Fudgy, bittersweet, and sprinkled with sea salt, these gula melaka brownies are perfect for satisfying your chocolate cravings. We bring it up a notch by using brown butter and adding a pinch of espresso powder to bring out the flavours. When you bite into the warm brownie, the crackly top breaks apart into a dense, bittersweet interior that's balanced with a touch of salt; thereafter, the smoky and toasty notes of brown butter and gula melaka yield themselves as you finish your last few bites. [Go straight to recipe]
It’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t love brownies. No matter what kind of brownie it is – cakey or fudgy, with or without topping, you can almost be sure that every person has their own preference for brownies.
Brownies typically combine regular brown and white sugar in the recipe, but have you ever thought of using gula melaka in place of brown sugar?
Because we did. We tried it, and we got some seriously fudgy brownies with a shiny and slightly crisp top, the intense chocolate flavours balanced by mellow gula melaka notes and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Before you bake, don’t forget to chop the gula melaka into fine pieces (resembling brown sugar), so they can easily be mixed into the batter!
Although salt is only added in small amounts (less than 1 tsp) most of the time, never underestimate how well salt can elevate the flavour of your baked goods. When you add salt to these gula melaka brownies, it will help make the flavours in your food more prominent, and add depth of flavour.
What’s the science behind it? Aside from reducing bitterness and balancing the sweetness in your baked goods, salt also stimulates your taste buds so that they can detect more flavors. It also releases the aroma molecules. Combine these two together, and you get a brownie that's to-die-for.
There are at least three kinds of salt that can be commonly found in our supermarkets—table salt, kosher salt, and sea salt.
Table salt is commonly used in cooking and baking to season food due to its fine and regularly-shaped crystals that make it easier to dissolve. It is also highly refined and processed to remove any minerals. For the brownie batter, we recommend using table salt.
Kosher salt is not as popular in Singapore, but some bakers tend to choose Kosher salt over the other types of salt because it has several advantages. It has larger crystals which fall evenly when sprinkled, making it easier for cooks and bakers to control the amount they’re adding to their dishes. It’s also iodine-free, which prevents it from imparting unpleasant flavors in food. However, it’s generally not suitable for desserts since the coarse texture won’t dissolve as easily, as compared to table salt.
Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater. The flavor of the sea salt you use highly depends on where it’s sourced, although the difference might be very subtle. Varieties include Celtic sea salt, Himalayan sea salt, and Fleur de Sel.
Sea salt is commonly used to sprinkle on baked goods such as brownies and cookies. If you have sea salt or sea salt flakes at home, feel free to top the brownie with them! The salt flakes will dissolve quickly without leaving a lingering taste in your mouth, and they also help to heighten the nutty butter tones of the brown butter base.
In this recipe, we add a touch of espresso powder as coffee helps to bring out the chocolate flavours in the brownie. If you do not have espresso powder, simply substitute with an equal amount of instant coffee powder or granules, the same kind that you’ll use for our gula melaka dalgona coffee recipe! However, as espresso powder is more concentrated than instant coffee, using the former will give you the best results.
Using espresso powder in your baked goods is also an excellent hack when you don’t have the best brand of chocolate available. Less-than-premium chocolate usually lacks richness, but adding a touch of espresso powder can help to mimic the taste of expensive chocolate. Virtually all recipes with chocolate can be improved with espresso powder, even when it’s not listed as one of the ingredients. So don’t hesitate to add some into your chocolate cakes, cookies, and brownies!
If you want your brownies to be on the sweeter side, you can opt for milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate, or a dark chocolate that’s less bitter.
Some bakers swear by brown butter. Also known as beurre noisette, this butter helps to elevate recipes by adding a nutty, caramelised flavour to your food, whether sweet or savoury.
Making brown butter only involves a single ingredient, and it’s no other than your regular butter. After some heating, simmering, and sputtering, the butter transforms into a fragrant, silky brown-colored sauce. It tastes somewhat nutty, and adds depth to any dish it’s added into. Including these wonderful gula melaka brownies.
To properly make brown butter, there are several things you’ll need to remember. Before placing the butter into the saucepan, cut it into smaller cubes so that they will melt evenly.
After the butter is melted, it will start to look clearer, and there will be some spluttering. Turn the heat down a bit if the sputtering gets too vigorous!
When you see some brown-colored solids on the bottom of your pan, it means that you’re now closer to your delicious brown butter sauce! Keep stirring to distribute the heat evenly.
The color change to dark yellowish-brown is the first sign that your brown butter is almost ready. Its smell will also become nutty and caramel-like. If you want a lightly browned butter, remove it from heat once you see the first signs of browning start to develop. An additional minute of heating will turn it into a deeply-browned butter, which gives you a deeper and toastier flavor. But be careful not to turn the heat up too much or overcook it as you don’t want to burn your butter!
100g dark chocolate
100g unsalted butter
90g granulated sugar
90g gula melaka
1 tsp vanilla essence/extract
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp espresso powder/instant coffee
45g cocoa powder
75g all-purpose flour
sea salt (optional, for topping)
Storage: Keep covered in the fridge for 5 days. Reheat gently before consuming, if desired.
While brownies made with all cocoa powder are delicious in their own right, there's just something extra decadent about brownies made using melted chocolate. It’s important to have the right technique when melting chocolate for your brownies, so check out these guides on how to melt chocolate using a microwave or a double-boiler. If you find yourself still craving for more brownies after baking this one, try our Brownie Baking Kits for hassle-free brownies at your fingertips!
Trying this recipe out? Make sure you hashtag #bakestarters on Instagram so we can see your wonderful creations!
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