This weekend is the ‘unofficial official’ start to summer in the U.S., though where we currently live it’s felt like perpetual summer for months now. After a long and sunny fall in Morocco we had a month of occasional rain in Northern California and a few brisk and mostly dry winter months back in North Africa before migrating to the desert. On a good day the temperature hovers below 100 F and on those days we go to the park or indulge in an afternoon run. We eat thin cucumbers peeled, chopped, and sprinkled with salt and drizzle tahini sauce over cold bowls of quinoa and beets. We swim, I bake brownies. Endless summer is our new reality.
These brownies scrap the refined sugar and use maple syrup instead, which means you can use less sweet stuff than is typically called for in a more traditional recipe. Maybe because we’re no longer living in North America I find I crave maple syrup even more than I always have: it’s a little tie to our home continent. And it’s also a wonderful addition to baked goods and granola. Though maple syrup is still sugar the fact that it’s high in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and zinc makes me feel good as I whisk it into cake batter (and it’s sweet, so in a substitute for white sugar I can reduce the amount of sweetener needed overall. This is also why I like to use honey in place of white sugar). And, of course, I do love the taste of maple syrup.
This recipe is simple in premise and ingredients with a few small twists: brown the butter, use maple syrup, scatter a bit of salt over the batter before sliding it into the oven. It’s solid, it’s reliable, it’s just the thing for a summer barbecue. If your summer happens to begin earlier this year, well, that’s just one more reason to bake a batch.
Maple-Almond Brown Butter Brownies
adapted from Alice Medrich
I love that these brownies don’t call for melted chocolate — which, of course, has its place, but its absence here makes for a batter that comes together in a snap without any fussiness. This recipe produces fudgy, very chocolatey brownies with a hint of almond from the almond meal. If you can’t eat nuts, substitute another gluten-free flour of choice.
Makes 16 brownies.
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup almond meal or 1/2 cup spelt flour
Heat the oven to 325°F and line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter, letting it simmer for 3 minutes, then raise heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently and watching so it doesn’t burn, until the butter is slightly brown and smells nutty and fragrant. Pour melted butter into a large bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in the maple syrup, cocoa, and salt and keep whisking until well combined and smooth.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the almond meal or spelt flour and stir well. Beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Spread batter evenly in the lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle some additional salt over the top if you like.
Bake until a tester inserted into the center emerges slightly moist with batter and brownies are set, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a rack.
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 (or 25 squares).