Contrary to what I may have led you to believe in these pages, I’m really not much of a baker. I don’t follow directions well, and I don’t usually have enough of a sweet tooth to tip the scales from: “Hmmm, I could go for something sugary…meh, too much work,” to: “ME WANT COOKIE NOWNOWNOW!”
Every now and then, though, the urge undeniably—and unpredictably—strikes. Because I don’t plan for these eventualities, my baking cupboard isn’t the most well-stocked; treats that can be made from pantry staples and pantry staples only are my bread and butter. Back in February, I read The Wednesday Chef‘s rave review of this recipe for cocoa brownies, made a mental note to give it a try, and, as usual, backburnered the idea until last week, when I made them twice in five days.
The ingredient list is short and sweet, so quality is important (I used good eggs and Valrhona cocoa), but the results are worth it—this is a decadently rich and fudgy brownie, a chocoholic’s dream. They were easy as anything to throw together, too: I ignored the second step of the instructions, stirring butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a small saucepan instead of in a double-boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a skillet of simmering water, then baked them a little bit longer than required for a more-solid-than-gooey center.
Even with my meddling, these brownies were the best I’ve ever made, hands down. If you’re still reading this and not on your way to the stove, I’m not quite sure what you’re waiting for. Get moving, people!
Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies
10 tablespoons (141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (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) all-purpose flour
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. (Deb suggests putting the cooled pan in the fridge or freezer for a while, which helps if you want clean lines when cutting the brownies.)
5. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.