Want a tray of brownies without my delirious rambling?
Otherwise, prepare to read about my adventure in sweet potato brownies™.
Earlier this year I posted a recipe for Sweet Potato Brownies. It was an on-the-whim type of recipe that I made once, decided was good enough, and posted. They were good brownies, super melty and soft with lots of chocolate flavor, but they had a notable starchiness from the sweet potato that I couldn’t get over. Eventually I put the post on private and forgot about it.
Then yesterday I was hit with an uncontrollable and explainable desire to make the damn best sweet potato brownies, so I picked myself off the couch and went to the store to buy sweet potatoes.
- “These taste really good but they’re a bit…I don’t know…gummy?” my mom says
My motivation grows stronger. I decide some kind of fruit puree might add moistness, better yet, carrot puree which I find more mild than applesauce, and that the food processor likely overworked the sweet potato. Fork mashing it is.
- Much better texture….but what was that I tasted…..a hint of….gumminess?
They are good, but I am on a quest for the best. By this point I am also running out of maple syrup. I decide to start making half batches.
I go to sleep, dreaming of sweet potato brownies.
The next day I start immediately after work. I double the oil to 2 tbs (1/4 cup if I were making full batches), and mash the sweet potatoes with it, like when making mashed potatoes, thinking this will prevent the starch from “developing”.
- The dough has that characteristic starchy pull to it. ‘Oh no’ I think.
- Maybe there’s too much sweet potato in the batter?
- I am pleasantly surprised, despite 3.5 ounces of sweet potato in the batter, the final brownies have a great texture: soft, fudgy, and a bit chewy (in a good non starchy way)
- “Oh I like these ones”my mom says
But I’m not finished yet. I decide to see what happens when I reduce the amount of sweet potato. I reduce it from 3.5 to 1.5 ounces and mash the sweet potatoes with a tsp of oil. I reduce the oil in the batter back down to 1 tablespoon.
- The dough is much more liquid-y than the other batches.
- The middle still looks wet after baking for 10 minutes, so I have to bake it about 5 minutes more.
- The brownies are just the way I like ’em. Soft, melty, and gooey. Probably too gooey for the average joe. Was it a fluke? Why was the dough so liquidy?
I decide to recreate a new version of Batch 4 to see whether I screwed something up that led to its liquidy batter consistency. I’ve made so many sweet potato brownies that I’m not even sure I remember how exactly to make them.
This time I add 2 ounces of sweet potato, which I mash with 1/4 tsp of oil. Probably not necessary, but who am I to question this convoluted method I’ve developed? I’ve run out of good chocolate chunks and am using shitty chocolate chips. I learn that chocolate quality really matters in brownies.
- The batter is liquidy, but slightly less than batch 4. Does .5 an ounce of sweet potato make that much of a difference? Fairly believable.
- I add 1/4 tsp of apple cider vinegar to the sweet potatoes. I’m not sure why.
- It’s also 10 pm and I’m too impatient to let the sweet potato fully cool so most of the (shitty) chocolate chips melt
- I decide to go to Trader Joe’s the next day and buy some chocolate chunks because Nestle chocolate chips taste janky, which I try to rectify by adding a splash of vanilla extract
- They’re less gooey than the last batch, but still very fudgy…it still might be a bit too much for the average person.
Is this what obsession is? Will I ever make the perfect sweet potato brownie? That day I go to the store to pick up a new bottle of maple syrup. It reads “16 1/4 cup servings”. I read “16 potential attempts at sweet potato brownies”.
I want to determine if 2 tablespoons of oil are necessary for 3.5 ounces of sweet potato, or whether I can get away with only one. But I’m going to be a bad experimenter and reduce the sweet potato to 3 ounces at the same time. I’m starting to think this is a concave problem with no absolute maxima, but I’m still hoping to stumble upon a local maxima. If only I could apply stochastic gradient descent to cooking.
The fridge has been taken over by brownies. I eat sweet potato brownies for breakfast. I’ll probably eat sweet potato brownies for lunch. I get back from work and begin measuring out ingredients. It feels like muscle memory.
- I’ve developed a batter intuition. Glossy is good. Dull means too much starch. The thinner the batter, the more gooey the brownies.
- 3 ounces of sweet potato and 1 tbs of oil gives the most beautiful batter I’ve ever seen. Angels are singing in my head, but maybe that’s from the past restless nights of sleep.
- After I remove the brownies from the oven (they’ve lost their shine and are matte now, I take a nap to clear the angels from my head. Post nap hunger leads me to the brownies. Cold from the fridge they’ve regained glossiness. I hesitate before I take the first bite, but as soon as I taste chocolate I realize I had been nervous for no reason.
- The brownies are soft and fudge-y with a complex chocolate taste, and there is exactly zero gumminess to be found. They don’t taste healthy in the slightest, despite being low-fat, vegan, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free.
I’ve found the recipe, the quest isn’t quite over. Perfection is one thing, but repeatability and scalability (I had been working with half batches) is a whole ‘nother beast.
The next day I prepare for the final and most intense battle: baking a full pan of sweet potato brownies.
- The batter looks as it should: pourable and glossy, but thick enough that I have to scoop out the last bits of batter with a spoon. The batter is a bit less glossy than batch 6, which I blame on some chocolate chips melting (hey you, let the sweet potatoes fully cool).
- I bake them for 22 minutes. They’re matte when I take them out of the oven but I’m not too worried. I leave them on the counter to cool and transfer them to the fridge before I go to sleep.
- The next day I try them. Angels are singing again.
In conclusion, I’m completely nuts, but hey, I have the most incredible tray of sweet potato brownies in the fridge right now. I’m going to go hibernate for a very long time, only waking occasionally to stuff my mouth with brownies (maybe not a good idea considering the instant espresso, but based on what I’ve written, it’s safe to assume my judgement’s muted). Meanwhile, you should go make some sweet potato brownies so we can bask in their glory together.