Monday, April 11, 2011

best-ever brownies

There are brownies and then there are brownies. These fall into the latter camp.

That other recipe I told you about so long ago? Dead to me. Katharine Hepburn's famous version? Hell no. These brownies kick those other brownies' little brown behinds any day.

I know, I know. This is a lot of big talk. But, for me, these are the end-all-be-all of brownies. I think about them all the time. I may have even written this blog post just to have an excuse to make another pan. For photos, of course.

They are dense and fudgy, slightly sticky, and just sweet enough that you can really taste the chocolate. The kicker is that they aren't even made with chocolate. Only cocoa powder.

Crazy, right?

The recipe, originally from Alice Mendrich's Bittersweet, uses a generous 3/4 cup plus two tablespoons of cocoa powder. Now, I've made these brownies with fancyish brands of cocoa, and I've made them with regular old cocoa powder. (Toll House brand, when feeling especially cheap.) And either way, they are excellent. If you have some Valhrona on hand, by all means go for it, but Hershey's is fine too.

The other great thing is that they are very fast to make. The batter comes together in 10 minutes tops, and they only bake for about 30 minutes, leaving a slightly gooey center. We don't usually keep sweets around the house, so when Dan (or, more likely, I) starts moaning about wanting dessert, these brownies are quick enough to whip up that it's not really worth a trip to the bodega around the corner for some much-inferior Ben & Jerry's.

If the idea of a plain, no-frills brownie is just too tame for you, I have made them with a tablespoon of espresso powder, and a handful of chopped walnuts, and both versions were delicious. I've also substituted rum for the vanilla extract--one of my new favorite tricks. And I'm sure chocolate chips or dried cherries would be a great addition as well.

Cocoa brownies
Via Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Alice Mendrich
(Makes about 12 larger or 24 smaller brownies)

10 Tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (or rum)
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces, or chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat your to 325 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. (Or you could place the bowl atop a pot of simmering water--use oven mitts.) Stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside until the mixture cools down a bit. It will look a little gritty from the sugar, but that's okay.

Stir in the vanilla (or rum). Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Slowly add the beaten eggs into the chocolate batter, stirring vigorously. When the batter looks thick and shiny, add the flour and stir until incorporated, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. (I have cheated and did, say, 20 strokes.) Stir in the nuts and/or chocolate, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter. I find it takes about 25 to 30 minutes for the right texture, but check for doneness after 20 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack or in the refrigerator.


Martha said...

why oh why did chocolate and I break up? time for some ex-sex?

Unknown said...

well I'm convinced enough to go and try these.

Lisa said...

I hope I didn't oversell it!

Beth said...

well, that's it, i'm sold. i'm going to have to find time to make brownies soon. and look at this — last time i did, i took nearly the same photo, same glass and all!

Lisa said...

Beth: Ha! You have a rooster glass too! All of mine broke, except for that one.

(Your brownies look delicious, but man, Cooks' Illustrated makes everything so effing complicated!)

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

Funny, this is the recipe I used in my brownie faceoff ( and everyone preferred the boxed brownies! Humph.

Lisa said...

Well, they all have no taste. Clearly.

Daniel said...

Nice of you to say that all of your rooster glasses broke rather than specifying that someone you live with may have broken them.


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