I Promise to Provide Gluten-Free Sustenance: Hazelnut-Brown Butter Brownies

Our friends often describe me and my husband Tom as "foodies" -- we love good food, we love great restaurants, and we love to entertain. In our wedding vows, we pledged to provide each other with "sustenance" -- which we always jokingly said meant we would feed each other, and not merely provide each other with support.

When it comes to food, Tom and I are complements in many ways. He does all of the cooking; I do all of the baking. Tom has the innate ability to cook and season just by taste and thus rarely uses a recipe; I can bake just about anything but I require a recipe and I will always follow it precisely. I never drink any alcohol of any sort; Tom is an oenophile and responsible for a sizable wine collection in our basement.

As it turns out, there is one more way in which Tom and I are opposites when it comes to food; we recently discovered that he has gluten intolerance, and therefore he needs to be on a gluten-free diet. As a baker, I'm dependent on wheat flour, and in fact, my absolute favorite food is my mother's stir-fried wheat gluten.

Obviously it's not fun or easy having to avoid gluten, and you can imagine how it might be even more difficult if you were married to someone who bakes a few times a week. So I have been experimenting with gluten-free baking, with mixed results. My first few efforts using alternative flours were disappointing and really not worth writing about. I've also made several desserts that were naturally gluten free which were very good (e.g., meringues, a Bavarian, and a dacquoise). But I also found a gluten-free brownie recipe from Food and Wine that meets the gold standard -- you can't tell that it's gluten-free!

This recipe for Hazelnut-Brown Butter Brownies uses ground hazelnuts instead of wheat flour; I was a little low on hazelnuts, so I had to use a 50-50 mix of hazelnuts and almonds. To make the brownies, first you brown butter on the stove, and then add bittersweet chocolate to the butter, stirring until smooth and cooling slightly. In a separate bowl, you beat eggs with sugar and instant coffee (dissolved in hot water) until tripled in volume, beat in the brown butter-chocolate mixture, and then add the dry ingredients (ground toasted nuts, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar). You pour the batter in a pan, bake, cool, and chill thoroughly before cutting.

I chilled the brownies overnight before cutting and I could tell they were super fudgy. The brownies had a shiny, crinkly top and you could see small pieces of nuts inside. Surprisingly, I could not really taste the nuts or the brown butter. However, I could definitely taste coffee, although perhaps that's because I had used instant espresso powder instead of instant coffee because that's all I had. In retrospect, I think there might have been a little bit too much espresso flavor. But these brownies were deeply chocolatey and quite delicious. And best of all, they simply taste like a brownie splurge, and not a gluten-free sacrifice.

You will probably continue to see more gluten-free recipes in the blog as time goes on, although I'm still keeping up my normal pace of regular baking (all those items go to the office).

Recipe: "Hazelnut-Brown Butter Brownies" from Food and Wine.

Previous Post: "What's With All the Hype?: Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts," February 2, 2011.


Louise said…
I've made these brownies several times and think they're really tasty.
Sorry to hear that Tom has learned he has a gluten intolerance, but better he finds out now before his problems worsen. I admit, however, selfishly looking forward to more of your allergy friendly creations! ;)