“What are you doing differently?” The “r’s” are rolled and, every time I meet with her, I think of Cold War spy stories and John LeCarre.
“I started running…” I volunteer meekly. Then I point out that her super high protein diet she put me on doesn’t leave much room for large portions of carbs. There is so much I can eat and, coupled with exercising, keeping the weight on has become a project.
Who knew I would find myself in this predicament? Among rationalizations and explanations that a high protein diet is going to stave off any side effects from the radiation treatment and will make me feel less tired, I find myself craving pizza and sweets. So I make a pact with my stern Russian – who, in reality, is a lovely woman who provides an oasis of calm and positive energy amidst the relentless medical appointments – and I tell her that I will faithfully calculate grams of proteins during the week but, on weekends, at least for one day, I will allow myself whatever the heck I want.
Two Saturdays ago I scarfed down an entire pizza and two cocktails and, last weekend, at my friend Luisa’s birthday party, I enjoyed a triumph of lasagne, ravioli and home-made focaccia. The morning after, the scale had me three pounds over the day before. No mystery that loading up on carbs will do that.
And then there are the sweets. I have reintroduced a little bit of refined sugar in my diet but very, very little. Both the Russian and my common sense, and personal experience, tell me I am much better off without it. And it is true. With no croissants, cookies and cakes dotting my days, I feel much more alert and less sluggish. I tried a few vegan cake recipes (brownies, carrot cake) but they are a poor consolation, and eating them reminds me even more of what I am missing. So I made a pact with myself that I would make something delicious a couple of times a month which, enjoyed in small portions, will not make me feel guilty. Or sleepy.
This recipe from the Violet Bakery in London intrigued me because it’s rich in chocolate paired with fleur de sel (and there is nothing more delicious than chocolate and salt); and it’s also made with rye flour, which contains a lot more protein than regular flour. I was afraid the nuttiness of rye would seep through but, because of the richness of the chocolate and the moistness of the brownies, it really doesn’t. If anything, it lends a pleasing depth to the whole.
I reduced the amount of salt the original recipe called for and I sprinkled just a bit of fleur de sel on top – you should toy with what you think suits your palate best.
The original recipe recommended to eat the brownies within one day of making them but I can assure you, in an air-tight container, they lasted a lot longer than that.
11 T butter, cut up in small cubes (156 g)
10 1/2 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (300 g)
1 1/2 C rye flour (200 g)
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder (50g)
1/2 ts baking powder (3 g)
1/2 ts salt (2.5 g)
1 C sugar (200 g)
1 C brown sugar (200 g)
1 T vanilla extract
a bit of fleur de sel or other flaky and delicate salt
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl over a bain-marie. Let cool.
- In a different bowl, whisk together the rye flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
- Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the eggs with both sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy (or use your elbow grease). Add melted chocolate (if not completely cooled, make sure the paddle is beating at a low-speed to prevent the eggs from cooking). Add flour mixture.
- Pour the batter in a sprayed or buttered baking pan (13 x 9 inches). Sprinkle some fleur de sel on top and bake at 350F (170C) for about 25 minutes. The center will still be wobbly and a toothpick inserted in will come out with wet crumbs. Do not overbake. Let cool and cut into squares.