Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Real Simple: Cocoa Brownies with Fleur de Sel

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. 

Pour batter into your prepared pan, bake for about 20-25 minutes - the key is to still remove them from the oven even when there is still some batter clinging to the toothpick.  This will ensure that soft centre; the part that gets us every time and why we keep trying new brownie recipes that claim to be the best! ever!  But these are.  For real.  I get fancy pants about the fleur de sel (any large flake sea salt will do), which I sprinkled on as soon as they came out of the oven.  Currently there is a chocolate & salt fixation happening in the household - that Lindt Sea Salt and Dark Chocolate Bar - anyone?  You know what I'm talking about.  So imagine that happening in brownie form.  Yes.  You're welcome. 

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


  1. I have all of the ingredients and I have having a craving for something sweet.

  2. Beautiful photos. I have tried this recipe and it is delicious. I think I have made every recipe known to man. I don't have a favourite. I love them all ;) And I love that Lindt Sea Salt chocolate bar. There is often one hiding in a drawer in my kitchen (hidden, so I don't have to share).

  3. Oh wow Renee! I haven't met a brownie I haven't liked. Can't wait to try these. And your photos are amazing :)

  4. I have always loved brownies, in fact I would choose a good brownie over any fancy layer cake in an instant. This is a keeper. Thank you!

  5. Um, yes yes YES to these brownies! One can never have enough brownie recipes to try.

  6. Val - that's great! Enjoy!
    Jennifer - Thank you! Nice to see I'm not the only one hiding chocolate around the house.
    Kate - thanks! Me neither :)
    Donna - Too right!
    Jess - Agreed!

  7. Oh yum, your brownies look seriously delicious!

  8. These look fantastic! There's nothing like a good brownie! Love your photos too.

  9. My mouth is literally watering! I am now sure I know the answer to the life-long question, "salty or sweet?" Now I know it is "Both!" Of course:)

  10. salted brownies sound wonderful!

  11. Love that Lindt bar- currently, there are two in my desk drawer for chocolate and sea salt emergencies. I contemplated making these brownies when I saw Deb's post but never got around to it. Now that you've further confirmed their deliciousness, I'm regretting being such a slacker.

  12. Rosie and Agi - thank you so much!
    Katie - I'm on the "both" page as well :)
    Dina - they do, don't they?
    Shelley - I visited a chocolate shop in Toronto and took home a dark chocolate bar with Maldon salt - can't wait to crack it open.


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