I have my go-to brownie recipe and I generally don't mess around with it. If I'm going to make brownies, it's what I reach for. But then there are days (like today) when there are dried cherries in the pantry and I begin to wonder what would happen if I jammed a few different kinds of chocolate, some quinoa flakes, and said dried cherries into one pan of brownies? The answer: something quite wonderful.
In the most recent issue of Cooks Illustrated, they featured a Classic Brownie recipe, discussing in great length what makes them different. I tend to be of the camp that thinks, "What's new under the sun when it comes to brownies?" but the thing that caught my attention was the mention of cake flour. The recipe testers insist, "Cake flour makes tender brownies with a delicate chew." I was intrigued.
As you well know, there are many different kinds of brownie folks out there. There are the fudgy folks, the cakey folks, and the chewy folks — and all of you who fall in between, happily straddling one or the other. I tend to prefer a pretty fudgy, rich brownie, but I also love them to have a bit of a chew and that nice crackly layer on top. So I decided to give it a go with cake flour. I amped up the quantity of chocolate that I usually use, relying on both chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, and experimented with one of my new favorite ingredients: quinoa flakes.
If you're not familiar with quinoa flakes, you can find them in a box at most well-stocked grocery stores (I buy Ancient Harvest brand); they're essentially quinoa that's been pressed flat into quick-cooking flakes. Many folks use them as a speedy warm breakfast cereal, but I've been folding them into cookies and quick breads lately. And now brownies. I love quinoa flakes because they're an easy way to get an extra little hit of protein in unexpected places and they don't change the taste or texture of a recipe very much. If you cannot find quinoa flakes, you can substitue ground oats, but I wouldn't substitue whole-grain quinoa itself as it will change the wet/dry ingredient balance in the recipe.
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While this recipe has a few unexpected ingredients, it doesn't stray far from simplicity. That's one of the things I love about brownies: you should be able to whip them up in under 30 minutes. Always. I don't believe even the most deluxe brownie recipes warrant multiple dirty bowls or kitchen thermometers. I don't really even believe in sifting the dry ingredients, actually. So these brownies reflect my desire for a simple, decadent brownie — yet one into which we can sneak a few grains and dried fruits when the urge strikes. Enjoy!
Quick recipe note: I used chocolate feves for this recipes — they're essentially nice, round disks of dark chocolate that make it easier when it comes to baking as you can eliminate all that chopping. But use whichever chocolate you really like. A nice dark chocolate is my preference.
Double Chocolate Cherry Quinoa Brownies
3/4 cup dried cherries
1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces dark chocolate (between 60-72% is ideal), finely chopped
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for pan
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
1/4 cup confectioners sugar, to top
Soak the cherries in warm water for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours. This will help plump them up nicely.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9x13-inch square baking pan (or spray with a little cooking spray)
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the two flours, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
Combine the chopped chocolate and butter into a small saucepan and warm over low heat until the mixture is melted completely and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the sugar and the eggs on medium speed until quite pale and aerated, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, mixing just long enough to incorporate them. Add 1/3 of the butter/chocolate mixture and mix to combine. Repeat, until the dry mixture and butter/chocolate mixture are both fully incorporated. Turn off the mixer and fold in the quiona flakes by hand. Drain the cherries and fold them in as well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly using a spatula.
Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until a toothpick is inserted into the center and comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it. Cool at room temperature for at least 45 minutes before slicing. Using a fine-mesh sieve of sifter, sprinkle the tops with a little powdered sugar before slicing.