We all think our brownie recipe is the best ever, don't we? So if I tell you these brownies are the best! ever! you may believe me, or you may not, and that's cool. There's lots of room in the brownie-verse to handle such claims, and how fun is it exploring this chocolaty territory? I can think of worse things to do on a Friday night. It was either make brownies or brush the cats and the poor things are still bitter about their inadequate grooming. C'est la vie! Mama needs her brownies.
What I love about this recipe is that it's incredibly simple (one pot!) and deadly delicious. Life is complicated enough, we don't need to worry if we have the right chocolate to melt down to get our brownie fix. Go ahead and open your cupboard door and take a peek inside. I bet you have all the ingredients at the ready. Cocoa, white sugar, salt, vanilla, flour. Now go look in your fridge and I know you have eggs and butter. And soon you can have brownies!
The recipe is not unlike the one I grew up making - the one on the side of the Fry's Cocoa tin - minus the baking powder. Deep, dark, dense with the right about of fudge factor and full on chocolate richness, they have that lightly crackled surface that gives way to the glory beneath it. It's impossible not to eat one, still warm and slightly gooey. Good.
Food 52 is to blame for making me eat too many in one seating. They posted Alice Medrich's recipe, with great aplomb, as did Deb and Lori and I figured it was my food blogger duty to investigate further. The cool thing here is that the brownies come together so quickly and we can control the amount fat, sugar and chocolate we want. Any cocoa will work, but natural (not Dutch process) will yield a richer chocolate flavour. So what are we waiting for, let's go!
The original recipe said to use a heat proof bowl set over pot of simmering water. I'm not a fan of double boilers, so I just melted the butter first in a medium pot then stirred in the cocoa and sugar, kept it on low and stirred until it was all one cohesive unit, and too hot to touch comfortably. It will look gritty and freaky, but that's normal.
Crack in a couple of eggs and beat it with your wooden spoon, until shiny and glossy and thick. Stir in the flour and beat it 40 times, again with your wooden spoon. I secretly love it when I can give my KitchenAid a break and bake like my grandma did 50 years ago. Plus with all this vigorous stirring I figure I'm using up a few caloric units.
Cocoa Brownies with Fleur de Sel
Like I said, I'm obsessed with the chocolate/salt flavour combo, but these brownies would be just as excellent if you skipped the salty topping.
10 tbsp (1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp) butter (I used salted)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup nuts, optional
Fleur de sel or any flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 325*F and position rack to the lower third of oven. Line the bottom and sides of a 8 inch square pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
In a medium pot, add the butter and melt it over medium low heat. Once melted, stir in the sugar and cocoa. Stir until completely smooth, though it will look gritty and that's normal. You want the mixture to be hot, so it's uncomfortable if you touch it will your finger. Set it aside until the mixture is warm, not hot.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and beat vigorously until batter is thick and shiny and glossy and well blended. Add the flour and stir just until you can't see it. Now beat it vigorously for 40 strokes with your wooden spoon. Stir in nuts, if using then spread into prepared pan.
Bake until toothpick inserted in centre comes out slightly moist, about 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with salt. Let cool completely on rack. Lift out brownies, using the overhang and cut into about 16 squares. Recipe adapted from Alice Medrich and Food 52