the community center, that means awesome “Where the Wild Things Are” themed trips during Spring Break.

For my blog, that means posting recipes, insights, and facts about living a healthy gluten free (among other things) life, loving myself, working around having a thyroid condition, and looking towards sustainable development to help the world community.

And finally, for this post, that means brownies.

I learned something this time around, and it has finally sank in: simple is hard to do. I wanted to do some pretty crazy ingredient combinations and themes for this month’s GFRR, ranging from nut butter marble and vegan bite-sized brownies to strawberry shortcake and piña colada blondies. Really though, the fact you participate at all is something of a feat. Many (if not all) of the participants will congratulate you on a job well done, cheering on the sidelines as I do for them.

In the end, I decided on making a brownie inspired by all that I learned in my Mesoamerican anthropology class. I was particularly fascinated by the cuisine and the plants and animals that were domesticated. But what really got me excited for this month's GFRR was because of the Aztec’s most revered chocolate drink, the Xocolātl.

The result was a fudgy cake-like brownie. It was moist and sweet and just spicy enough to make them “strangely addicting”, as Mama Dazz called them.

Thus, the Oaxacan (WAH-HAWK-CAN) brownie (I named for the Zapotec/Mixtec state found in southern Mexico. It was ruled by the Aztec for a few decades until the arrival of the Spanish.) was created.

Trial 2: Essentially a fudge recipe with an identity crisis

Now, I want to let you know where I goofed up these delectable desserts. 

As I looked at my original recipe and compared it with the ratio while typing this post, I realized why my brownies turned out the way they did. For inspiration, I looked at another person's recipe that called for sweet potato, so naturally she didn’t use the amount of sugar as is usually called for.

That, and I think being sleep deprived played a crucial role in this too.

But just so you know, while I still stand by my brownies, I am glad I made both of them again using 250 g of honey/maple syrup. Another thing you must consider is the creaming method with the eggs and the sugar you choose, because the fat in mine were particularly testy when I didn't. That, and putting cold applesauce on the butters coagulated the fat content and turned my first batch into an epic flop of all Flopdom.

So, if you have walked away and learned anything from making brownies, I sincerely hope it's the creaming method and the importance of bringing ingredients to the right temperature before using.

The ratio is similar to what was offered to the GFRR: 2 parts chocolate, 3 parts butter, 3 parts eggs, 6 parts sugar, and 2 parts flour.

Trial 3: Ding, ding, ding!!! We have a Winner!
Oaxacan Brownies

57 g Unsweetened chocolate
32 g Unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
113 g Butter
165 g Honey
85 g Unsweetened applesauce, room temperature
2 Large eggs, room temperature
62 g Quinoa flour
1/4 tsp. Chipotle powder
1/4 tsp. Sea salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
Stevia, optional
Cocoa nibs, as garnish

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Melt the chocolate and butter together on very low heat, and then set aside to cool.
Mix the eggs with the honey and applesauce until well blended and add to the melted chocolate.
Sift the flour and cayenne and fold in the chocolate mixture.
Pour the batter into a greased 8x8” (or smaller for a thick and dense cake-like brownie) oven-safe pan, and bake for 35 - 40 minutes until done.

Makes 1 batch, or 8 squares.
As you can see, the brownies were cakey and rich, with a moist crumb that the applesauce helped to provide. On the other hand, the blondies were like gooey snickerdoodles of epic blonde brownie proportions. The mesquite played beautifully with the cacao butter and maple syrup.

The modified recipe for the MCB's still needs a little tweaking, a little too wet for my preference, but the taste is out of this world yummy. 

And just to be different, I baked it in a pie pan.

Photo of 1st Blondie batch with updated recipe below
Mesquite Cacao Blondies

85 g Unsweetened applesauce, room temperature
113 g Cacao butter
165 g Maple syrup
2 Large eggs, room temperature
31 g Mesquite flour
31 g Garbanzo bean flour
1/4 tsp. Sea salt
1 tsp. Bourbon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Melt the cacao butter and maple syrup together in a double broiler on medium heat, and then set aside to cool.
Mix the eggs with the applesauce and vanilla until well blended and add to the melted cacao butter.
Sift the flour and salt and fold in the wet ingredients.
Pour the batter into a greased 9” pie pan, and bake for 45 minutes until done.

Makes 1 batch, or 8 slices.

I think it's time you head on over and see what the other GFRR participants made, don't you think? Trust me when I say that you won't be disappointed in the least! Our host for brownies was the great Mary Fran of FrannyCakes, a woman who keeps it real with amazing recipes, uses food for healing, and makes my mouth water from the photos she takes for all of us who love good-for-you food.

Oh yes, hear her (us) roar.

Adina from Gluten Free Travelette made Chocolate Brownie Pie with Orange Zest
Angela from Angela's Kitchen made Gluten & Dairy Free Cream Egg Brownies
Brooke from B & the boy! made Triple Chocolate Brownies
Caitlin from {Gluten Free} Nom Nom Nom made Peppermint Brownie Bars
Caleigh from Gluten Free[k] made White chocolate and marshmallow brownies
Caneel from Mama Me Gluten Free made Triple chocolate brownies
Charissa Luke from Zest Bakery made Slutty gluten-free brownies
Claire from My Gluten Free Home made PB&J Brownie Whoopee Pies
Claire from This Gluten-Free Life made St. Patty's Day Marshmallow Swirl Brownies
Erin from The Sensitive Epicure made Mexican Cocoa Brownies with an Almond & Pepitas Crust
gretchen from kumquat made salted caramel brownies
Heather from Discovering the Extraordinary made Nutmeg Blondies
Irvin from Eat the Love made Blueberry Citrus Marble Brownies
Jean from Gluten-Free Doctor Recipes made Blue Ribbon Brownies
Jenn from Jenn Cuisine made Grain free brownies with no-bake ricotta cheesecake cream
Jonathan from The Canary Files made Vegan Marbled Banana Walnut Brownies
Karen from Cooking Gluten Free! made GF Chewy Crackled Top Brownies with Raspberry Puree
Mary Fran from FrannyCakes made Gluten-Free Hazelnut (Nutella) Brownies
Morri (Me!) from Meals with Morri made Oaxacan Brownies & Mesquite Cacao Blondies
Mrs. R from Honey From Flinty Rocks made Black Bean S'More Brownies
Pete and Kelli from No Gluten, No Problem made Caramel Mexican Chocolate Mesquite Brownies
Rachel from The Crispy Cook made Co-Co Nut-Nut Blondies
Shauna from Gluten-Free Girl made Gluten-Free Brownies
Tara from A Baking Life  made Chocolate Flourless (Mint) Brownies
TR from No One Likes Crumbley Cookies made Gluten Free Berry Fudge Brownies


  1. Great minds think alike! I went Mexican inspired, too. I really like your approach. These recipes sound so exotic.

    1. You know, I was just thinking that when I saw yours. :)

  2. Both of these look and sound really delicious! Love the mesquite used in different recipes this rally, as well as the Mexican twist - always great flavors!

    1. I know, right?! I always added hot pepper to my hot chocolate, so naturally it had to be put in a brownie.

      And I seriously need to use mesquite more often.

  3. I love the idea of adding cayenne pepper to gooey chocolate brownies! YUM!
    Blessings, ~Mrs. R

    1. Thank you, ma'am. As I mentioned in the post, I used less sugar than I should have, so the result is a square of amazing fudge in the fridge. I'm going to remake both with the right ratio and see where it takes me.

  4. Very interesting flavor combinations!! I've never seen mesquite flour before, what does it taste like?

    1. Thank you! Mesquite tastes a lot like a richer cinnamon sugar powder with molasses undertones. It can be used as a chocolate replacement much like carob (and it's good for you).

  5. I have some mesquite flour in the cabinet that I didn't know what to do with, now I know. I have an excuse to make more brownies!

    Great job, and 2 brownie flavors?! Awesome sauce :)

    Oh, and congrats on making it a year!

    1. Thank you, Mary. Today I'm updating the recipe with the correct sugar ratio, so then you can have perfect brownies/blondies every time.

      Will you be participating in the next GFRR. I hope so, because I hear some awesome person is hosting (hint hint). :)

  6. I love mesquite, and maple syrup, but never combined the two before. It sounds delicious! I also love the way you used your Mesoamerican anthro class for inspiration. Nice work!

    1. The combination has an overall brown sugar/molasses taste, which I enjoyed immensely.

      And I'm glad my anthro minor shined for this recipe... here I thought I wouldn't be able to put it into use. :)

  7. Brownies with a kick! I love the flavor profile. Will have to try this!

  8. Awesome post, my friend. It's so true - the mere fact that one participates in the Rally is a feat in and of itself. And to present two different, equally delectable sounding creations? SO amazing.

    Thank you for the inspiration (in regards to both gf baking and gf living) and Congratulations on your Blog-o-versary!

  9. Congrats on your 1 year blog “Birthday”! I’m at roughly a year too. Also,I love the flavor combination!

  10. Your chipotle brownies look really tempting.
    Can't wait for next month's Ratio Rally, when SOMEONE will be hosting us in the making of bagels....

  11. happy blog birthday! i think brownies are a very proper way to celebrate... and with all of your virtual gluten-free friends, to boot! mesquite flour and cocoa nibs are two ingredients i've been interested in for a while. thanks for some delicious looking brownie recipes to use them in...