Top Chef judge Gail Simmons’s father, Ivor, comes from a small town in South Africa. Although his background is English and Eastern European, he was raised in a region with strong Dutch influences. One Dutch passion he passed down to his daughter is a love of black licorice, specifically a salty, chewy variety. Whenever their family visited his homeland, Ivor stocked up on dubbel zout (double salt)—coins of salted black licorice about the size of a quarter. Simmons devoured them, relishing the savory, saline exterior that gave way to the barely sweet, chewy center. Her father’s other sweet vice, which she also inherited, is chocolate. Not white, not milk, but the pure bittersweet kind. This deeply dark-chocolaty brownie is her homage to him. It has a sophisticated touch of salt, plus notes of molasses and anise from black licorice, and the combo makes a brilliant treat that is irresistibly chewy and not too sweet.
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1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons licorice root powder
2 teaspoons ground anise seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup chopped soft black licorice chews (3 ounces)
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with paper or foil, leaving 2 inches of overhang on 2 sides. Brush the paper with butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cocoa powder, licorice root powder, anise and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter with both sugars, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients, then three-fourths of the chocolate and licorice chews. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Gently press the remaining chocolate and licorice chews into the batter.
Bake the brownies for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, with a few moist crumbs attached. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the paper. Cut the brownies into 12 rectangles and serve.