Last April I wrote a post on collecting and preserving spruce tips and promised recipes using these ingredients later on. Now that winter is fully here, it is the perfect time for me to start experimenting, so I hauled out the spruce salt to put it to good use. When I saw David Lebovitz’s recent post on salty brownies, I decided to make my own version using my spruce salt. His of course is excellent, but called for ingredients I don’t have. Also, I wanted to make a vegan version just because I try to cut down a bit on the use of eggs in baking, except when really necessary. What I ended up with is definitely the best brownies I have ever had – something resembling a dark, chewy salted chocolate bar! After having missed Fiesta Friday for the last couple of weeks, I am bringing this to the party because I suspect that some of the guests, like me, enjoy a rich, not too sweet, salty chocolate treat. The pine flavour, though not very strong in this recipe at all, is a nod to the season.
In Lebovitz’s post, he describes how to line a pan with foil so that removing the brownies is made easy. A helpful tip for sure, but as I like to avoid using aluminum foil, I thought I’d share my own tip for baking. I often use edible leaves – grape leaves or corn husks from my garden which I blanche and freeze. I happened to have a huge pile of dried husks for making tamales, which I still haven’t got around to, so I used these instead. No waste! They will end up in the compost. To begin with, I poured hot water over four husks to soften them a bit, shook them dry and lined an 8″ square pan. Then I sprayed it with a little oil just to be safe. If the husks don’t lie absolutely flat, not to worry – the batter will weigh it down.
And now for the recipe.
Pine Salt Chocolate Brownies
2 Tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tbsp water
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
4 oz coconut oil
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp flour
2 tsp spruce salt
Soak the ground flax seeds in the water and set aside. Melt the chocolate and oil in a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. When it is liquid, add the sugar and stir until it is completely dissolved. Add the cocoa powder and the flax seed mixture, and mix well until the flax seeds are evenly distributed. Remove from the heat and add the flour and salt. Spread in a baking pan, 8 inches square or smaller if you want thicker brownies.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the pan before removing.
If you don’t have salt made from spruce tips, you can use spruce picked in the winter too. The flavour of this amount is not very strong, and although the winter pickings are a little more bitter, it wouldn’t be a problem in this particular recipe. If you don’t have any edible greens, just use a coarse sea salt and some other flavouring, like cinnamon, chili or vanilla.