When I think of combining sweet and savory flavors in a dessert, I usually think about increasing the salt so that there is more of a contrast with sweet ingredients like sugar, caramel or chocolate in a recipe. I don’t usually think about adding pepper to make things even more savory, but I recently tried some Organic Stone Ground Salt and Pepper Dark Chocolate from Trader Joe’s and was very pleased (and surprised) at how well all of the flavors came together. I liked it so much that I was inspired to use it as the base for a little baking, and I featured it in these Salt and Pepper Brownie Bites.
The bite sized brownies are baked in a mini muffin pan, making them a perfect one bite snack. They’re slightly fudgy (small brownies are rarely as fudgy as full sized ones) and very tender, so they quickly start to melt in your mouth as you bite into them. They have a good dark chocolate flavor – and they also have a hint of salt and spice to them. Don’t worry: the salt and black pepper notes in these are mild and they don’t overwhelm the chocolate. Instead, the salt adds a nice contrast to the sweet brownie batter and the pepper adds a little kick that makes the dark chocolate seem more complex. I added a few grains of coarse kosher salt to the tops of my brownies to highlight that sweet-savory contrast a bit more, as well.
The chocolate I used to make my brownies already had a distinct salt and pepper flavor, since I used salt and pepper chocolate from Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have this particular chocolate on hand, you can easily the effect by using regular dark chocolate and doubling the amount of salt and pepper given in the recipe below (increasing each to 1/2 tsp). I wouldn’t skip the sprinkle of salt on the top of these brownie bites, even if you’re hesitant about the pepper, since those few grains of salt will make your mouth start to water right away and will make the brownies that much more addictive.
If you want to bake a full batch of these, the batter can also be poured into an 8×8-inch baking pan and baked for 30-35 minutes, following the directions for my Fudgy One Bowl Brownies.
Salt and Pepper Brownie Bites
1/2 cup butter
3-oz Trader Joe’s Salt and Pepper Dark Chocolate, coarsely chopped
(or 3 oz dark chocolate with double the salt and pepper below)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup all purpose flour
coarse salt, for topping
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 30 mini muffin cups with paper liners
In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt together butter and dark chocolate in the microwave, stirring occasionally. This should be done in 30-second intervals to avoid overcooking the mixture. Allow mixture to cool slightly.
Pour butter mixture into a large mixing bowl. Whisk sugar and cocoa power into butter mixture.
Whisk in eggs, one at a time, followed by the salt, pepper and vanilla extract. Whisk in the all purpose flour and stir until flour is just incorporated and no streaks remain.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. They should be quite full. Top each with a few grains of coarse salt.
Bake for 14-16 minutes, until brownies are set on the top.
Allow to cool before serving or storing.
Makes 2-1/2 dozen