Divine Fig, Walnut & Sea Salt Brownies

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The first time I sank my teeth into one of these brownies, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I was visiting my childhood best friend, Katie Giannone, at her beach house rental in New Hampshire, and had arrived in the late afternoon. Katie met me on the front porch with a fresh pot of coffee and a plate of brownies, which we nearly demolished while catching up and taking in the ocean view. When I asked her about the recipe, she said it came from her mother’s well-worn copy of The Moosewood Cookbook, from the iconic restaurant that just celebrated its fortieth anniversary in my current hometown of Ithaca, New York. This variation is even fudgier, with extra cocoa powder and the blissful combination of dried figs, walnuts, and coarse sea salt. The purist can leave out the embellishments, but I recommend keeping the salt. For true chocoholics, increase the cocoa powder from 2 tablespoons to 1?2 cup.


  • 5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or squares
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purposeflour, plus 1 pinch
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 13/4 cups organic cane sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (my favorite is sel gris)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil shiny-side down and grease the foil. (This will make it easy to lift the brownies straight out of the pan once you get to camp. Otherwise, simply grease the pan and then transfer the baked brownies to an airtight container.)
  2. Put the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl and set in the middle of a 12-inch sauté or frying pan. Fill the pan with 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat (the bowl will begin to rattle). Turn off the heat and let the pan and chocolate sit on the burner, stirring a few times, until the chocolate is melted, 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool. (If you have a double boiler, you can use it instead to melt the chocolate.)
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the 1 cup flour and cocoa powder with a fork. In a small bowl, using your fingers, toss the figs with the pinch of flour so the pieces don’t stick together and will stay suspended in the batter.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar and beat on low speed, gradually increasing to medium, until fully incorporated and the texture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Alternatively, combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and incorporate together with your hands. Then, switch to a fork (be prepared to use some elbow grease) and beat until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla, followed by the melted chocolate, and mix on low speed, or with a spatula, until combined.
  6. Fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until the batter is thoroughly blended. Fold in the walnuts and figs. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and sprinkle the salt evenly over the top.
  7. Bake until the batter sets, 30 to 35 minutes. To test for doneness, jiggle the pan; there shouldn’t be any wobble, or a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. While still warm, cut the brownies into 24 squares and let cool completely.
  8. Store at ambient temperature for up to 4 days, or cover each brownie individually with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, transfer to a ziplock freezer bag, and freeze for up to 4 months. (Bring to camp frozen; they will double as cooler ice and be a refreshing, chocolate treat.)


How to toast walnuts: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the nuts are dark brown, stirring once halfway through. Transfer immediately to a heatproof dish to cool.