dark cocoa brownies with sea salt

Have you ever tried to look not at something because you know you're not supposed to but COULDN'T HELP IT?

When my sister got married she hired a local, super talented mother + daughter florist team to do her flowers. (ps. The work they did was stunning.) I could probably write a whole book on how many career paths I've pursued, but I used to be in the floral industry too and can talk flowers. Anyway, they were making some final touches on the arrangements when I offered to help the daughter assuring her I have done hundreds of flower arrangements in the past - "I'm a little rusty, but I take direction well." I joked.  

She began to tell me that they were okay but would call out if they needed any help, when I couldn't help but notice that she had unshaved armpits. These weren't "oh I forgot to shave yesterday or last week or even last month", armpits, these were full-on mother-nature loving hair fests. YOU GUYS. I'm so embarrassed to admit this but I was actually so distracted and had to keep reminding myself not to look down at her pits as she used her arms to point and show me things. 

You know what kept running through my mind? 


For reals. I mean this girl was so comfortable with herself that she didn't even shave her armpits. It made me want to grab a slice of vegan pizza with her and talk about her life. I immediately imagined she'd been camping in the wild for weeks at a time or better yet, has lived with nudists in France or had a dreamy and unruly vegetable garden that she ate from daily or maybe none of this at all, but she was an artist who wasn't afraid to be different and I was totally delighted by it.  

I for one, have somewhat boring armpits, but not her. She had flare and an admirable sense of self-regard. 

This experience was liberating to me in a way. So much so that for the next two weeks I didn't shave my armpits and sang along to my First Aid Kit songs pretending to be a hippie rockstar. Myles was on drums. (ps. First Aid Kit is one of my + John's all time favorite bands - it's a Swedish sister duo that is folksy and pure magic. Take time to dive into their goodness if you haven't already.) I mean, there was no reason to any of this other than why not? Life passes us by so quickly, and we stress about things like armpit hair, I wanted to push back against the norm a little here just like my florist friend. 

Anyway. Brownies. The big reason I wanted to share this recipe is because they're made with and specifically call for dutch processed cocoa. I thought it would be fun to put our cocoa knowledge to the test - because of last week's "brushing up on baking basics" post. 

Brownies remind me of college. They were the one thing I craved constantly and I used to make brownies with low fat yogurt and egg whites and try to get away with not using any butter or oil in an attempt to "be skinny". They weren't the best. 

I've since ditched this imposter brownie and have turned to Sarah's brownies. 

These brownies are simple, chewy, dense fudge-y with the right amount of bounce. You want a brownie to bite back a little when you bite into it, you know what I mean? 

I don't know why hairy armpits have inspired me to sing louder and pick up the guitar again (an instrument I have never been disciplined enough to be good at) but I recently told John, I have music in me that needs to come out. Whatever it is you need to do to feel more liberated, do it. And make brownies while you're at it.

Love you friends.


dark cocoa brownies with sea salt 

adapted from Sarah Keifer's cookbook, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

I made these brownies while I was still able to spend some time with family for my sister's wedding and everyone loved them. The addition of the coffee extract and the sea salt are my doing just because I love salted ery'thing, and didn't use the highest quality chocolate ever, so I wanted to counteract the lack of richness I got from cheaper chocolate with some coffee flavor. (Coffee adds a depth of richness and bitterness I adore.) You most certainly don't need expensive chocolate for these, or coffee, but I might go as far to say that the extra sprinkle of flaky salt does add a bit of magic - it brings out the chocolate in the best way and makes these wildly addictive. 

bakers notes: Don't skip the part where you the pan with butter and parchment paper. AND use a plastic knife to cut these beauts, They will cut clean - it's MAGIC. I promise. 


8 tablespoons / 1 stick / 113g unsalted butter, cold
8 ounces / 226g bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or bittersweet chocolate chips, 60% cacao content or higher)
¼ cup / 25g dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted slightly
1 cup + 2 tablespoons / 160g all purpose flour (I prefer organic, non bleached)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, preferably pasture raised
½ cup sunflower oil, or any other neutral oil, just not vegetable oil
1 ½ cups / 297g sugar
½ cup / 99g brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coffee extract or 1 tablespoon strong coffee optional
flaky sea salt for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C and make sure your oven wrack is in the middle of the oven. 

Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and line it with parchment. You want to butter your pan first so the parchment sticks to the pan. This whole thing makes for a beautifully smooth process in removing the brownies out of the pan. 

In a medium size sauce pan over very low heat, melt your chocolate and butter together until just melted. tip! I've found that if you take the pan off the heat while there are still a few bits of chocolate that need to melt and continue stirring, you wont overheat or burn the chocolate. Set chocolate mixture aside to cool a little. 

In a small bowl whisk all of your dry ingredients together: flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. 

In a large bowl whisk together all of your wet ingredients: eggs, oil, sugars, vanilla and coffee extract (if using). Add the cooled, melted chocolate + butter mixture and whisk until combined. 

Slowly add your dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture and whisk gently until combined. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 22-27 minutes. (I baked mine for exactly 25 minutes, and my batter was completely room temperature)

If you stick a toothpick in, the toothpick will pull up some crumbs but not be wet. Sprinkle sea salt while brownie are still warm. 

Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool. Pull brownies out of the pan and use a plastic knife to cut them with ease. 


I used Maldon Salt to sprinkle on top of these brownies. 

I used Hershey's Dutch processed cocoa

Here's an old blog post on "How to make your boxed brownie mix even more amazing" if making brownies from scratch doesn't appeal to you today. ;)