Pastry chef Claire Ptak came up through the ranks of Alice Waters’ legendary Chez Panisse before opening her own bake shop in east London. “The Violet Bakery Cookbook“ offers her tips on baking (e.g. whisk rather than sift your dry ingredients; or weighing versus measuring), while speaking to her characteristically balanced approach to “season and place, sweet and savory, flavor and health.”
When working with alternative grains, Claire says the key is not to mask, but to instead highlight the ingredients’ natural flavors and textures. Her own rye chocolate brownies are inspired by Tartine Bakery’s Chad Robertson, whom she credits for her switch from spelt flour to whole grain rye flour. The result is a “chewy, rich, gooey, nutty chocolate treat” from which she’s never looked back.
Rye Chocolate Brownies
Yield: Makes 12 brownies
10½ oz (300g) dark chocolate (at least 60–70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
⅔ cup (150g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing the pan
1⅓ cups (200g) whole grain rye flour
½ cup (50g) cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (200g) unrefined sugar
1 cup + 2 tbsps (200g) golden brown sugar
7 oz (200g) eggs (or 4 medium)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp flaky sea salt (e.g. Maldon), for sprinkling on top
Preheat the oven to 355°F/180°C (convection: 320°F/160°C). Butter an 8” x 12” (20 x 30-cm) baking pan and line it with parchment paper.
In a heatproof bowl, melt together the butter and chocolate over a pot of water that has been brought to a boil and then removed from the heat. Allow the mixture to rest, stirring occasionally until it has melted completely.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the rye flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
In a third bowl (preferably of a stand mixer), whisk together the sugars, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Slowly add in the melted chocolate, followed by the dry ingredients from the second bowl. Mix just enough to combine, then pour contents into the prepared baking pan. Smooth the surface with an icing spatula or a rubber spatula and sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of nice, big flakes of sea salt.
Bake for 20–25 minutes, until the brownies are set but with a slight wobble. Leave to cool completely in the pan before cutting into 12” thick—but smallish—squares.
These brownies are best enjoyed on the same day that you bake them.
Reprinted with permission from “The Violet Bakery Cookbook” by Claire Ptak, © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.