Cocoa Brownies, Gluten Free

Cocoa Brownies, stacked for side view

These cocoa brownies are not only easy to make, but they are dense and fudgy. A big thank you to my chocolate baking hero, Alice Medrich.  We’ve adapted them and they’re gluten-free. Alice’s original cocoa walnut brownie recipe can be found here.

These are not cake-like brownies at all. They’re dense, rich and buttery. By themselves they are a wonderful treat. Serve them plain or add ice cream or berries and you have a great dessert. They also taste really great after spending a night in the big chill (refrigerator).

But since I was experimenting with marshmallow at the time I baked these, the brownies suddenly seemed like an opportunity waiting to happen. Meet the marshmallow brownie sandwich. Another variation that you can make that will impress anyone who loves chocolate and marshmallow together in one bite. It’s a bit more work, but fun. If you like magic, that is. Making marshmallows is magic.

Another big thank you to Molly Wizenberg for her marshmallow making tutorial in Bon Appetit years ago. Without her help I would never have mastered the art of making fluffy white marshmallows. I tried other methods and failed miserably – marshmallow blob, marshmallow soup, marshmallow paste. But this recipe is a winner. I’ve made them several times and they always come out as marshmallows. That’s when you know that a recipe works, right?

A couple of things to keep in mind. First, let those brownies cool completely before trying to cut them into pieces. If you can let the flavors develop overnight, all the better. And they cut beautifully if you use a clean knife for each cut (rinse it in very hot water) and cold brownies are your friend.

The marshmallows are an experience. The heated sugar and corn syrup mixture comes to temperature rather quickly. Be sure to follow the directions to pour it into the mixer down the side and not near the whisk or you will spatter very dangerous hot stuff all over the place. Also, somewhere about the time you get it all in the mixer and turn up the speed there will be an odor. Try hard to ignore that thing that smells like monkey ass tush. I do not know why that happens but it does every time and then it magically goes away about the time you start to see the whites of real marshmallow fluff appear. Just be patient, hold your nose and step away from breathing the fumes.

After that it’s all good. Nonstick spray is your friend. Put it on the spatula that you use to spoon out the marshmallow fluff from the mixer bowl and make sure you use it generously in your pan.

Have some brownies. Leave it at that and be happy. Or make some marshmallows and add that to your brownie for an experience that will make everyone around you want to hoard those little squares. Of course, like some people around here you can hide some in the freezer for later when no one is around.  Just be sure to label the container with something like “boiled eggplant” and those frozen brownies will be all yours.

Cocoa Brownies with Marshmallow filling, just cut

Cocoa Brownies, Gluten Free
The brownie credit goes to Alice Medrich though we've adapted it to gluten-free and the marshmallow love goes to Molly Wizenberg who taught me that marshmallows are as close as the highest speed on my kitchen-aid. Thank you to both of you. Links in the post. Adaptations below. Makes 16-20 brownies.
  • 130 grams unsalted butter, melted (9 tablespoons)
  • 250 grams granulated sugar (1¼ cups)
  • 100 grams unsweetened natural cocoa (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso (not grounds)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons your favorite distilled liqueur (I like raspberry)
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 65 grams AP GF flour (33 grams superfine brown rice flour plus 16 grams each superfine white rice flour and tapioca flour/starch) (1/2 cup)
  • 2 packages of Knox gelatin
  • 150 grams cold water (3/4 cup)
  • 200 grams granulated sugar (1 cup)
  • 110 grams corn syrup (1/3 cup)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 50 grams cold water (1/4 cup)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Line an 8x8 pan with foil (don't use a bigger pan) and coat with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium to large saucepan melt butter until quite warm but not browned. Remove from heat and mix in granulated sugar, cocoa, instant espresso powder, salt, vanilla and liqueurs. Stir until thoroughly combined. Mix in eggs and stir like crazy with a wooden spoon until mixture becomes shiny and starts to pull away from the sides. It will become thick. Add in the flour and stir again until the batter is very thick, shiny and your arm feels like it will fall off - less than a minute. Let the mixture sit in the saucepan for a few minutes. Then scrape into prepared pan and using a wet silicone spatula, even out the top so that it is smooth. Bake 18-22 minutes or just until a toothpick comes out with chocolate crumbs that look more baked than wet - on the gooey side. The top will be crackly dry. Set pan on a rack and cool completely - at least 2-3 hours, and overnight in the refrigerator is even better- before cutting. Serve as is or layer into marshmallow sandwiches.
  1. Line a quarter or half sheet baking pan with foil and spray thoroughly with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer place gelatin. Add 150 grams (3/4 cup) cold water over gelatin and let mixture set in bowl without disturbing it for ten minutes or so while you mix up the other part of the recipe. Set the bowl on the stand and add the whisk attachment but don't touch the gelatin.
  3. In a small saucepan gently mix the sugar with the corn syrup, salt and 50 grams (1/4 cup) water. Without stirring heat the mixture (medium heat) until it is 240 degrees (I use an instant read thermometer) Swirl pan every once in a while but do not stir the mixture at all. When it reaches 240 degrees, remove from heat and start the mixer running on low. Pour the heated sugar down the side of the bowl and keep it away from the whisk or it will splash. Be careful - the mixture is very hot. As soon as it is incorporated turn up the mixer speed little by little until it begins to get frothy and fluffy. It will stink to high heaven and you might want to not breathe much at this point. Keep going and turn it up to high. Let it go until it gets huge in volume, turns marshmallow white and looks like marshmallow. It should take anywhere from 6-10 minutes. Add the vanilla and whip to mix it in. Spray a silicone spatula with nonstick spray and immediately scrape the marshmallow goop onto your prepared pan - if you are using a half sheet pan it won't go to the edges but make sure you pat it into a very thin layer. You can wet the spatula to help get it moving into the shape you want. Work fast - it turns into marshmallow very quickly. Let that set at room temperature uncovered for about 4 hours at least before you try to do anything with it.
  1. When the brownies are very cool, remove from the pan and peel away the foil. Slice into 4 long strips using a serrated knife. Rinse the knife in very hot water before each cut and remove all the excess chocolate so the knife is clean for each cut. Turn the length of brownie on its side and slice the long side in half making two long pieces- like creating layers for a cake. Repeat for each length of brownie.
  2. Slice the same size marshmallow to match the brownie lengths and width. Place on one half of the brownie and press gently to adhere. Add the other half of the brownie length to the top and press gently to adhere. Slice into small portions - about 6 to 8 slices. Repeat with each brownie length.

Cocoa Brownies, ready for eating


  1. Oh, yum, Lisa those look so good! The texture looks perfect–moist and fudgy. Can’t wait to try them 🙂