With Great Brownies Comes Great Responsibility

August 23, 2017

As a native Californian, I have come to realize that the idea of local, ethical and sustainable food is not always achievable for everyone across the nation and the world.  Not every population has access to year-round fair weather and fertile land that could provide enough varieties of foods to satisfy our cravings 365 days a year.  We are very fortunate here on the west coast of the United States to be able to be completely self-sustainable as it relates to agriculture, allowing us to source locally.

There is, however, one prevailing practice that EVERYONE across the globe can help with – the use of child slavery in the chocolate industry.  Without going into too much gruesome detail (you could find dozens of articles with a simple google search), it is a practice that arose out of necessity due to the increasing demands of chocolate at a cheap, affordable price.  As we, the consumers, continue to favor low-price and high volumes of chocolate confections from the big three largest chocolate suppliers they ultimately resort to exploiting vulnerable populations of cacao farmers.  This has been an ongoing issue for decades and the only way to make change is through how we choose to spend our dollars.  Chocolate has become so ingrained in our society that it will take a global awareness to make any improvements.

There are plenty of tips out there on how to identify “slave-free” chocolate, with phrases like “slave-free”, “rainforest alliance”, “ethically sourced” and “fair trade” to be on the look-out for.  But I’ve always found that price is one of the simplest indicators of quality.  Stop buying cheap chocolate (or anything from the Ivory Coast!)

I personally love to use 99% dark chocolate from TCHO, a local company based here in Berkeley that works closely with farmers to help improve the way chocolate is produced and sourced.  It also just tastes so much more delicious.  The brownie krinkle skillet we serve at the restaurant just doesn’t taste the same with any other brand of chocolate we’ve tried.

Inspired by a phenomenal, wood fired chocolate chip cookie skillet I had once at Ned Ludd in Portland, our brownie skillet is rich, moist, and has just the right amount of burnt to add even more complexity to the deep cocoa notes of the TCHO chocolate (that’s right, we intentionally let our brownies char… sorry grandma!)  We fill it with homemade hazelnut spread, top it off with some good ol’ unfiltered Californian olive oil and sea salt, and serve it with a side of cold organic whole milk to cool down the blazing hot brownie. My favorite part is when you pour the milk on the brownie and the brownie is so hot that you can hear it sizzle the milk.

I use just as many recipes as I create, so I am a believer in sharing recipes (instead of locking them up in vaults), so here’s the recipe we use at the restaurant for our brownie skillet…. Enjoy!

Brownie Krinkle Skillet

recipe makes approximately 10-16 mini brownie skillets (five inch)

8 ounces 99% TCHO dark chocolate chips, or equivalent
8 eggs
1 vanilla bean, scraped
3.5 cups AP flour, unbleached
½ cup naturally processed 100% TCHO cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon fleur de sel, coarse sea salt flakes
1 cup sunflower oil
3.5 cups sugar

  1. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. Set aside.
  2. In a mixer with a paddle attachment, paddle the oil and sugar together for a minute, scraping the sides down halfway through.
  3. Slowly add the eggs and vanilla bean into the sugar/oil as it is paddling on low speed.
  4. Slowly add the melted chocolate, continuing to paddle on low speed.
  5. Sift all the other ingredients together and add it all to the chocolate mixture.
  6. Continue to paddle on low speed until it is barely incorporated.
  7. Remove from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture until all dry spots are gone.
  8. Refrigerate the batter until firm.
  9. Spray a small cast iron skillet (we use a 5-inch skillet) with oil.
  10. Grab a small chunk of batter (3.5 ounces for a 5-inch skillet, adjust according to your skillet size) and roll it into a ball.  Roll the ball in powdered sugar and place in the center of the skillet.  Proceed to flatten out the ball from the center outwards, creating a small crater in the center, half an inch through the batter (picture a mini chocolate pizza).  Fill the center with a spoon of your favorite hazelnut spread (we make our own).
  11. Place the skillet into a very hot oven (we use 500 degree) for 5-6 minutes until it puffs up, it’s preferable for it to be slightly undercooked inside.  Then place the skillet under a hot broiler until desirably charred.  Alternatively, use a blowtorch to light it up.
  12. Top with a generous amount of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.
  13. Serve with cold milk and don’t burn the roof of your mouth!

Did you Get A Brownie Krinkle Mason Jar at HARVEST this Year?

Your Mason Jar includes your dry ingredients for a smaller batch of the above recipe.  Simply remove the TCHO Fair Trade Chocolate Chips for melting as outlined above.   The HARVEST Mason Jar of dry ingredients will require wet ingredients consisting of  2 eggs and 1 1/4 cup oil (Canola, Vegetable or sunflower). Follow the instructions above for the entire recipe.


For your reference, The HARVEST MASON JAR includes:

One Vanilla Bean
1/2 Cup Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1.5 oz chocolate chips
1/4 cup Sunflower oil