Brownies for the Adults

October 7, 2011

Let me get this out of the way.  These are not pot brownies.  I have not made or eaten pot brownies.  Not that there is anything wrong with pot brownies – they are just really not my thing.  I have to say that because I bet there is at least one person out there who sees “brownies for adults” and assumes they must have weed in them.

And here, rather than just tell you why I think these brownies are for adults (cocoa nibs!  but my kids loved them too!) and why I liked them very much although they are quite different from my favorite (cakier!  less intense!), and why I made them (yoga retreat!), I have to tell you about my dad.

My dad is a retired oncologist.  He spent 30-something years treating people with cancer and doing so with kindness and empathy.  The man who would famously tell his kids and wife, sort of jokingly, “Take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning” when one of us was sick, was the most compassionate kind of doctor.  I know because he really is a compassionate dad and I also know because every single person I have ever met who was either in his care or had a family member in his care, practically swoons at the mention of his name.  Nurses too.  And nurses know.

One Wednesday this past summer, I brought my parents to our neighborhood farmers’ market along with the boys.  It is something we like to do together when the timing is right.  Outside, a man was gathering signatures to introduce a measure to legalize medical marijuana in Washington state.  My dad stopped, broke away from us, and went over to sign the ballot.  He is not the ballot-signing type so I was surprised.  I know his views on drugs are more liberal than the average 68 year old but still.  I asked why he felt so strongly.  I asked if he thought that pot does actually help people who are nauseated by chemotherapy.  He said, “Not at all.  Medically, I don’t think it helps.  But if someone has cancer and is that ill, and their immune system is compromised and their hair is falling out and they can’t eat because everything nauseates them, and they think that the pot helps?  Then they should be able to smoke all they want.”  Go Dad.

So yes, I know that this is a bit of a stretch – brownies with cocoa nibs to pot to my dad and ballot measures, but sometimes stories just must be told.

Onward!  I have a lot of brownie recipes here at Dana Treat.  As a chocoholic, I consider brownies a perfect treat.  And because I love chocolate, my perfect brownie is dark, dense, and intense.  But sometimes it is nice to have a brownie that is more like a little piece of cake than a piece of fudge and that is where this guy comes in.  It is not a wimpy brownie, I would say it’s very pleasant.  Well-behaved.  Slightly elegant but also quirky with a bit of crunch.  If you have not tasted cocoa nibs before, they can fool you a bit.  For me, in the first second, I taste chocolate, then coffee, then a bit of bitter.  I like chocolate chips in brownies because I like the break in texture from smooth and rich.  But sometimes some less sweet, less chocolate-y, is welcome.

One Year Ago:  Ratatouille and Mushroom and Herb Polenta
Two Years Ago:  Asian Coconut Noodle Soup and Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Arugula
Three Years Ago:  Mediterranean Five Lentil Soup

Cocoa Nib Brownies
The Modern Baker
Makes about 24 brownies

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
9 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1¼ cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs
½ tsp. salt
¾ cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups flour
½ cup cocoa nibs

Line a 13x9x2-inch pan with foil.  Butter foil and set aside.  Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.

Put the cut-up butter into a medium saucepan and place over medium heat.  Let the butter melt, stirring 2 to 3 times, then allow it to bubble for about 10 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate.  Gently shake the pan to submerge the chocolate in the hot butter and set aside for a few minutes so that the chocolate melts.  Use a small whisk to mix smooth.

Place the brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat in 1 egg on lowest speed using the paddle attachment.  Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each.  Add the salt, sugar, and vanilla and beat smooth.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to mix in the chocolate and butter mixture.  Mix in the flour followed by ¼ cup of the cocoa nibs.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Scatter the remaining ¼ cup cocoa nibs on the batter.

Bake the brownies until they are firm, but still very moist in the center, about 30 minutes.

Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack.

Wrap the pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate the brownies for several hours or overnight before attempting to cut them – they are very moist.


  1. As brownies are my favorite food, these look very, very good. If you ever have a chance, check out Ina Garten’s “Outrageous Brownies” recipe. These are truly for adults-only, as they have semi-sweet and bitter chocolate, and coffee. A girlfriend brought them as a dessert one year, I over-indulged, and was up most of the night wired and awake. Cannot let my kids touch these!

    Comment by debra — October 7, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  2. Great story and your dad sounds amazing. My mom is a nurse for a cancer surgeon and it definitely takes a lot out of you. Good for him for being able to empathize. You can never have too many brownie recipes!

    Comment by Maris — October 7, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

  3. Your Dad sounds terrific as do the brownies! I love the idea of using cocoa nibs for texture and flavor.

    Comment by Phoo-d — October 7, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

  4. Great story about your Dad. I think we could all remember to show more empathy in our world.

    Comment by linda — October 7, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  5. Haha,the very moment it came to mind – you answered my question {pot brownies}.

    Comment by The Fromagette — October 7, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

  6. You really crack me up- great opener!! Have to try these!

    Comment by Nettie Moore — October 7, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

  7. your dad and these brownies sound AWESOME.

    Comment by tracy — October 7, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

  8. your dad sounds lovely. thanks for sharing. and the brownies look delish!

    ps- how’s your son doing in his new school? and what’s the verdict on your hair? are you still going gray? :)

    Comment by angie — October 7, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

  9. oh dana you funny bunny.

    i’m not into pot brownies, i’d rather have booze or chocolate or shoes.

    Comment by vanillasugarblog — October 7, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

  10. See when I heard “adult brownies” I thought you infused them with alcohol. but I guess that just goes to show you how drug-free my mind is. :P

    I am totally in agreement with your dad on this one. Whatever makes them feel better…let em have it.

    I actually have a bag of Scharffenberger cocoa nibs that I won a WHILE ago but have never used…guess I know what I’ll be baking in the near future!

    Comment by Joanne — October 8, 2011 @ 12:48 am

  11. Haha, your dad sounds awesome! I think I’d prefer brownies with coco nibs to pot too :)

    Comment by Jacqui — October 8, 2011 @ 1:46 am

  12. At the mere mention of cocoa nibs I’m already in love. Save me one please.

    Comment by Ashley — October 8, 2011 @ 2:58 am

  13. Loved your Dad story, and agree with him completely.

    I happen to have cocoa nibs in the pantry, but I’m not sure I have enough, I think it’s just the end of a little bag. Gotta check. I know I had to order in the net, could not find around town.

    Comment by SallyBR — October 9, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

  14. This post cracked me up. You knew just what I was thinking!! Your Dad sounds amazing. I was just having a conversation about legalizing marijuana with a friend this week. I will forward your post to her. I’ve been lazy about commenting, but always love reading your posts and trying your recipes. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Mara — October 9, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

  15. You can never have too many brownie recipes!
    I adore cocoa nibs — as much as I adore your dad’s viewpoint :)

    Comment by Steph @ Lick My Spoon — October 9, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

  16. I love brownies with just about anything added, except nuts. I’m with “Lick My Spoon” – you can never have too many brownie recipes!

    Comment by Sara Tetreault — October 11, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  17. I’ll gladly take this kind of adult brownie! Ha!

    Comment by melinda ke — October 11, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

  18. Love the addition of cocoa nibs… These brownies look great. And, love the story about your dad.

    Comment by Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — October 13, 2011 @ 12:26 am

  19. We loved the ones you gave me at the last cooking class, Beck too but we know he is a foodie in training.

    Comment by Kirsten — October 15, 2011 @ 2:28 am

  20. The recipe looks unbelievable!!!! Plus it’s made with cacao nibs one of my favorite food (and one of the healthiest on the planet!)


    Comment by MIke — October 15, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

  21. Love this! Miss you guys!

    Comment by Lindsey — October 18, 2011 @ 6:09 am

  22. Aw your dad sounds like an amazing guy. :) The brownies look delicious. I’d go for a corner piece!

    Comment by Ashley — October 27, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

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