My Favorite Brownies

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When I began to bake more seriously (more seriously=from scratch), I wanted to find a good brownie recipe, because brownies are possibly my favorite sweet thing.  Seriously, if I had to pick just one sweet to eat the rest of my life (and when is that scenario ever valid), it'd be the brownie.  Chocolatey, rich, and dense, brownies are what I usually crave.  When I started trying out different scratch recipes, my results were always good but never what I really wanted.  Maybe the chocolate flavor wasn't as intense as I'd like, or maybe they seemed a little dry or too cake like.  I was disappointed- I actually preferred boxed mixes to scratch.  Last year, however, my go steady recipe was posted on smittenkitchen.com.  Deb from SK posted this recipe and made the statement that people who prefer box mix brownies would love these, and that piqued my interest.  So, I made a batch, and I can't tell you how many times since I've made these.  I've made them and nearly eaten an entire pan by myself (oh, the shame!) and I've also made them for friends and get-togethers.  Intensely dark, fudgy, and rich, it's OK that this recipe only makes an 8x8 pan, because you really can't eat that much at one time. 

The only change I ever make to this recipe is to be lazy and to stick the ingredients into a pot directly rather than in a bowl set over a pot or pan of simmering water.  Think peanut butter-oatmeal-chocolate no bake cookie method.  The mixture remains grainy the whole time you do it that way, but I feel like the end result is just as good.  I also never put nuts in mine.  Also, while I usually advocate weighing baked good ingredients, here I just measure them.  They come out spectacular every time.

So, if you like brownies so fudgy you're wondering if there's any stuck to your teeth long after you've finished, try these.  If you think "those Ghirardelli brownies are good," try these.  If you want brownie fame, make these.  I think I hear my brownie pan calling. 

Best Cocoa Brownies
from smittenkitchen.com, adapted from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. 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. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added. [Note, many people who have tried this recipe have found that this step works just fine in the microwave.]

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.


  • Don't skip the parchment or aluminum foil thing.  It makes a huge difference in brownie removal and pan cleanup.
  • My thanks goes to my friend Dawna, who taught me this trick- to cut any brownies, use a plastic knife.  I can't tell you why it works, but it works like a charm every time.  The cuts are much cleaner than anything I have ever done with a metal knife.

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