Guest Post by Irvin Lin: Black Garlic & Vanilla Bean Marble Brownies

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

For the next few weeks I'm taking a long overdue vacation. This is also my first vacation from blogging EVER as on previous escapes I always took my computer. It's one that is soundly needed. I'm touring China and Tibet with my mom and enjoying the sights, sounds, and flavors of locations such as Shanghai, Lhasa, and the Yangtze River. I cannot wait.

As beautiful as China is I cannot blog while there as blogger sites are blocked by the Communist Party of China (as is Facebook, my e-mail, Twitter, etc.). As such, I'm proud to announce Vanilla Garlic's first ever guest posts.

The first if from my buddy, Irvin Lin. His blog, Eat The Love, has only been around a short time but already possess a cult following for his inventive recipes, engaging voice, and sense of style.

Irvin has done something I've never been able to do: actually combine vanilla and garlic into a unique and musky-sweet dessert.

Bravo, Irvin. Bravo.


-Chocolate, vanilla, and garlic. Together at last!-

I woke up on a sunny bright day in Maui on the sixth day of my month long stay with my partner, AJ. Through saving, planning and a little bit of luck, we had been able to do an extended trip to Hawaii. My partner is a teacher and had the summer off and, for the first time in I don’t know how long, I did not have a day job and could freelance wherever I wanted to.

I logged onto my computer and sitting in my inbox was a message from Garrett, both flattering and pleading, asking me if I would consider writing a guest post for him, as he went off on his own extended trip to China and Tibet. I immediately said, “Of course,” and then went into a minor panic about what to write about.

It’s easy when I’m writing for my own blog (I have no standards there, I just ramble about my own life stuff) but a guest post for someone else should probably be a little more… ahem… well put together. However, I went about the rest of the day in my usual vacation way (going to the beach, laying in the sun, getting slightly sunburned) with that email in the back of my mind, not sure what I was going to write about, but hopefully I would think of something.

-Marbled goodness.-

That day in paradise did not go well. I had a rather adventurous evening the night before, with my partner and I ending up in a new friend’s hotel hot tub and there were large plastic tumblers of wine involved (it all sounded like a good idea at the time, and not the least bit sordid as it does now, in retrospect). I was not feeling so hot at the beach, which of course, was one of the more difficult beaches to get to (why do the gay beaches have to be the ones that you have to climb over treacherous terrain to get to?). When I told my partner I was having gastrointestinal issues – something you really don’t want to have on a remote gay nude beach with no restrooms (did I not mention it was nude?) – we left shortly before what I’m sure was a spectacular sunset. I was too concerned about my stomach to pay any attention to what I might have missed.

I spent the next six hours curled up in my bed, fading in and out of consciousness, while my partner fretted and came in with various beverages and medications for me. Perhaps it was the wine, the not-so-sanitary hot tub, the strong tropical sun that I still wasn’t use to, dehydration, or a combination of it all, but I pretty much felt like I was going to die.

When I woke up right after midnight, exhausted but very much happy to be alive without any real urgency to run to the bathroom, I knew exactly what I was going to write about for Garrett. Black Garlic Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Bean White Chocolate Marble Brownies.

-How I got from stomach flu on a gay beach to vanilla-garlic brownies in my head is still a mystery.-

When I first met Garrett it was back in San Francisco at the BlogHer Food 2010 conference. Though new to blogging (my blog was barely 7 months old) I was familiar with his blog as I loved Garrett’s sense of storytelling and was not surprised to find the man behind Vanilla Garlic to be as friendly and engaging as his blog.

I distinctly remember hanging around him and having a fellow blogger meet him and ask for his card. “Vanilla Garlic! What a great name. What happens when those two things meet?” Garrett’s response was, “Something delicious, of course,” in a casual offhanded manner that implied both wit and self-deprecation. Then he chuckled to himself and turned to me and said “Ha! That should totally be my response whenever someone asks me that…”

(A note from Garrett: Seriously, I wish I had a better story for the name of this blog. I picked it because it sounded cool.)

Kidding aside, Garrett wasn’t far from truth. Black garlic and vanilla are pretty amazing together, especially in these brownies. Garrett has written about black garlic before when he received it in a package of exotic spices from Terra Spices. It’s a strange, peculiar item, made by taking regular garlic and roasting it for 40 days at a specific low heat (140˚F), allowing the garlic to cook and ferment without actually caramelizing or burning, which happens when you cook garlic at a higher temperature.

-Glad someone made it work. I'm five years testing that vanilla BBQ sauce. ~Garrett-

Back when Garrett received his sample, it was a relatively new spice, but since then it’s gained in popularity having been featured as an ingredient on shows like Iron Chef America and Top Chef New York, and being labeled as the new “it” ingredient by publications like Restaurant News and Washington Post.

It's often used in savory dishes, where it adds sweet umami richness almost like a mellow aged balsamic vinegar. Rarely though, is it used in sweet dishes, which is a shame as its inherent molasses-like flavor and grounded earthiness adds complexity to desserts like ice cream and chocolate-based baked goods. True, you do get a slight garlic flavor with the dish, but it’s so elusive underneath the sweetness that unless it’s revealed, most people won’t be able to place it. Instead you get a complexity to the chocolate that helps balance out the sweetness of the white chocolate brownie swirls.

-Now let's see what they can do with it on Top Chef: Just Desserts.-

During the time I was stuck in bed, utterly miserable with whatever 24-hour bug I had, I vowed to myself never to sit in a hot tub with tumblers of wine again, to hydrate excessively under a giant beach umbrella, and to only go to beaches where there were public restrooms.

Twenty-four hours later, nearly completely recovered from my feverish stupor, I was back on that same beach, enjoying the sun and the surf, carefree again. I saw a number of gorgeous sunsets in Maui, on the beach and elsewhere around the island. And I may or may not have broken all of those other vows in the subsequent weeks I spent in paradise. But I survived it all, and came out ahead in the end, with my feverish epiphany of these particular brownies.

Black Garlic-Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Bean-White Chocolate Marble Brownies
Makes 24 brownies.

It’s important that you use quality ingredients with this brownie. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, but don’t shortcut, especially when it comes to the chocolate. Quality dark chocolate works best here, preferably something with 55% cacao or higher, and definitely make sure to use white chocolate that has cacao butter. Often times white chocolate is just white confection without any cacao butter, so check the ingredients label. As for black garlic, it’s one of those odd specialty items that are hard to find. Sometimes it’s available at health food stores or Korean/Asian grocery markets. But the easiest place to find it is online.

Full disclosure, I contacted the company Black Garlic and asked them where I could find their product in San Francisco (my hometown), and they responded back that they would just send me some for sampling, which I ended up using for this recipe.

Vanilla Bean White Chocolate Batter
200 g (7 oz) white chocolate
113 g (1 stick or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
150 g (3/4 cup) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
185 g (1 1/4 cups) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean

Black Garlic Dark Chocolate Batter
200 g (7oz) bittersweet chocolate
113 g (1 stick or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
150 g (3/4 cup) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
125 g (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 head of black garlic

1. Preheat an oven to 350˚F and lightly spray a 9 inch x 13 inch baking pan with neutral flavored oil. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper that overhangs the edges by 2 inches (the spray will help it stick to the pan).

2. Chop the white chocolate into 1/4 inch pieces and place in a medium sized microwaveable bowl. Add the butter and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave again for 30 seconds. Take the bowl out and stir until all the white chocolate is melted. White chocolate scorches easily so be careful. You can also use a double boiler to melt the white chocolate.

3. Once the white chocolate is melted, stir in the white sugar until incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating with a fork until incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and beat until incorporated. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into batter, reserving the vanilla pod for another purpose. Add the vanilla extract as well and stir to incorporate. Set aside while you make the dark chocolate batter.

4. Chop the dark chocolate into 1/4 inch pieces and place in a medium sized microwaveable bowl. Add the butter and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave again for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave one more time for 30 seconds. Stir until all the chocolate is melted. If you have any stubborn pieces that won’t melt after stirring, place it back in the microwave for 15 seconds more. You can also use a double boiler to melt the dark chocolate.

5. Once the dark chocolate is melted, stir in the brown sugar until incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating with a fork until incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and beat until incorporated.

6. Take the head of black garlic and cut the top off with a sharp knife. Remove the cloves of black garlic from its skin, and place in a small bowl or onto a cutting board. Mash the black garlic until it is a paste and beat it into the dark chocolate batter.

7. Spoon the white chocolate and dark chocolate batter into the prepared pan, alternating spoonfuls. Using a butter knife, swirl the batter around to marble them together. Don’t overmix, you want the batter to be marbled not blended. Place in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out clean and the edges of the pan start to look golden brown. Cool in the pan and then remove by grasping the parchment paper by its sides and lifting the brownies straight up. Serve at room temperature.

-Pictures and post property and © of Irvin Lin.-


  1. Ahhh, little beach! My partner and I spent a week in Maui earlier this year, and also found the trek to little beach to be less than desirable. We had a great time once we got there, though. I particularly liked a bumper sticker we saw in the parking lot: "Little Beach, let it all hang out".

  2. That looks amazing! I will for sure be making this recipe, once I track down the black garlic. Irvin, it sounds to me like you and your bf would probably get along great with Garrett and his bf on vaca... :) Thanks for the story and recipe!

  3. This is why I love Irvin and his blog. Also loving Garrett for inviting Irvin to guest post. (I would love you both even more if you could make room for me on your next extended vacation.)

  4. I think I know what I'm making for New Years.

  5. These sound amazing! I am soooo making these when I meet my new boyfriends parents! They shall LOVE me!!! Mwua-hahahaha! (don't worry I will tell them that it was your recipe - after they fall in love with me - of course!)

  6. Awesome. I was hemming on how to use black garlic in a sweet, so this came at just the right time!

  7. @Topher - My favorite was a T-Shirt that the woman selling "ganja brownies" had at Little Beach. They said "I got baked on Little Beach". Ha!

    @Dorothy - I'd love to go on vaca with Garrett and the bf! That would be super fun. Just gotta get Garrett to give me an invite!

    @Dawn - Awww. I love you too! you are more than welcome to come visit whenever/where I go on vacation next! The more the merrier.

    @Matthew - Please let me know what you think when you make them!

    @uaskigyrl - I hope you touched your fingers together at the fingertips in a diabolical way when you laughed Mwau-hahahahaha!

    @Banannas - Black garlic is awesome. I have a friend who actually makes ice cream with it. She fell in love with these brownies.

  8. Garrett- congrats on vacation and PS- I loved your commentary incorporated into Irvin's post.

  9. What a wonderful guest post! It is about time vanilla + garlic came together on this site :) Well done!

    Garrett-hope your travels are safe :)

  10. I don't know what's more stunning - that you made brownies with garlic (!?!) or that you are vacationing in China! How terribly exciting. We can't wait to hear all about it when you get back.

  11. Wowweee Garrett! Good for you that you're taking a break! And how exciting to be doing it where there's some amazing food! That's awesome you and your mother and making some great memories! Wish I was going. Have a safe and fun trip!!!

    And..thanks for the guest post. The brownies look really good!

  12. So interesting! If I ever come across black garlic, I will be sure to try this! Thanks for sharing.

  13. You can find black garlic at Berkeley Bowl.

  14. I love garlic and on a recent web-surfing tour found this recipe. Just tried it and I LOVE IT!!! Amazing recipe. Thanks heaps.

  15. I made these recently for a garlic party we attended. I live in the US (Midwest) and couldn't find black garlic ANYWHERE but finally located a shop in Old Town (Chicago) that had it, along with delicious fresh vanilla beans. The brownies were a huge hit, in face, I received an email from the hostess, saying that if there had been a prize to be awarded for best garlic recipe, I would have won, hands down. Thanks for posting this recipe!!! YUM YUM YUM. (Oh, and I cut these pretty small, so had quite a bit more than 2 dz.


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