These are the best fu*king brownies I’ve ever made.
No joke, no lies. They’re definitely not the easiest brownies in my arsenal: definitely not as easy as the Divine Cocoa Brownies that are literally dubbed “the easiest brownies you will ever make”, nor as easy as using the Kitch+Table mix I adore, nor as easy as the booze-bursting Boyfriend Breakup Beer Brownies. They’re definitely easier than the Peppermint Patty Brownie Bars, though, but those are all Christmasy. And, while all of those brownie recipes (and I obviously adore brownies) are awesome; while they definitely fix a sweet tooth and are ready while the “I can’t believe he just broke up with me” snot is still running down your sister’s face; they’re not these brownies.
These brownies are the best. They come from Chef Johnny Iuzzini’s new book, Sugar Rush, on stands and digital clouds everywhere. And they’re my new favorites for when I have serious brownie people to impress.
I met Johnny Iuzzini of Sugar Fueled Inc. years ago, when he judged the pie competition that inspired the Holiday in a Hand Pie recipe I made for it. I didn’t know who he was at the time, nor what would follow in the years to come: we’ve swapped food ideas (mostly him sharing, me scribbling notes), he’d occasionally text-tease me when grabbing a slice of fresh NYC pizza and I’d rib him when on the way to a massage (cause what chef has time to get a massage?!), and seeing him at events would bring me a boost of energy and a smile to my face.
To get even a touch more personal, Johnny’s mother passed away from breast cancer, for which I’ve long been an advocate, and she had Lyme disease for a while, too. So we get each other, and he’s one of the few people in my professional life that I can occasionally say “I hurt” to, which is pretty special.
Johnny worked at many high-end, fancy fine-dining restaurants in his time, ending with years heading up the Jean-Georges pastry department. He was also the head judge on the too-short-lived Top Chef: Just Desserts. Now, he works under Sugar Fueled to create stunning eclairs for the Mondrian hotel, judge television shows, work his ass off at events around the world, donate his time to various charities, and come up with a bible of a baking book, Sugar Rush. Head to my Words site for my book review. And buy the book. Because it’s awesome.
Oh, and it also has this in it, which is pretty damned cool:
There are many recipes I want to make from this book. I especially want to tackle eclairs, since I had a puff pastry obsession that didn’t quite flower into an eclair one, and I told Johnny I’d adapt a recipe from the Mondrian eclair event of his I attended before the book came out. That hasn’t happened… yet.
But the page after that gluten-free Vanilla Birthday Cake recipe up there is one for those insane looking brownies, laced with spice and smoke and with the dense center and crackly edges that make for a really stellar brownie. When flipping through it, my roommate pretty much demanded them. And I’m not one to deny a roommate chocolate.
Because dark chocolate (god bless you, Valrhona) and spices stand up to full-flavored flours, I used a blend of brown rice, almond, teff and a touch of mesquite. The right amount of tapioca starch and touch of xanthan gum produced a brownie that almost made me cry: that crackly edge and sweet center are just too much love for a heart to handle, and there’s no way in hell someone would suspect these are gluten free.
Yes, more than a dozen of you are going to wonder if you can swap in your blend or something gluten-free from a bag. I don’t believe in “all-purpose gluten-free flour” blends. I chose these for a reason, as together they nail the texture and flavor I want in these brownies. Technically, yes, you can swap in whatever you want for a total of 190 grams of flour. Just don’t yell at me if something’s not quite right. And I encourage serious gluten-free bakers to invest in exploring the pluthera of flours out there that we can use in place of wheat flour. When Johnny announced my pie-contest winnings, he remarked that he never would have thought to use quinoa flour in something, which I had used in my entry specifically. Most pastry chefs I know use wheat flour in varying gluten levels only. Let’s use our disadvantage to our advantage, right?
Also, because the original recipe calls for gluten-full barley malt, I subbed in some killer hickory bark syrup to get the rich flavor I was trying to mimic.
You need a scale for this, since you want your balance of flours to match what an all-purpose original would be. And, as Johnny’s t-shirt from Flavour Gallery says anyway, Measuring Cups are For Sandcastles. While the steps are greater than in most brownie recipes, they’re smartly written so that there’s little lag time; you have plenty of time to blend flours while the eggs whip, for example. So, as Johnny suggests throughout the book: read the whole recipe, make sure you’ve got all measured and ready to go, and then just follow things from start to end for the best fu*king brownies ever, happily freed from their gluten.
Grab Johnny’s book. But, until then, make these.
Gluten-Free Spicy Chocolate Chipotle Brownies
Freed of gluten from page 209 of Sugar Rush, by Chef Johnny Iuzzini
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2-3 tablespoons raw sugar, for dusting pan
- 10 oz bittersweet chocolate (66-72% cacao), chopped
- 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 3 Tbsp maple or hickory bark syrup
- 4 large eggs
- 400 g granulated white sugar (2 cups)
- 10 g vanilla extract (2 tsp)
- 60g brown rice flour (for texture / body)
- 40g almond flour (for flavor / body)
- 50g tapioca starch (to pull things together, ant its neutral taste and corn-free happiness)
- 30g teff flour (for fiber and lots of healthy vitamins)
- 10g mesquite flour (because it’s so malty and spicy and smoky, replacing the barley syrup we gluten-freers can use. If you don’t have any, sub in more almond or teff).
- 3g xanthan gum (3/4 tsp)
- 4g baking powder
- 3g smoked paprika
- 3g chipotle chili powder
- 1g cayenne powder
- 4g kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350. Spray or butter an 8×11-inch baking pan and coat generously with raw sugar, tapping out excess.
Put the chocolates and butter in a large heatproof bowl. Fill a sauce-pan 1/3 with water and set on medium heat, bringing it up to a simmer. Set the bowl over the water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water!), and melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in the maple syrup, and allow to cool.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. Put on the simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mixture is hot to the touch; about 180 degrees. This takes slightly longer than expected, so don’t rush it; just keep whisking and make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water and the eggs don’t scramble. Return bowl to mixer, add the whisk attachment, and beat on high until incredibly pale, fluffy and cooled to room temperature, around 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, weigh out the flours, gum, baking powder and spices in a small bowl and whisk well to aerate. Sprinkle the salt on top.
When all is set and cool, fold the egg mixture into the chocolate, folding until incorporated but streaky. Sprinkle 1/4 of the flour mixture over the top, and fold until just incorporated, repeating three more times until just combined between additions.
Pour into pan, and smooth over the top.
Bake for about 50 minutes, rotating pan in oven halfway through if ya’ve got hot spots like I do, and cool completely before slicing into squares.