So who knew that right in the middle of our #ChristmasCookie Exchange, National Brownie Day would come up? Who even knew there is a #NationalBrownieDay and that right after #NationalCookieDay. But not to worry, we'll get right back to Day 5 of the #12DaysOfSourdoughCookies after we will tell you how to make a sourdough brownie recipe, when weshare how to turn that recipe into Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.
But let's start with how the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago developed the first brownie in 1893 for the Columbian Exposition World’s Fair. The hotel owner’s wife requested the hotel chef make a dessert that could be included easily in a box lunch for the fair. And from there the Palmer House Brownie was born, covered with an apricot glaze and filled with walnuts, as it is served to the day.
That was more than a century ago. The brownie has had many iterations showing up in New England cookbooks in the early 1900s and thousands of others since. After first appearing in Lowney’s Cook Book by Maria Wille in 1907, thousands of variations to the recipe have been tried, including the blondie, which has no chocolate, (but why?).
And since 1985, the sweet confection has its own National Day every December 8th, which means brownie lovers everywhere can celebrate. But for #NationalBrownieDay we are taking it to two new levels. First, by making it with sourdough, and then, by baking those brownies into Sourdough Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.
First thoughts on Sourdough Rye Brownies
Rye and chocolate pair together to get the most of both flavors in these two recipes. In fact, Michelle Eshkeri at Epicurious writes:
"Rye has an affinity with chocolate, evidenced by various bakeries across the world making incredibly delicious brownies and cookies using both these ingredients. The first time I came across the combination was in Claire Ptak’s Violet Bakery Cookbook some years ago, which is the basis for this recipe and what struck me about using rye flour was the danger of failure was vastly reduced; it was a dislike of dry brownies that had more or less put me off making them at all. Rye is low in gluten so is more forgiving than the more commonly used wheat flour which can make brownies dry and tough especially if overbaked. If you ignore the peculiar color of egg fermenting with rye flour and proceed to the end you will find these brownies a fudgy, sweet and lightly fermented addition to your brownie repertoire and a good use of any spare rye starter—you could use old starter here too instead of making it according to the refreshment schedule below."
In the same vein Joe Sevier in his introduction to this recipe writes:
“The sourdough doesn’t really give these brownies any lift,” he writes, “there’s baking soda in the mix for that. Instead, the starter lends a whisper of tangy flavor that offsets the sweetness and complements the chocolate. The other smart trick here is that [it] uses rye flour, which gives the brownies some nuttiness, even without walnuts involved. …these are not a quick, casual baking project. But most of the time they take is inactive on the baker’s part while the the sourdough does its thing. The result is a brownie fudgier than I could have imagined, with shards of the crackliest, crunchiest brownie top, the likes of which I’ve never known. A final sprinkle of sea salt deepens the chocolate flavor."—
Sourdough Rye Brownie Ingredients
- The day before, build up your rye starter by mixing all the preferment ingredients in a one-cup jar with a lid, mix, and cover loosely.
- Leave at warm room temperature for 4–6 hours
- Place the First Mix ingredients and all of the rye preferment into a mixing bowl, and whisk well.
- Cover and leave in a warm place for several hours or more. There will not be much rise, but you should see some bubbles from the fermentation on the surface of the dough.
- The hour before you plan to bake, melt the chocolate with the butter in a double boiler, on the ‘melt’ cycle in your microwave, or in a small heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.
- When it is fully melted, set it aside to cool for 30 minutes.
- Line a 10-inch (25cm) baking pan with parchment paper.
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF/160ºC
- Add the melted chocolate and butter plus the remaining Final Mix ingredients into the bowl with the batter. Whisk until well combined.
- Pour into the lined pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon so it is evenly distributed.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top looks dry but it still has a slight wobble. It’s difficult to overbake these.
- After they come out of the oven, sprinkle with additional sea salt, if desired.
- Let them cool in the pan.
- When cool, cut them into squares to serve.
The brownies can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week, but we doubt that they will be around to eat past the day you bake them.
My dough did not need additional flour; after refrigeration it overnight it was stiff enough to make great cookies. However, if your Rye Brownie dough from the recipe above seems too moist you can add
- up to 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, mixed with
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
But add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time folding and pressing the dough until the mixture comes together. You may not need all the flour mixture that is fine, but you’ll need an eventual consistency of very stiff cookie batter. Place the dough into the refrigerator to chill the dough for 30 minutes until firm, (I did mine overnight, which gave it more time to ferment the cocoa and chocolate, which increase their bioavailability as an antioxidant).
- 2 cups of add-ins, like chocolate kisses, Rolo candies, or crushed peppermint
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or lightly oil them).
Once the dough is firm and the oven is preheated, pour the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop the dough into your hand and roll it into balls. Drop the balls into the powdered sugar, and roll them around until they are covered. Place the sugared dough balls on the prepared baking sheets about 1½ inches/3 cm apart.
Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes. These will spread, puff up some, and form cracks. The longer you bake them, the crispy they will be. But before using a spatula to remove them, let cookies cool for about 10 minutes while on the cookie sheets to set. Then move them to cooling racks. Store in a covered container.
And now it’s time to enjoy some fudgy, warm brownies or crinkle cookies with friends and family. Pour yourself a glass of milk or scoop a bowl of ice cream and enjoy.
Remember to share your recipes by using #NationalBrownieDay on social media.