Best Cocoa Brownies

I almost don’t want to post this recipe here. I’ve gotten so many rave reviews of these brownies over the years that I feel like I shouldn’t tell anyone how outrageously simple they are to make. That in fact all this time you’ve all been one bowl, seven ingredients, and about twenty-five minutes baking time away from a trayful of them. Or maybe I just feel guilty that I didn’t tell you all sooner.

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But here it is. In all its insanely easy glory. According to epicurious, these are so ridiculously tasty because all the fat is pure butter and all the sugar is straight up granulated sugar. Whereas your standard brownie recipe uses chocolate, which brings cocoa butter and sugar of its own into the mix and makes everything a little less perfect. It sounds like it could be true…but I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. Or a professional baker. I just make really good brownies.

Best Cocoa Brownies
(Adapted from Alice Medrich)

butter  eggshells
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10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Optional: 2/3 cup chopped walnuts (or any other nuts you want) or if you want them extra chocolatey, 2/3 cup chocolate chips instead.

Note: The above recipe is for an 8×8 tray of brownies. I don’t even own any baking pans that small, so I always double it for my 9×13 pans. I highly recommend it.

1. Put a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 Celsius). Line an 8×8 baking pan with baking parchment or foil, leaving a couple inches overhang on two opposite sides (to make lifting them out of the tray easier). I always butter the foil/parchment too, just in case, but I’ll admit it’s probably unnecessary.

2. Place the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt together in a large heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Double-boil until the butter is fully melted and mixture is still smooth, stirring from time to time. (Full disclosure: If you want to just melt the butter in the microwave, you can do that and mix it all together after. They will still be tasty.)

3. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and let cool for a couple minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating thoroughly after each. When the second egg is fully incorporated and the batter looks nice and shiny, add the flour and stir until just combined. Alice Medrich says you should then stir exactly 40 times with a wooden spoon. I say just make sure all the flour is mixed in and you’ll be fine.

4. Stir in any additions (nuts or chocolate) and transfer the batter into the prepared pan. It will be very thick and a little difficult to work with. Just spread it out as evenly as you can and don’t stress about it. Bake until a toothpick comes out almost clean, about 20-25 minutes. I find these take a minimum of 25 minutes, sometimes up to 35 or 40 if you’ve added chocolate chips or nuts. Just make sure you don’t overbake them! Gooey brownies are better than burnt brownies.

5. When brownies are completely cool (I refrigerate them for a bit too because I think they’re easier to cut cold), lift them out of the pan using the foil/baking parchment. Cut into desired size and enjoy.

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