rye me: experimenting in baking local

This is a story about a cooking experiment. I won’t call it a total failure, but it certainly wasn’t a success.  It started yesterday at the last farmers market of the year (tear). I was browsing the locally produced flours and the rye flour caught my eye. My mental Pinterest board flashed to all of the buzz I’d read about the rye chocolate brownies from The Violet Bakery Cookbook. People loved them in the Piglet, the New York Times praised them, and there was a lot of discussion about them in the comments on Lottie and Doof. The interplay of dark chocolate and rye was something that took bakers by pleasant surprise and it made me very curious. I’d wanted to make them, but I never thought I’d find rye flour in Springfield. But here it was!

so promising hot from the oven

so promising hot from the oven

The local flours were sold in humble brown bags, folded and stapled, and labeled 1# or 2#. One pound of the rye flour was only $2, so I bought it, figuring it was an inexpensive risk. I got home and looked up the rye brownies recipe on the NYT website and realized the only thing I was missing was the 60% chocolate. After a quick run to the store, I was ready for action.

rye flour

My first alarm went off when I opened my charmingly rustic bag of rye flour. I looked into the bag and what I saw was…a little too charmingly rustic. The flour was unevenly milled, with some looking fine and some looking like partial whole grains. I Googled rye flour and learned that my 1# looked nothing like the lovely, uniform fairy dust that Bob’s Red Mill sells. Still, I don’t have much experience working with unusual flours, so I shrugged and trusted that things would work out. The second alarm went off when I combined all of the ingredients and the final batter was decidedly chunky, thanks to all of those barely milled whole grains.  At this point, there was nothing I could do but shrug again and hope that the grains would soften and become a seamless part of the brownies.



The brownies smelled heavenly and looked shiny and perfect when I pulled them from the oven.  After waiting a little while for them to cool, I ripped into a corner. The flavor was amazing: fudgey, dark, sweet, and grown-up. The rye added another layer of flavor that was subtly earthy and balanced the sweet chocolate. But the texture was wrong. So wrong. The whole-ish grains didn’t magically dissolve into the chocolate, but remained as little healthy seeds that got stuck in my teeth and ruined the sensation of eating something ridiculously indulgent (there are 11 tablespoons of butter in the mix). Ed took a bite and agreed that the flavor was awesome, but that the texture was like chocolate oatmeal or porridge. I’d put it closer to a chocolate Clif bar or another seedy granola bar (I hate seedy granola bars). I can imagine that there are folks who love foods with pebbly whole grains and they might dig these brownies, but for me, it’s gotta be all smooth sailing.

raw batter looking lumpy before going into the oven

raw batter looking lumpy before going into the oven

Despite my disappointment with this batch and the fact that most of these brownies will languish uneaten on the counter, I’m not filing this recipe under disasters. The problem was definitely my homey, roughhewn rye flour. The flavor of the brownies was so good that it’s worth ordering a bag of rye flour from Amazon and doing right by all of that butter and chocolate.

Here’s a link to the recipe if you’re game.

One thought on “rye me: experimenting in baking local

  1. Interesting! I feel that pain having gone out on a limb buying Rye flour myself from a local milling company in Maine… I must say I am now making the best tasting pizza crust (though still disappointingly chewy pizza crust) of all time – more of an oven problem… Just finding myself thinking aloud– could you have used your coffee grinder or spice grinder to mill the flour finer? These brownies sound so delicious!!

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