The Best Brownies of Your Life

March 5, 2013 | By | COMMENTS

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Here they are, the brownies I’ve always wanted and never found. I didn’t know my brownie life was lacking; for years, I’d been melting chocolate in a double boiler along with some butter to make the Martha Stewart version. Those were always good. So were all the other brownie recipes I attempted with a similar technique: melt chocolate and butter, stir in sugar, eggs, flour, and voila, brownies. The resulting brownies were always enjoyable–fudgy, flat–but never reminiscent of the brownies that made me love brownies in the first place. Until I came upon this recipe.

I saw it last week on Food52. It came to them by way of dessert guru Alice Medrich’s cookbook. But even though this brownie recipe was news to me, it’s been kicking around for a while. Smitten Kitchen’s made ‘em. Bon Appetit featured them with a slight twist: they browned the butter first. I’m not claiming to have discovered this recipe by any means, but I will claim this: these are the best brownies I’ve ever made, hands down.

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And who would’ve guessed that the secret is what you see in the image above: cocoa powder. Good old fashioned cocoa powder. No expensive bars of Valrhona chocolate, no imported European butter. Just cocoa powder. What the cocoa powder gives these brownies is structure; whereas, the melted chocolate brownies are kind of slumped over like stoner teenagers watching “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” on the couch, these cocoa powder brownies sit up straight in their chairs, raising their hands first to answer the question. Sure, they’re obnoxious, but they’re also the best.

The process is so easy, I can’t imagine making brownies any other way going forward. You put butter, cocoa powder and sugar into a double boiler and turn up the heat until the butter melts and you have a thick, chocolate paste. You let it cool and then add vanilla and eggs.

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At the end, you add the flour and, if you like ‘em, chopped walnuts. You know, it’s funny, as I’ve gotten older I’ve started appreciating walnuts in my brownies. When I was a kid, I hated them, but now I like the texture and flavor it adds. Plus, back on my Mediterranean diet kick for a second, it makes the brownies healthy! Ahem. Per Food52′s advice, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and bake for 25 minutes (confession: I added a splash of coffee and that upped the baking time to 40 minutes; give it a try, if that sounds intriguing) and there you are.

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Look, I know what you’re thinking: “Here he goes again with one of his ‘best of your life’ posts.” But did I steer you wrong with broccoli? I did not. And I still stand by this chili as the best of my life. So make these brownies and we’ll talk. I wager that you’ll find them delicious; and perhaps, as happened with me, this’ll become your go-to brownie recipe forevermore. I’m ready to sign the papers.

Recipe: The Best Brownies of Your Life

Summary: From dessert guru Alice Medrich by way of Food52.

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 2/3 cups walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Spray an 8 X 8 baking pan with cooking spray, then line it with parchment paper so the parchment hangs over the sides (this way you can lift the brownies right out). Spray the parchment too.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium metal bowl and fit the bowl on top of a pot of simmering water. Stir, watching the butter; if it’s not melting quickly enough, turn up the heat. Keep stirring until the butter’s all melted and you have a paste. Stick your finger into the paste and when it’s hot enough that you’re like “ow,” remove the bowl from the pot and allow it to cool a bit.
  3. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. Add the flour and stir until it disappears, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with a wooden spoon (I suppose this develops the gluten a bit and helps give those brownies structure? Just a guess). Stir in the nuts and spread evenly in your lined pan. (At this point, you can sprinkle the batter with flaky Maldon sea salt, if you’re into that kind of thing.)
  4. Bake until a cake tester comes out mostly clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack.
  5. Lift up the parchment on to a cutting board and cut the brownies into squares. Food52 says 16 or 25 squares; I say, “Bigger brownies are better” so make 9 big brownies.

Variations

As I mentioned in the post itself, I added a splash of coffee because I had some leftover. That upped the baking time but gave a subtle hint of coffee flavor. For a quicker way to introduce coffee flavor, stir in some instant espresso. Just a little bit’ll do the trick.

Preparation time: 25 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Other “Best Of Your Life” Posts:
The Best Broccoli of Your Life
The Best Chili of Your Life
The Best Curry of Your Life
The Best Beans of Your Life
The Best Cookies of Your Life
The Best Dinner Rolls of Your Life

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Brownies/Blondies/Bars, Desserts, Recipes

  • Rhonda

    I am a fan of your broccoli, and I too have been searching for an awesome brownie recipe. I will have to give this a try!

  • Michelle

    I’ve traditionally used cocoa powder for my brownies and always wondered what would happen if I used melted chocolate. Thanks for sharing! FYI, brownies are great with dark chocolate cocoa powder too. :)

  • Deb

    Hey I always make my brownies w/cocoa, too. They come out so much better and because there is less fat than using solid chocolate their texture is much chewier. I wouldn’t make them any other way. BUT if you want to use espresso, always melt it in a tiny bit of boiling water to get the full effect. Don’t just stir it in. We have a Nespresso and I use half a pod.

  • Mallory Frayn

    As a self-professed chocoholic, I will probably have to give these a try! Come to think of it, my favorite brownies that my grandma always made for me as a kid used only cocoa powder. I’m sold.

  • Ami@naivecookcooks

    yUMM!

  • Melissa at The Fresh 20

    I just rose from the computer and made a batch. That’s fresh, right? Couldn’t help it, you said they were the best and it’s that kind of day.

  • Sue from Pleasanton

    Melting the butter with the cocoa “blooms” the flavor. Cooks Illistrated has a chocolate cookie recipe that taught me the importance of that “bloom”! Also note the cocoa to flour ratio; there’s more cocoa! Yesssssssss!

  • Sarah

    I can vouch that this is the best brownie recipe ever! It’s been my go to ever since I saw it in Bon Appetit a few years ago :)

  • AG

    I’m still unclear as to why cocoa powder would make brownies better. Wouldnt chocolate make them chocolatier and more gooey?

  • http://twitter.com/sansturbot Roberto Navarro

    No sir, you were absolutely right on the broccoli. Better go bake a batch of these.

  • Maria Tadic

    I’m happy for this recipe! It’s rare to come across a legit good brownie recipe. I can’t wait to try this out this weekend!

  • Anonymous

    Something to do with the fat that comes out of the melted chocolate… for a more thorough explanation, click the link to Food52 in the post.

    Check out my new book, SECRETS OF THE BEST CHEFS (Artisan Books), available in book stores now!

  • Janice

    I am going to make these solely because your best broccoli IS the best broccoli as my friends will all attest to.

  • MC

    Oh, wonderful. I’ve been making Smitten Kitchen’s melt-the-chocolate kind, which are veeeeery good, so I’m going to see what these do to me. I guess I’m going to have to try that broccoli too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.jeffcott Craig Jeffcott

    The best brownies that I’ve had were in the Leon restaurant chain in London. They’re made with ground almonds instead of flour, and contain plain chocolate, espresso and cold pressed orange oil. They’re just the right balance between cakey and fudgey, and the orange oil really elevates the flavour. Thankfully, the recipe is in their cookbook, and helpfully, appeared in the Guardian newspaper: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/oct/06/foodanddrink.recipe

  • Jodi Pritchard

    We’ve been making these for couple years–originally from SK. They truly are the best. We like toasted pecans in ours.

  • Noodles

    Great timing, Adam! I JUST read the very same article on Food52 last night, and had made it a point to make these soon.

  • Piperade

    Made them…couldn’t agree more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tania.torres.39 Tania Torres

    Im snowed in. Well, that’s what the weather man said would happen, so I didn’t go to work. They’re never right. I have a batch of these in the oven as I type this and I cannot WAIT to dig in!

  • http://www.adamfields.com/ Adam Fields

    The proportions are slightly different, but this is nearly exactly the same as this recipe that Fine Cooking published in 2006: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/rich-fudgy-brownies.aspx

  • http://www.facebook.com/tania.torres.39 Tania Torres

    Just had one- amazing! Topped it with ice cream and whipped cream!

  • Nandso

    Thank you, despite the heat in Mumbai, these brownies were completely worth it. Next up, I’ll try and make it with gluten free flour given that it needs so little!

  • MaSaBeMama

    I followed the original recipe as posted on food52 and while they were delicious I think perhaps I waied too long for the “ow” part? The melted butter separated. It did come together again one the eggs were added but the finished result was much more fudgey / lava-cake like than cakey.

  • NS

    I made these yesterday. Your brownies have a gloriously smooth and shiny top whereas mine (and Smitten Kitchen’s and Food 52′s) have a more textured and dull-looking top. What explains this difference? I put my butter/sugar/cocoa together over simmering water–did you melt the butter and sugar together over direct heat….?

  • Anonymous

    Hi NS,
    I used a double boiler over a pan of simmering water (I think Food52 says to do it with the bowl directly in a pan?). Really not sure what accounts for the difference; oh: maybe I baked mine longer because of the coffee I added? Next time I make a batch I’ll see if it comes out the same way. Adam

  • Terry

    Very nice brownies; I made them yesterday with my kids. But those American measures are a drag. So many dirty measuring utensils. Give me a metric recipe and an electronic kitchen scale any day!

  • Kristin Murdock

    Making them today! These look awesome, Adam.

  • Monique Prins

    I´ve been researching brownie recipes for a few months now, but I´m looking no further. I have to agree with you Adam, these are incredible. I added raspberries and chocolate chips to mine. I blogged about it too. http://mylittlechequeredkitchen.blogspot.nl/2013/03/raspberry-chocolate-fudge-brownies.html#

  • Yasminah

    I have been making these since I was in high school. I graduated high school in 1972. They have always been the best brownies ever.

  • LC

    I will never make another brownie recipe. These are the perfect brownies. I’ve made them twice and both times I’ve had to cook them 10-15 minutes longer than the recipe says.

  • Erika

    I tried these brownies and asked my three kids if they thought they were the “best brownies of your life.” We all agreed that they were the best brownies I had ever made and this recipe will now be my go-to brownie recipe. We have nut allergies in our family, so I didn’t use nuts, but I did use some Heath bits and they were delicious. Thanks for sharing this awesome recipe. It is so easy to make also, but next time I will double it.

  • Jered Floyd

    I made these, and I found that they required a longer cooking time even without added coffee. I subbed chocolate chips for nuts, though. That wasn’t worth the bother, as they melted into the batter before it set. I just despise nuts in brownies.

    I found these to be tasty, rich, and pretty dense while moist. These are the perfect brownie sundae brownies. Once they’re in season, I will try mixing in fresh raspberries to the batter — I expect good results.

  • Kharina Sterner

    I made brownies a few years ago for a friend, and use cocoa as I didn’t have any chocolate. Praying to the baker gods when they came out, I was gobsmacked that they were hands down, the best. They were fudgey, sticky with structure and rich without being cloying. My husband went nuts stating he wanted fudgy brownies but never got them. Thanks for reminding me, I should get some baking, me thinks!

  • Anonymous

    You are aware that Heath bars have nuts in them?

  • Charlotte

    This is my go-to brownie recipe as well! I love how fudgy they turn out. And they always procure compliments… that is, when I decide to share.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.tammariello Jamie Tammariello

    I made them today. Fudgy wudgy goodness.

  • Stephanie saltisyourfriend.com

    I have also been making the Martha Stewart version while searching for the perfect brownie! It’s so funny to hear someone else say that! I can’t wait to try these.

  • elo

    i really didn’t want to make these brownies. I saw them on your site, smitten kitchen, and the wednesday chef. they always looked super dark and unappealing. But I was desperate for brownies and had only cocoa powder. I must confess these are so delicious and I am so happy I finally caved and made them. They do turn out very dark and un-pretty looking but the taste far outweighs that… thanks for convincing me! and you didn’t steer me wrong with the broccoli either. I eat it probably 3x a week now!

  • Taylor Worrell

    You were right. Best of my life. Husbands only words “holy hell” and then a lot of groaning. I made them with Hershey Special Dark cocoa and the brownies are nearly black and so amazingly rich. This one is a keeper!

  • jess

    can you use cocao instead of coco powder?

  • Hana

    Very fudgey, deep chocolate flavor. But—- not chewy enough. Sigh, I am still looking for that perfect chewy ala box mix texture.

  • Cat D

    Just made these. Awesomest & easiest i’ve ever made. Btw, just met you at literary orange. We talked about chicken adobo. :)

  • The Dessert Diva

    I originally got this recipe from my oldest son’s Cub Scout leader and have been using it ever since. He’s now 45 so its been in use at my house a very long time. I also found it in an old Hershey’s cookbook from the 1940′s that originally belonged to my mother.

  • kimberly ong

    These were great, I overbaked them a tad and so they ended up being a bit too solid for my liking, but they taste phenomenal and I’ll be making them over and over again! Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/camels.are.silly Camille Whitten

    I agree with the author: I didn’t know my brownie life was lacking until I made these brownies. They are absolutely fantastic. My roomie has to eat gluten free so instead of using flour I substitued with finely ground toasted almonds – equal amount. The brownies were absolutly awesome and my friend went gaga over them. Thanks you for sharing this wonderful recipe!!! Whoo hoo.

  • Krissy

    “Sugar, Butter, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Almonds, Salt, Cocoa Butter, Artificial Flavor, and Soy Lecithin”. Sure enough!

  • MAC

    made them. outstanding. didn’t have enough granulated so the last 1/4 cup of sugar was confectioner’s (gasp)…not a problem. perfect texture, taste even better the next day.

  • Katie R

    I have to agree…I´m from Czech republic and I wanted to try american brownie, but I was scared of result. I don´t have to be scared anymore!! Thanks to this recipe I made even best brownie than I expected. My brownies are dense and it has so great taste of Holland cocoa. It´s really THE BEST BROWNIE. Thank you so much for this recipe! :)

  • lisa

    nice…
    thanx..

  • Tina

    They look delicious, really tasty. I will have to give them a go at the weekend! I made some super healthy gluten free brownies and they turned out really super tasty. Here is the link to the recipe http://bit.ly/12Zks7Y :)

  • Jules

    I will definitely give these a try! I’ve made a few from scratch versions, but have never been impressed as I always go back to the box of ghirardelli dark chocolate brownie mix. (And I’m not a lazy baker! All other baked goods are from scratch in my kitchen. But the mix has worked better than my melting chocolate attempts. Your write up is so convincing though…) One trick I do to my brownies is break up a couple of milk chocolate bars (I usually use Hershey) and lay them evenly across the top of the mix once I put it in the pan. I then push the chocolate pieces down a little (to about halfway) and use a butter knife to evenly re-spread the mix across the added chocolate pieces. When baked, the brownies have a delicious contrast of creamy milk chocolate in the middle of a cakey dark chocolate bite. I’ll try with your recipe!

  • Hali

    Hello, I doubled this recipe yesterday and these are definitely the best brownies!!! Thank you so much
    This will be my one and only brownie recipe

  • Tina

    Mine are in the oven as we speak Found sn amazing brownie recipe a few months ago, but I am always on the lookout and camr across this site. I’ll give s report sfter tasting- which should be in about 30 min.
    Someone asked about getting a nice shiny top. The secret is to not let your butter/sugar/cocoa mix get too hot. You can also just blend the cocos and butter, let that cool, and thrn stir in the sugar. Either way works- the secret is the temperature, whicj for me is still cool enough to taste without the “ow!”

  • Sophia

    hi adam, i have to say that this is the best and simplest brownie recipe since i always keep cocoa powder in hand. anyway, can i leave the eggs? coz one of my kids is allergic to eggs. thanx for sharing :)

  • Adam Amateur Gourmet

    You definitely need the eggs to make the brownies moist, or they’ll be dry as all get-out. How do you usually substitute eggs when you bake? Are they allergic even when they eggs are fully cooked into something else?

  • Desmond Bowman

    Sounds delicious!

  • Paul

    Haha are you kidding?You’re kidding right? These are the most god-awful “brownies” I’ve ever had. Do you think just dumping a load of chocolate and sugar in a bowl makes a brownie? I’d rather eat a yankee biscuit.

  • joe

    I made 2 batches and sent them out for sampling, 2 comments came back as the best brownie they have ever tasted thanks will share and make again

  • Thobile Ngozo

    WOW. I like cooking ,baking.plz
    help me to improve my self.

  • michelle

    I love it! I just tried the recipe..it’s too sweet though..i’m thinking of reducing the sugar..thanks for this recipe!

  • stacie

    There’s not one ounce of exaggeration here – hands down the best brownies of your life. I love warm brownies as much as the next person but throw them in the fridge after they’ve cooled a bit and leave them there till you’re ready to eat. They’re insanely delicious cold, right out of the fridge.

  • Jon

    Can I use Rice Flour instead of all purpose wheat flour?

  • Penniie Papercuts

    Apparently you can use vinegar as an egg substitute its in the amazing book I have on all the uses for vinegar :)

  • http://male-body.com/ Kostas Pap

    I follow a Fitness Lifestyle and anything with sugar isn’t good for my diet but these brownies looks delicious and I eat a ”cheat meal” of these. I will try this recipe soon! Thanks for posting these!!! :)

  • Divinia

    i just tried these….my best brownie batch ever.Thank you! :)

  • fiona

    Can i add baking powder on this because i want my brownies look taller.

  • deborah reuteler

    I just found your blog today – you are the most amazing food writer bar none. I love your writing!! Can’t wait to try your recipes!

  • CLEOTIS

    Gave it a try to the master fussbudget of brownidom.. Passed with a five star rating and a second batch had to be made for the next days dessert for company with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce! WOW! Delish! better than his mom made!

  • sunshine

    I am looking forward to try these brownies. What would 11/2 sticks of butter translate to in lbs or grams. We do not get them in sticks in my country – comes in bars. Do you ever use baking powder for brownies.

  • Suzie

    I’ve made so many brownies in my life. Made these today and they are awesomely fudgy, very yummy. The best? Who know if such a thing exists. I will for sure make these again.

  • Maris

    Amazing brownies! And to me they tasted even better the 2nd and 3rd day!

  • Erin Brown

    I Made these tonight and they were fabulous!!

  • cheryl

    I can honestly say without a moment’s hesitation that these are THE best brownies ever!! Moist and flavorful! I have tried many recipes but these are awesome.Don’t overbake is the key too I think.Also..I made a mocha fudge icing..just 3 tbsp hot strong coffee in my icing recipe.DIVINE!!

  • rick

    Ok i tried these brownies today followed the directions other than I made a double batch 8×8 seemed a waste of time. I read every review almost all positive yet their was little instruction or suggestion on anyones experience. I made a decision to cook them just over 20 minutes thinking that would make them more chewey and not so dry I also went with pecans.They were done in 22 minutes I let them cool and dove right in. I’m sorry to say but their is nothing exciting nor memorable about these brownies they were very bland if youre looking for fudgy this isn’t for you….honestly i wish I had stuck to the 8×8 recipe. I do have a suggestion refrigerate them for a few hours before you go to eat one something I learned from an ina Garten recipe. It did make them more palatable but still nothing to write home about. I hate to be debbie downer its not like me. My sugestion try the 8×8 if you like them as others do double up I for one wont be clicking the favorites icon.

  • Fiona

    Just tried these today. Not too sweet, perfect for dark chocolate lovers, had to taste them right out of the oven but much better a few hours later. Only thing would change is a method, melt the butter then add the cocoa etc. I dumped the dry ingedients all together which delayed reaching the paste stage. Anyway great brownies, wish I had thought about having some vanilla ice cream in my fridge!!!,

  • Erin

    I have made these brownies several times now, and they are truly the best. My friends and family are blown away. They are incredible. I add salt to the top before baking and I add instant espresso powder to up the chocolate-y flavor. I dissolve it in the vanilla per an America’s Test Kitchen trick. Bravo, Adam, and thank you!!

  • Melissa

    Ok…I made these last night and I agree!! THESE ARE THE BEST BROWNIES I’ve ever had! And, I’m a picky brownie girl. ;) I did add a 1/2 a table spoon of decaf instant coffee crystals to the melting butter mixture. AMAZING!!! Oh, and I added chocolate chips (but I add those to other brownie recipes and they have never turned out like this before!!!)

  • Cheryl

    My grandaughter asked me to make brownies. I had never made them before so i looked up many recipes and yours looked to be the simplest.
    I skipped the nuts and added choc bits as my son in law in allergic to all nuts.
    My grandaughter said they were the best brownies she has ever had. It is now my job to keep up the supply.
    Many thanks

  • stephawnicus

    ok i have no idea what went wrong i followed your recipe word for word and the brownies just like separated into liquid and mush is there a certain reason for this?