First, a confession: I've only ever used a mix to make brownies. I was (note the use of past tense) under the impression that since they tasted so good, I was wasting my energy tracking down a from-scratch recipe. (And really, I had empirical evidence that it was true: my brownies sold out at my Amnesty International bake sale in grade 11. The homemade? Not so much).
But the cover of March's Bon Appetit screamed Best-Ever Brownies, and I had to admit, they looked pretty damn good. They advocate for using cocoa instead of chocolate in chocolate recipes - that the result is richer and more chocolaty. And even more controversial, they say that Dutch processed should take a pass - it's not nearly chocolaty enough.
I've made these brownies for the past three weekends for dinner parties, and I've now completely abandoned my boxed-brownie past. They're rich, moist and chewy with a good crackle top. You get an extra-rich flavour from browning the butter first.
And as far as prep time goes, it doesn't get any better: about 10 minutes all-in, and just one pot to clean up. (Even the pan is a cinch, since you bake these in a tinfoil-covered pan.) I cut back on the sugar a little, and dropped the walnuts. Because really, brownies shouldn't have walnuts.
My excuse to make them this weekend is that my friend Susan Juby is having a book launch for her first adult book, The Woefield Poultry Collective, next weekend. I've knit her a chicken, and now I've made her some brownies. I think that's a good celebration.
Given that it's a week away, I'm going to be freezing these - but according to one of my favourite bloggers, David Lebovitz, I'm only improving on the recipe. I'm looking forward to providing more empirical evidence.
Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter Recipe
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray.
Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1⁄4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into centre comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.