Break My Heart Brownies


Editor's Note: I wrote during my first night in San Francisco, and, before scheduling it to publish, had second thoughts. I was going to start my new job in a few days, and the post could easily be misread to undermine my excitement for the new opportunity. I didn't want to make a bad first impression! I've been holding on to this post for a few weeks, and am finally comfortable enough to share. But if it seems out of order when compared with prior posts, that's why.

Last week, as I stood in my empty house, I was overwhelmed with heartbreak and sadness. I'd worked out that in the last 5 years, I'd moved a total of 8 times across 2 different countries, 3 different states (Oregon and California multiple times), and between 9 apartments and houses. My move back to San Francisco would be move #9.

All those moves were instigated by a job change. My mom, being a classic Asian Tiger Mother, had always drilled me to follow my career, follow the money. Well, if the last five years is any indication, I must have taken that a little too literally.

If that sounds a little bit bitter, I'll be honest — it kind of is. When I moved back to Portland in 2012, I had thought it was for good. I worked hard to build myself a permanent life there, buying a house and remodeling the kitchen to fit my needs perfectly, building a new network of friends. Everything was great, except for my career. I'm not going to talk about it here, but prior to leaving Portland, I was tired, exhausted, and burnt out.


I took the new job in San Francisco because it was an amazing opportunity in terms of career advancement and salary. In my head, I knew that the opportunity made sense and was a good decision. But in my heart? That's where things got a little bit murky. Because with every move I've made, I've had to give up more and more — family, friends, a home, my relationship. Is the opportunity really an opportunity if it costs so much? And at what point is the sacrifice too much?

I don't know the answer to that, and I know I won't know the answer to for a long, long time. But I do know that I also took the opportunity because I hoped a major change would revitalize me and help me recover from my burnout. So far, it seems to be working. I spent my first day in San Francisco wandering around, unexpectedly grinning at how much I lucked out with my new studio and my new neighborhood. I may have reluctantly accepted the move with a heavy heart, but with each step (uphill) I can feel my shoulders unrounding and my load lightening.


As for these brownies, I don't really have much to say except that they're awesome and incredibly chocolatey and really the best. They're a riff off of my favorite brownie recipe, Supernatural Brownies, but with a touch of whole wheat graham flour thrown in for a better mouthfeel and heartier crumb, along with some walnuts for texture. And finally, they're made with the BEST single-origin chocolate bars from Pitch Dark Chocolate. During my last week in Portland, I had the chance to visit their chocolate shop/factory and try a bunch of their bars and truffles (everything was amazing, but this matcha and cocoa nib chocolate bar was out of this world). The chocolate I ended up using for these brownies are their 73% cacao Ecuador bars, in which the cacao bean is fermented to bring out floral notes in the chocolate, ultimately giving the brownies a complex, bittersweet note.


Some baker's notes:
  • I used Pitch Dark Chocolate for these brownies, but you can of course use any chocolate of your choice. But use chocolate that's at least 70% cacao so you can get that deep, intense chocolate flavor!

  • Graham flour is available online or in specialty health food stores. One of my favorite things about graham flour is that it lasts longer than other whole grain flours, so you can buy in bulk and use throughout the year. For other recipes that use graham flour, check out this recipe for small batch whole grain chocolate muffin mix or this recipe for s'mores cupcakes (one of my favorites recipes on the blog!).

  • I added walnuts to the brownies because I had a bag in my fridge that I needed to use before moving; feel free to omit if you prefer smooth brownies! For those who like a little crunch and texture in their brownies, I left some of the walnuts whole and others halved for more textural variety.

  • If you can believe it, these brownies get even more flavorful and intense as they sit overnight. It's best to let them sit overnight so you get that the flavors soak and you're left with a really caramelly and chocolatey brownie. But good luck holding off. I always devour at least a third of the pan before letting it sit. OH WELL.


Break My Heart Brownies

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Ingredients

For the Break My Heart Brownies:
(makes one 9 x 13-inch pan)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces 73% cacao Pitch Dark chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup graham flour
  • 1 cup whole and halved walnuts (optional)

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Recipe

For the Break My Heart Brownies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 (F), and prepare your baking pan by spraying with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and grease paper. Set pan aside.

  2. In a double boiler (or, a homemade version with a heatproof bowl sitting on top of a saucepan), combine 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter with 8 ounces Pitch Dark chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to stir constantly until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 eggs in a large bowl. Add 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt. Whisk until fully incorporated — the mixture should be a golden tan color. Whisk in the chocolate mixture (from the second step). 

  4. Once the mixture is a uniform dark brown, use a rubber spatula to fold in 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup graham flour. Be careful not to overmix during this part! Simply fold in until the flour is incorporated —it's okay to have one or two small flour streaks left in the batter. Scatter 1 cup whole and halved walnuts over the batter and stir once or twice until fully incorporated.

  5. Pour batter into prepared pan, using the rubber spatula to spread evenly. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, preferably overnight, before cutting and serving.
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41 comments

  1. Oh, Michelle. I can only imagine the stress and heartbreak you must have felt leaving Portland and your house, but it makes me feel better to read your words about feeling revitalized by the change. If life has taught me anything so far, it's that you NEVER know where's it going to lead, and that sometimes you have to get through the worst times to arrive at the best times, and they will come. Good luck to you, girl! These brownies sound awesome - those supernatural ones are a favorite of mine so I'm dying to try these. I already put graham flour in my amazon cart. ;-)

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  2. finding an apartment in SF is no easy feat, right? Survival of the Fittest for sure. even NYC doesn't compare!
    SF is a beautiful and wonderful city, and has so much to offer in terms of ingredients and agriculture and nature and scenery :) you will love it!

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  3. oops, I now see that you've spent quite some time in the city. my bad :)

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  4. As someone who ended up going down a path where relationship took priority over career I know how difficult it is and I think whatever the decision there is a reward at the end. It's worse because we are always told that we can have it all and sometimes that's difficult. You've made a really big decision and you will reap the rewards of being brave and hopefully everything else will fall into place around it. Hope you're doing ok. These brownies sound delicious. I find brownies can cure even the bluest of days.

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  5. You are a brave lady, Michelle. Words are not sufficient to describe how hard big moves can be and maybe it won't work or maybe it will work out great. At least you always follow your heart...money isn't all that important (well maybe if you live in SF..haha). It's great that you're making the most of it. You'll remember these times fondly when the years roll by. Goooood luck, Miss! These brownies also look adorable in their heart-shaped loveliness. I might not make every single thing you post but you bet I trust your recipes and tips when I'm baking in my own kitchen. Thank you for that.

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  6. I'm glad you feel much better Michelle! I guess it's always scary to start a new chapter in your life and you never know where it might lead but I'm wishing you all the best for the future! Also, GRAHAM FLOUR?! What is this magic that I'm hearing about?!

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  7. I made these cookies for my husband and I. We are both new to matcha. They were so good. Definitely a keeper. Thanks for the recipe.

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  8. Sending you hugs, Michelle <3 I can only imagine how hard this decision was for you, but I'm so full of admiration at how you're tackling it head-on -- especially with these incredible brownies! They look fabulous, and you are awesome. Brownie hearts and hugs for you!

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  9. I hope everything turns out the best way possible for you Michelle. I guess when the sacrifice will be too much you won't be willing to make it. I think you are very talented and brave to choose doing things and moving to places outside of your comfort zone. I would never be strong enough to chase my dreams. I hope you feel even better soon. Sending positive thoughts your way. Xo.

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  10. Katie @ Butterlust BlogJune 2, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    Michelle! Your courage is inspiring! Keep your chin up, Portland & your loved ones will always be there when you need them most, for now, keep on working towards ruling the world (because I'm pretty sure that someday you might!) :)

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  11. Jessie Snyder | Faring WellJune 2, 2015 at 3:33 PM

    It can be so hard, change, and I feel like I can totally align with your waves of emotions described above. I really hope you're able to enjoy this time in SF and whatever comes your way! And for those murky times, brownies - lots and lots of brownies :)

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  12. Abby | Lace &amp; LilacsJune 2, 2015 at 3:37 PM

    Oh, this post is beautifully honest, Michelle. Life can be crazy, and takes you places you never in a million years would have imagined you'd be... but I just know that things are going to work out for you in the end. It must be so difficult to leave your home; the one you poured yourself into in a city you love, but only good things will come from this move. I'm sure of it! Good luck, and these brownies look delicious! Your photos are gorgeous, as always. <3

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  13. Wheh, moving is so flipping weird. I appreciate your honestly and love reading all about your move!...including the ups and downs! xx

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  14. Thanks Sara! Your words are definitely reassuring and very well said. Thanks for sticking around and reading my blog for as long as you have! Even though we've never met IRL, I feel like we're friends b/c of how long we've been in touch via the internets. It's crazy, this whole blogging thing!

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  15. Dude. Renting in SF is CRAZY. You're right -- even NYC isn't this bad!!! Having done it before, I definitely moved to the city with low expectations and even that was a bit of a struggle. But hey, I'm here!

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  16. Thanks Sophie!!! I definitely feel like I've spent the last few years of my life grappling with the whole "You can have it all" myth. Have you seen this article? http://luckypeach.com/working-mom-liz-prueitt/ Super relevant to this conversation, I was going to share it out in my link roundup this week!

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  17. Thank you so much Edlyn! From your comment, it sounds like you've faced the same struggle, so I really appreciate what you said. Good luck to you too!!!

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  18. Graham flour is AMAZING. It's a whole wheat flour that lasts longer than others, and what authentic graham crackers are made from! You can read more about the flour in this old post of mine: http://www.hummingbirdhigh.com/2014/11/small-batch-whole-grain-chocolate.html

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  19. Thank you, Cynthia!!! I'm so excited to hang out these next few days; I feel like we've been online friends for so long, it's awesome that we finally get to meet!

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  20. Thanks for your kind comment, Theodora. It made me blush! It's always tough making such big life changing decisions; I'm sure that when the right one comes around for you, you'll be brave enough too :-)

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  21. Thanks Katie!!!


    PS -- your comment totally reminded me of that Beyonce song that's like "who run da world? GIRLS!"

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  22. Thanks Jessie!!! I'm so excited to hang out these next few days!

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  23. Thank you for the wonderful comment, Abby! You always leave the most thoughtful and sweetest responses to my posts. Hopefully we'll be able to meet up in real life one day!

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  24. Thanks Katrina! I'm sure you've gone through the same emotions, since you moved around a ton too (or am I just making that up...?).

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  26. I'm so glad to hear that SF has treated you well so far. It's a big leap you're taking and I wish you all the best <3 Sometimes we have to let change happen; it's definitely not easy but change never is.

    Have lots of fun in NY!!

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  27. What a great article. Thanks for sharing it. Hope your week is going well!

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  28. Stephanie@ Girl Versus DoughJune 3, 2015 at 7:12 AM

    We have had our fair share of moves in the last 6 years and I completely understand the bittersweetness that comes with it. But I hope San Francisco continues to feel more and more like home for you! As for these brownies, I think I'd like to eat a whole pan for breakfast.

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  29. Thank you for your honesty, Michelle. You're such a powerful, strong, and inspiring woman. We live in an incongruent society -- one that demands that we have a successful career, yet doesn't allow us to celebrate (or even acknowledge) our work or mourn its difficulties. I really believe it is one of the most important things in life to enjoy your work. So, I'm really impressed with your decision to move in that direction, away from an unhealthy situation. Here's to you and a new day. I hope you are refreshed and energized.

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  30. Thanks for sharing this, Michelle. Sometimes what we want and decide in our head can feel so different in our heart, at least for a short time. Having moved several times as well, that's something I'm surprised by each and every time! And it is so tough. I hope SF continues to treat you well - what an exciting opportunity. And these brownies - YES!

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  31. I won't say much, but I'm really glad you're feeling better! It's a huge change and I can only imagine how scary and stressful it must have been. I'm not good with words, so I"ll just leave it at that and hopefully I'll be more eloquent in real life. Hope you're having fun in NY, and talk to you later! Also, these brownies look stunning. I'm coming up with a chocolate dessert to serve for an upcoming event and this is an amazing inspiration.

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  32. This might be a dumb question, but would this cake be appropriate to serve to kids or to people that do not drink alcohol?

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  33. Nine times?! Oy - I sympathize with your ambivalence about doing it again. But also am selfishly excited because you're in my 'hood now! Welcome to the Bay:) These brownies look like something that would definitely cheer up any heartbreak. Also - did you bring some of that matcha and cocoa nib chocolate back with you?! (droooool).

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  34. Thanks Sini! Wish you were here this year too. We'll get to meet one day though, I know it!

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  35. Thanks Stephanie! Moving is always such a mixed bag of emotions :-/ Oh well. There are brownies!!!

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  36. YES to everything you said above. There's such an intense pressure to "have it all" by society, without ever really a frank/candid discussion of such implications. Thank you for leaving such an understanding and sweet comment!

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  37. Thanks Tessa! It's reassuring to know that other folks have gone through the same thing and it's a pretty universal bittersweet feeling. As they say... this too, shall pass!

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  38. Thanks Betty! I'm so excited to hang out so we can talk about all this IRL. See ya soon!

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  39. OOOH, I wish I still had some of that matcha and cocoa nib chocolate... but I ate it immediately upon unwrapping, lol. Compartes chocolate also has a pretty wonderful matcha and white chocolate bar that I'm very obsessed with and is available at Rainbow Grocery!

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  40. Wow. 9 moves in 5 years? How intense! I know the tiger mom mentality, my mom is a white tiger mom... she's been building my resume since 5th grade! I'm excited for this new opportunity for you, and I'm glad to see it's going well! These brownies look amazing and I love the story, especially since I just visited Portland. I hope you are enjoying San Francisco, and I hope that perhaps this can be a place you can settle, at least for a little while, so you don't have to keep packing up!

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  41. Tessa Lindow HuffJune 7, 2015 at 1:10 PM

    Michelle,
    I must say how brave and inspiring of you to take on and share with us your new adventure. In the moment, it can be so hard to know for sure if these life-changing decisions we make are the right ones. I turned in the keys for my dream bakery that I owned and moved away from all of my friends/family to another country (well, just Canada - but still), not knowing if it would ever work out. But you just have to follow your heart. Deep down, we know it's a risky move, but we probably wouldn't be putting our selves through all the worry and heart-ache if the potential pay-off wasn't going to be so completely worth it. I guess what I am saying is, stay strong and trust your instinct. And a huge congrats on the taking a leap of faith. Great risk comes great reward - so go out and fight for your dreams! Wow, starting to sound sooooo cheesy now, but I know you feel me. Hahaha. I know I miss sunny California from time to time, so enjoy SF for the both of us =)

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