Yes, I went there.
By now, most of you know about my slight quinoa addiction. Its ability to multitask makes it one of my favorite ingredients during Bare Bones times (which is all the time right now, lol), and its versatility simply can’t be beat. Salads, soups, main dishes, sides… you name it, quinoa can do it! And I’m pretty confident that no one is having as much fun as I am when it comes to discovering all the things you can do with the mother grain.
My current experiment obsession is baking with quinoa. So many folks have been absolutely smitten with such baked delights as my strawberry-banana quinoa muffins or my red quinoa, apple & cranberry cake, that I can’t stop coming up with different ideas. And today I’m sharing with you my most ambitious experiment yet.
The idea actually came to me around the time I was whipping together the strawberry-banana muffins. I was also making the double chunk chocolate cookies for a private order the same day, so there was plenty of chocolate around my nano-kitchen. I had also cooked up a large batch of quinoa and was putting some aside to freeze in individual portions when, PLOP! In fell a little mound of cooked quinoa into some melted chocolate. (Those of you who have seen how downright microscopic my kitchen is will understand how that happened so easily; it’s not easy to work with only 18″ of counter space!)
Not wanting to waste my perfect chocolate, I grabbed a spoon and carefully extracted the little mound of chocolate-coated quinoa. I was just about to toss it when I curiosity got the best of me. Quinoa and chocolate… hmm… wonder what that would taste like?
Actually, it wasn’t half bad.
Granted, in that particular incarnation, it was just okay. I don’t suggest having a bowl of quinoa drizzled with fudge sauce, because that’s just strange, even for me. But it did get me thinking, and the little wheels in my noggin started spinning at warp speed, searching for ways to combine two foods I absolutely adore and have them actually turn into something delicious. The best solution I could come up with, based on previous quinoa baking experiments, was a nice batch of moist, fudgy brownies.
There was some trial and error involved, of course. I tried other people’s fudgy brownie recipes rather than sticking to my own, so there were some batches that ended up being given as gifts because they just weren’t what I was looking for. They were good, that’s for sure, so flavor wasn’t the issue. It was a texture thing; I wanted dense & fudgy, not airy & cakey. (So picky…)
So I went back to the drawing board and used my own recipe, which is close a close cousin of the double chocolate chunk cookies. A little tweak here, some quinoa there, and soon I had what I was looking for: rich, chocolaty and super moist, thanks to the quinoa. It was everything I hoped it would be and I was even compelled to do a small happy dance once I finally got it right. These are just plain awesome.
Unlike my other quinoa baked goods, I’m not going to pretend this recipe might be somewhat healthy; just because there’s a “healthy” ingredient in something doesn’t automatically make it health food. But it’s a tasty and fun dessert that’s a little different from the norm (and much higher in protein than your usual brownie, come to think of it). As I’ve said many a time, we all deserve a little splurge now & then. Like with weight loss, just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you need to deny yourself of any and all edible pleasures; this can only lead to disaster, as you can end up binge shopping when you’ve finally reached your boiling point. You just need to pace yourself, focusing mainly on the good stuff, while allowing yourself the occasional treat.
Like most recipes that use chocolate, the quality of these brownies will increase along with the quality of the chocolate, but that doesn’t mean you need to sell your left kidney to afford some Scharffen-Berger or Valrhona. In a perfect world, that’s all I would use in my chocolate baked goods; but I live in the real world, where a brick of that would make a huge dent in my small food budget. So I buy the best chocolate I can actually afford – if that’s a bag of semisweet chocolate chips or a good quality candy bar, then so be it. My brownies are still delicious and I know that eventually, my thrifty ways will pay off and I’ll be able to enjoy all the most obscenely rich, expensive artisan chocolate I can handle (which I’m confident is at least a metric ton; I can hold my chocolate well).
Lastly, don’t forget that this can easily be made gluten free by using quinoa flour, just like in the strawberry-banana muffin recipe. However, if you don’t have access to quinoa flour, or if it’s simply too expensive to justify if you don’t have gluten sensitivities, just use regular flour. That’s what I used in the batch I made today, and they came out deliciously moist.
Okay, enough babbling. Let’s check out the recipe!
Fudgy Quinoa Brownies (makes 12-16 brownies; total cost per brownie: $0.40)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 t instant coffee or espresso
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c raw sugar
3 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract
3/4 c flour (regular flour is fine, or you can use quinoa flour for a gluten-free version)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c cooked quinoa
6-8 oz chocolate chips (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease a square baking pan (8″ x 8″) or line with parchment paper, and set aside. Mix the flour & salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over medium low heat, stirring frequently. (If you’re more comfortable with the bain marie method, go ahead and use that instead. We just want to make sure there’s no scorched chocolate.) When completely melted & smooth, add the coffee and mix well. Pour the chocolate into a medium bowl and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars and vanilla until smooth. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate and mix well. Then, working in small batches, gently fold in the flour mixture until completely incorporated. Lastly, carefully fold in the cooked quinoa.
4. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into 2″ squares, serve with a tall glass of milk or your favorite beverage, and enjoy!