Cacao Brownies Thins with Salted Pumpkin Seeds

I’ve just done a bit of reflecting and counted up legitimately four places in my house (outside of my kitchen) where I’ve stashed little bits of chocolate.  My guest room has a vase (no joke) oh Hershey’s kisses on the third shelf to the right.  There is a container of chocolate covered almonds next to the large mixing bowls.  There are a few chocolate bars in the drawer next to the extra silverware for dinner parties, and a small bag of peanut M&M’s in my bedside table.  

The thing is, if I have too many chocolate options greeting me every time I open my pantry, I’m liable to make only one choice:  chocolate all the time.  With the chocolate spread through the house, it’s like going on an Easter egg hunt every time I have a craving… which is, not infrequent and also not a crime.  

My friend Maggie’s new book A New Way To Food respect our deep need for chocolate but frames her recipes along side her journey towards a healthy and nourishing relationship with food.  Her recipes are thoughtful and decadent, treats for wholesome meals everyday.  I’ve made a handful of her recipes by now (tacos from scratch, a fermented crudito, and ricotta from almonds) and it’s been so fun experimenting with new techniques and new-to-me ingredients – and the food has been stellar!  I can’t recommend this book enough.  The words are honest and encouraging and the recipes are playful and approachable and exciting!  

And today – we’ll make brownie thins about it.  Let’s! 

We’ve got simple and wholesome ingredients before us.  

•  olive oil (I used my new favorite California olive oil: Enzo) instead of melted butter or a more neutral oil because I like the depth of flavor. 

•  maple syrup as sweetener.

•  whole eggs for structure.

•  a dash of almond oil which you might consider optional but I consider delicious. 

•  raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) roasted in a splash of olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt and a dash of smoky paprika until fragrant and toasted.

•  spelt flour, a maybe new-to-you flour that is derived from an ancient strain of wheat.  It’s a wheat flour with high protein and a softer texture than whole wheat. You can read more about spelt flour here.  If you don’t have spelt flour, you can absolutely use all-purpose flour with great results. 

•  a chocolate – essential to every brownie.  This recipe calls for raw cacao powder which, if you’re reading quickly, might read just like cocoa powder.  Similar but different! Raw cacao powder looks just like cocoa powder and comes from the same bean.  Cacao powder is not treated with the same high heat as cocoa powder and holds more vitamins and nutrients.  It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s quality chocolate that’s good for your insides.  If you prefer to use cocoa powder, this recipe will also work very well! 

Start by whisking together cocoa powder and maple syrup.  

Give it a good whisk to work out any lumps that may feel a bit stubborn in the mixture.  

The mixture will be glossy, already a good sign.  

Pour in the olive oil and whisk well to emulsify.  You’ll feel the mixture start to thicken as the olive oil works its way in.  

Whisk in one egg at a time, creating a thick and glossy brownie batter. 

Add the flour – spelt, or otherwise. The salt, too.

Whisk well until all of the flour and is incorporated and the batter just begins to thicken. 

Pour batter onto a greased and floured rimmed baking dish – I used a half-sheet pan.  Maggie suggests not lining the pan with parchment paper, and I agree. I found the greasing and flouring of the pan kept the warm brownies from sticking.  

Spread the batter into a thin, even layer across the pan.  My batter didn’t extend edge to edge across the pan.  Keeping it consistently level is more important than covering the pan. 

Sprinkle generously with those roasted and salted pepitas. 

Bake until just cooked through and because these brownies are super thin, they’ll bake up quickly – 10 minutes or so until the top and center of the brownie is just firm and dry to the touch. 

I allow the brownies to rest on the pan for 12 minutes or so. They’ll continue to cool just a bit then they cool and start to hold their shape.  

Cut brownies into squares and use a spatula to shimmy them onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Enjoy on the spot or wrap them in twos in a piece of waxed paper and store them in the freezer for your future self.  

These brownies are lightly sweet and deeply chocolate thanks to the maple sweetener and cacao powder.  I think the olive oil adds an alluring grassiness to the brownie bites, and the pepitas add an earthy, spicy, salty bite. They are really quite good.  Good enough to make me forget the chocolate in my closet.  And the brownies freeze well in pairs and are really quite fine eaten frozen.  

Find this recipe and scores of other great recipes in A New Way To Food by Maggie Battista.  

The photos in the post were made by me and Jon Melendez, like we do. 

Very Thin Cacao Brownies with Salted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup cacao powder (or regular cocoa powder if you prefer)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • splash of almond extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika
  • flaky sea salt

Instructions

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread pumpkin seeds across a rimmed half-sheet baking pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with smoky paprika and flaky sea salt and roast for 7 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from the oven and spoon the seeds into a small bowl.
  2. Allow the pan to cool before greasing and lightly flouring the pan in preparation for the brownies. (Maggie suggests greasing the pan over using parchment paper. I followed her suggestion with success!)
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together maple syrup, cacao powder, and salt. Whisk until smooth. Add the oil and almond extract and whisk until emulsified and glossy. Add the eggs, one at a time whisking well after each addition until the batter is thick and shiny. Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.
  4. Using a rubber or offset spatula, spread the batter into a thin even layer almost to the edges of the pan. The priority is creating an even layer more than the batter reaching the edges of the pan.
  5. Sprinkle the batter with toasted pumpkin seeds and another good sprinkle of flaky sea salt.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just firm to the tough. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes.
  7. Cut the brownies in 3-inch squares. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Store the brownies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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