Salted tahini makes an addictive topping to bittersweet fudgy brownies made with malty teff flour. Adapted from The Gourmet Kitchen by Jennifer Farley.
At a dance class the other night, a classmate had been given a box of chocolates for her 60th birthday which she was offering away, claiming that she “doesn’t eat chocolate.” I assumed she had an allergy – otherwise, why wouldn’t one eat chocolate at any and every opportunity? Seeing that they were from my favorite local chocolatier, Michael Recchiuti, and not wanting them to go to waste, I offered to take them off her hands and held mine out to take the box. She looked startled. “I don’t want you to get fat,” she blurted out.
I see this sweet woman every Monday in dance class. Together, we’ve panicked about both the presidential election and challenging choreography. We’ve shared photos of our cats, discussed our thoughts on animal rights, and walked to our cars together after class. You think you know a person.
Seeing the look on her face made me want to burst out laughing. I had just finished telling her about my career as a baker/pastry chef turned food photographer/author, so I was perplexed as to how she thought I could get by in life chocolate-free. Last year, a normal day consisted of baking 5 cakes to test for my book. I had a large jug of hot cocoa, bag of homemade butter toffee, and jar full of our favorite chocolate bars, not to mention two giant bags of chocolate granola, all waiting at home. I spend a large part of each day looking at photos of food – gooey chocolate cakes, plump chocolate chip cookies, glossy brownies – and dreaming of the next vehicle with which to deliver chocolate to my face. In other words, I eat chocolate for a living.
“I’ll manage,” I told her.
In the end, she relented when I promised to share the chocolates (which turned out to be chocolate covered salted caramels) with Jay, who, I made sure to add, was very skinny.
“So, are you allergic to chocolate or something?” I asked. Her eyes widened.
“No, I just don’t want to get fat!”
“All things in moderation – except for chocolate,” was my reply. Then I went home and baked a batch of these brownies.
I’ve been hooked on these beauties from my friend Jen‘s beautiful new cookbook The Gourmet Kitchen. I’ve been following Jen’s work for years, and have always been struck by how clean and bold her photography is, with flavors to match. The book is full of Jen’s elegant imagery, and a varied mix of recipes ranging from family favorites (her grandmother’s crab cakes that look insanely good) to eclectic flavors gathered from her travels (spiced baked acorn squash with garlic yogurt) to cozy comfort foods (banana peanut butter layer cake with chocolate ganache and apple cheddar caramelized onion galettes). Jen’s recipes are straightforward and simple, with clear instructions that bring cooking school techniques into the home kitchen.
These brownies are dense and fudgy, and the layer of buttery tahini frosting on top makes them completely addictive. Chocolate and tahini are a beautiful and unexpected match, with the roasty, nutty taste of sesame ricocheting off bittersweet, mellow chocolate – think chocolate and peanut butter. I traded in teff flour for the all-purpose to make these easily gluten-free; it adds a bit of earthy depth.
Cut these into small squares and stash them in the fridge to keep the frosting firm, and you may find yourself dipping into them with alarming frequency. Or do what I did for my 35th birthday and skip the cake in favor of a pile o’ brownies.
- 5 ounces (140 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (around 70% cacao mass)
- 5 tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus a bit for the pan
- ½ cup (100 g) organic granulated cane sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ⅓ cup (55 g) teff flour
- 1 tablespoon (6 g) tapioca flour
- 4 tablespoons (55 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) well-stirred tahini
- ¼ cup (30 g) powdered sugar, sifted
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325ºF. Butter an 8x8-inch baking pan and line it with parchment overhanging on two sides.
- In a large, metal bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water, melt together the chocolate and butter until smooth, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar, then the eggs and vanilla. Sift the teff and tapioca flours and salt into the batter and stir until smooth. Scrape into the pan and spread into an even layer. Bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, 20-30 minutes. Cool completely.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting. Whip the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle until smooth. Beat in the tahini until smooth, then add the sugar and salt. Increase the speed to medium and whip until light and fluffy, 1 minute.
- Spread the frosting over the cooled brownies. For the cleanest slices, chill until firm, then cut into squares with a large, sharp chef's knife dipped in hot water and wiped clean between each cut. Serve either chilled or at room temperature.