Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies

I’m not massively into baking but thought I’d give these gluten-free chocolate brownies a try.

Whilst looking for the ingredients in my local supermarket, I stumbled across a ready-made gluten-free brownie mix, so thought it would be a good idea to do a taste comparison. And here they are. Which brownie do you think is from the ready-made mix?

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The ready-made version is on the right, but what did they taste like? Please read on.

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“To use chocolate brownie mix or not to … that is the question”.

I adapted a simple chocolate brownie recipe from Food 52.com – ‘Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies’. It’s an American recipe, so I had to convert the cup measurements to metric. It seems to have worked for me, so here’s the ingredients I used:

120g unsalted butter (approx 10 tbsp)
250g caster sugar
90g unsweetened cocoa powder (NB. I used Bioglan Organic Raw Cacao Powder*)
¼ tsp rock salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 large free range eggs, cold
100g (unsifted) gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g walnuts or pecan nuts, chopped
Icing sugar, to decorate

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 180°C (160°C fan assisted). Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch baking pan with baking paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

2. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

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3. 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 flour (sifted) and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

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4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the centre, emerges slightly moist with batter, approx 25 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes then place on a cooling rack.

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5. Lift up the ends of the parchment, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board and sift over a little icing sugar to finish. Cut into 15-16 squares.

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The photographs below are of the ready-made gluten free brownie by Delicious Alchemy  (£2.99 for a 400g bag). All I had to do was add two large free range eggs and 100g unsalted butter, or a dairy-free alternative.

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The ready-mix (above and below) doesn’t look quite as pleasing to the eye does it? However, the test is in the eating!

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Ready-mix by Delicious Alchemy, sprinkled with icing sugar

RESULTS: Aesthetically, the home-made brownies are superior. There was more mixture to play with and the ingredients have risen much better. However, both gluten-free versions took about the same time to bake and were quite similar in taste, with a crisp top, and moist (but not runny) bake. They both tasted considerably better the following day! The texture was firmer and less crumbly. The ready-made version tasted sweeter, probably due to the chocolate chips which weren’t included in the home-made recipe; I used chopped walnuts instead as I like having that extra little bit of crunch. In addition, using the organic raw cacao powder* in the home-made version has greater nutritional value.

CONCLUSION: The home-made bake was my favourite. The texture and taste improved on eating the following day. Aesthetically they look better than the ready-mix with more nutritional value. However, my husband took both versions over to my lovely in-laws for a blind taste-test, and they reported that both were delicious! See the evidence below . . .

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What results have you had from baking gluten-free?

* Raw cacao powder is a more straightforward, natural product. It’s produced by grinding the raw cacao bean, then separating the solids from the oils (cacao butter) before grinding the solids again into a powder. The whole process is performed at a low temperature (below 42 degrees Celsius), thus keeping the cacao powder raw. The cacao is not modified or processed in anyway (i.e. it is not roasted and not alkalised). The result is a product with more of the goodness of the bean.

Cacao contains natural antioxidants and essential fatty acids. It has the same great taste as cocoa and is used in exactly the same way.

Standard cocoa powder is the result of extracting the solids from the cacao bean. This involves a significant number of steps which can include drying and roasting the beans, before removing the cocoa butter under heat.

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