Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

The Best Cocoa Brownies

5340889457 7b2b4c1775 z The Best Cocoa Brownies

You’re either thinking that I am out of my mind when it comes to paying attention to the fat content on my recipes, or you’re thinking that I am really mean for posting recipes that are not helping you stick to your diet. I know, I know- I’ve gotten probably 15 emails about this “issue” over the past week, and let me tell you- just continue to read. I promise, you’ll feel better about this entire thing.

5340893909 b16a029fe4 z The Best Cocoa Brownies

This cocoa brownie recipe has been bouncing around the internet for a while. It’s been adapted in various ways, and lord knows that there’s probably no point of adapting a recipe that doesn’t need much of any fixing. But you know what? I took a challenge. I fixed the recipe, and I’m pretty sure (well, I can only hope) that Heidi would give me a pat on the back for my efforts to make this recipe a bit more healthier. I also think that you’d thank me for making this recipe healthier (if you’re turned off by healthy brownies- just keep reading). I told you that you’d start feeling better about this recipe. Now, give me a hug you- you- work out machine!

I must add that these brownies are no way near health food, but compared to the original recipe- they probably are, but I am no dietician. If you’re looking for a Weight Watchers or a South Beach Diet recipe, you are on the wrong site. I don’t know how many points these are considered to be, and we both know that regardless of how small I insist that you to cut these brownies and how much you’re trying to “eat in moderation;” you’d probably eat the entire pan within two hours of it coming out of the oven while watching re-runs of your favorite television show, Bones. Wait. I was describing myself. Moving on . . .

5341502894 19dea39467 b The Best Cocoa Brownies

So, you’re either still reading, or you’re turned-off by the fact that I’ve made these brownies healthier. By no means do they lack in taste. When you bite into one of these brownies, you will immediately note the almost fudge-like consistency that falls between a cake brownie and a fudge brownie, you will also note how the brownie slowly melts in your mouth, allowing your taste buds to pick up on the luxurious fruity notes of the cocoa. From the texture to the taste- these cocoa brownies are a must make. And have I told you how easy they are to make?

Betty Crocker Brownies (blech!)- step aside. A new sheriff is in town, and his name is The Easiest (and Best!) Darn Cocoa Brownies You’ll Ever Make. I am not kidding. Give it a try and tell me what you think.

Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet via Epicurious
Makes 16-32 brownies

When making these brownies, I tried several different combinations of flour. In the end, I felt that using whole wheat pastry flour gave a texture and flavor to the brownies that couldn’t be beaten. In addition to the flour used, the quality of the cocoa powder used when make this recipe makes a big difference. If you can shell out a few extra dollars on good quality cocoa powder, definitely go ahead and do so. For the pictured recipe, I used Valrhona cocoa powder, but I have tested the recipe with Dagoba cocoa powder, Hershey’s brand cocoa powder, and Sharffen Berger- all with wonderful results.

The same thing goes for the vanilla extract. Although it seems like such a miniscule amount used in the recipe, trust me- the better the vanilla extract- the better the brownies will taste. I prefer to use Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract for all of my baking. Nielsen-Massey is a bit on the expensive side, and lord knows that I am crazy for spending money I don’t have (struggling college student here!) on vanilla extract, but trust me when I say this- it’s the best brand out there [I say this because a) they are the best; and b) I hold onto every last drop of N-M vanilla extract with my life. I kid you not.]

[UPDATE: Nielsen-Massey Vanilla extract can be purchased on Amazon: 2 oz // 4 oz ]

Ingredients:

10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks or 137 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 10 slices
1 ¼ cups natural cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or dutch-process)
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
½ cup (65 grams) whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
⅔ cup toasted walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Preparation:

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line the bottom and sides of an 8X8-inch baking pan with parchment paper (can use foil), leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Place the butter in a large heatproof bowl. Place the bowl of butter in the microwave until melted (about 1 minute). Once the butter is melted, add the sugar, cocoa, and salt. Mix with a wooden spoon or heat-proof rubber spatula. [Kamran Note: The mixture should be warm, if it is not, set it aside for a few minutes]The mixture will appear to be gritty; it’ll smooth out once the other ingredients are added; promise.

[Note: If you don’t have a microwave at home, or prefer to use the stovetop, use a large heavy-bottom sauce pan, melt the butter, add in the sugar, cocoa, and salt; the mixture might be hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test, if so, set the mixture aside until warm (about 5 minutes max).]

Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended (and smooth!), add in the flour all at once. Stir the mixture until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes (yes, count forty strokes!) with the wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using any. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged In the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 30 minutes. (Note The original recipe states 20 to 25 minutes, but it took much longer for the brownies to set; it took mine thirty minutes). Let pan cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 or 32 squares. (Kamran Note: I managed to get 32 out of mine, just because these are great for a small snack to share with friends, professors, and family; but 25 is a good number, too. Cutting them into 32 pieces also let’s you keep a stash in the freezer for when you have chocolate cravings. Frozen brownies are delicious.)

Font Size: a A | print recipe Print Recipe | 56 Comments

56 COMMENTS

  • Tessa
    January 11th, 2011
    1

    Hannah made these and posted, then I made them and posted, and now you have! All we need is Elissa to make them and Lauren to create a gluten-free version! I reduced the butter the second time I made these because, well, that’s a hell of a lot of butter. And they were a tad greasy for me.

    kamran replied:

    Tessa- Here, Here! These weren’t greasy at all for me. With APF, they may have been just a tad bit (thank God for recipe testing). But with the Whole Wheat Pastry flour and the natural cane sugar, this version wasn’t greasy at all!

  • Christine
    January 11th, 2011
    2

    What’s the difference the cold eggs make? Compare to room-temp eggs? Thanks!

    Sometimes it’s worth to pay extra for better quality ingredients. Long time ago I bought cheap vanilla extract, tasted too “fake” and a bit bitter, almost medicinal. Never again.

    kamran replied:

    Christine- I am no chemist or professional baker, but I’ve been pondering this question, and I think I have an answer… But I am probably wrong. So, why cold eggs? When baking we normally see that using room-temperature eggs is necessary, but with some recipes, like this- cold eggs are somewhat a must. Or a want, if you will. Cold eggs, for one will: make the volume of the batter less voluminous, also preventing the batter from doming at the top (now, would you want domy-brownies? I wouldn’t! ‘cause sometimes that means less moist brownies). Additionally, when using room temperature eggs, protein strands in the egg white would essentially stretch out in the batter creating air pockets in them. Something, you definitely don’t want in these brownies. Isn’t it amazing how one ingredient can change the entire chemistry and outcome of the brownies? Sure, you can use a room temperature egg; but when you cut into those brownies- look at the bottom of ‘em. Do you see little air bubbles or is everything nice and flat? You want the nice and flat for this recipe (almost a fudgy-looking bottom with no air-pockets) because that means your brownies are nice and moist and basically lack a crumb structure. Also- another factor that comes into play is the shine of the top (in the recipe pictured above, the cold eggs sat out a little longer than I wanted them to, which resulted in what I described to you). When I made these without leaving the eggs out to take photos (my second test with using the whole wheat pastry flour and the natural cane sugar), the tops of the brownies were quite shiny and lovely. And the bottom was absolutely as flat as can be. It’s just a chemistry thing… The plus side of it all is- you are saving a whole bunch of time- no waiting for eggs to come to room temp. ;)

  • Tweets that mention The Best Cocoa Brownies | the sophisticated gourmet -- Topsy.com
    January 11th, 2011
    3

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Apollonia G. Hall, kamrantsg. kamrantsg said: New post! The Best Cocoa Brownies – http://tinyurl.com/46fvjnu […]

  • Karen at Globetrotter Diaries
    January 11th, 2011
    4

    Stick and a half of butter (that’s alright by me) and no not turned off at all– drooling!

  • fanny
    January 11th, 2011
    5

    beautiful Kamran. but most importantly (well for us bones addict) when is the series coming back in the US. I’ve been dying from the wait an high expectations?
    hope you sort of relate and don’t think I’m crazy. xx

    kamran replied:

    Fanny- I wish I knew, I’ve watched every bones Episode three times since they disappeared. I sure hope they come back with a bang! P.S. You’re not crazy at all; the show rocks!

  • Jessica @ How Sweet
    January 11th, 2011
    6

    I’m been anxious to try these brownies too. I’m all about the butter.

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food
    January 11th, 2011
    7

    I have used a few brownie recipes recently that have really blown my mind… this is one of them. I love the whole wheat flour in here… must have a wonderful texture.

    Great post!

    kamran replied:

    Thanks Brian! the whole wheat pastry flour along with the natural cane sugar give a texture to the brownies that is similar to the texture that all-purpose flour would give, but the texture is more pronounced in this version, I think.

  • Heather (Heather's Dish)
    January 11th, 2011
    8

    i actually love cocoa brownies more than the kind made with chocolate…they’re so chewy and fudgy and delicious!

  • Sally
    January 11th, 2011
    9

    Wholewheat flour in brownies is an excellent idea. I really like your aerial picture with the forks and greaseproof paper. A quirky angle.

  • Helene
    January 11th, 2011
    10

    I want to make your brownies. We love to try different recipes. Where do you buy your Neilsen-Massey Vanilla Extract? I can’t find it here. Waiting to hear from you and Happy New Year!

    kamran replied:

    Hélène- I sometimes buy mine online from Amazon, but sometimes I go to Williams-Sonoma or a few other places to buy it (whichever has a better price for it, right?). I checked on Amazon.ca for you and you can buy it from there for as little as CND$5.75 (which is a lot to spend on vanilla, but it’s sooo worth it!) I hope that helps! Happy New Year! :)

  • Kelly
    January 11th, 2011
    11

    I think brownies can absolutely be a part of healthier eating. I think the first mistake that people make when they vow to be healthier is to try to be perfect, and for most people that’s simply NOT sustainable longterm. I think there is always room for sweet treats, just in moderation. It also makes sure I make mine count so I go for the good things, not the crap.

  • Viviane Bauquet Farre
    January 11th, 2011
    12

    These look fantastic Kamran… And there’s nothing wrong with whole wheat flour! I love that there’s not too sweet either. They make the best after dinner treat on a cold night.

    kamran replied:

    Viviane- I actually love whole wheat pastry flour. I’ve been experimenting a lot with it, and I love it for baked goods. For pie dough? I’m still working on it…

  • Josh Tuck
    January 11th, 2011
    13

    I can not wait to try these out on the family at our next get together. We’ve been taking the uninspired box variety for far too long.

  • The Cilantropist
    January 11th, 2011
    14

    These fudgy brownies look like exactly what I love. I happen to have some whole wheat pastry flour at home right now… I might be trying out this recipe tonight! It has crossed my mind to make a ‘healthy’ brownie recipe but I was thinking more of going with that black-bean version I have seen floating around the internet. have you ever tried that one? thoughts?

    kamran replied:

    Amanda- these are what I like to call “guilty pleasure brownies” in my mind the whole wheat pastry flour and the natural can sugar make up for the fact that there’s a whopping 10 tablespoons of butter in it. “Ten tablespoons?! Oh, remember all of those natural ingredients? They’re healthy… eat the entire pan!” I haven’t heard / seen any black-bean brownies floating around; care to share a link with me?

  • The Cilantropist
    January 11th, 2011
    15

    Kamran-I saw the black bean brownies first years ago on 101 Cookbooks and I know I have seen other recipes since then but this is the one I have been hankering to try. I would definitely do the honey for agave substitution in her recipe, bc I feel most folks dont make it a habit to keep agave around the house. Her recipe still has a whole cup of butter in it… but eh, I don’t care too much about that, do you? :)

  • shannalee
    January 11th, 2011
    16

    I honestly don’t think it would be possible to make brownies look better than you have here.

    kamran replied:

    I was actually convincing myself to make these again just to re-shoot the photos again. Ha! I am just going to move on and share another recipe ;)

  • Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction
    January 11th, 2011
    17

    Yum… I do love brownies. Will have to give these a try if you think they are the best! I trust your judgment!

  • Hannah
    January 11th, 2011
    18

    Yeah! I made these and posted them a while ago. They are my go to brownie now. I made them last night!

    kamran replied:

    Hannah- these are brownies that require very little stress and time in the kitchen; although delish and something that I go to when they’re frozen, can you believe that they’re not my go-to one’s?? I’ll have to post those soon!

  • Matt Nielsen
    January 11th, 2011
    19

    I just wanted to say thank you for mentioning your love for Nielsen-Massey’s pure vanillas. We appreciate your support and enthusiasm! I do have to say while we are thought to be expensive, when compared ounce to ounce with lower quality supermarket brands, I think you will find us very cost effective and a much higher quality. Keep up the good work! Love the stories and point of view.

    Best Regards,
    Matt Nielsen
    Nielsen-Massey Vanillas

  • Nellie [faux pasta]
    January 11th, 2011
    20

    How cool, Nielsen-Massey responded! I bought a fellow blog friend the vanilla bean paste as a Secret Santa gift, and it was very well received. I have to say that I love the Penzey’s Double-Strength Vanilla Extract, though. Dreamy.

    I made Smitten’s cocoa brownies a while back, but tragically over-baked them. In case anybody’s wondering, they’re edible at that stage, but not particularly worth it.

    kamran replied:

    I’ve never used Penzey’s Vanilla extract, and now, it’s on my “To-Try” List. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Elissa
    January 11th, 2011
    21

    You’re in my head! I had the strongest craving yesterday for brownies but I didn’t have enough chocolate. I was too lazy to drive to the store so I just tried to ignore it. It hasn’t gone away. I think I might seriously need to try these tonight.

  • Zo @ Two Spoons
    January 12th, 2011
    22

    I tried this a while ago and it does indeed start out gritty. Wish I had your lovely photos to go by because I panicked hard core when I saw the almost dough-like consistency. Personally I still prefer Julia Child or Dorie’s chocolate-based brownies but for cocoa brownies (that are meant to be fudgy) these aren’t half bad. If you’re looking for cheap but genuine vanilla extract, just place a split vanilla bean in 50ml of vodka in a small bottle (you can re-use old ones) for at least 2 months. I rotate two bottles so that I am never without. Shaking helps but you only need to do it when you remember. If you want “double strength” just use 2 vanilla beans. They can be reused too, but will obviously get less potent. You also get the pretty seeds coming out too.

    kamran replied:

    Zo- thanks so much for the compliment and for sharing your thoughts! I totally agree with you chocolate brownies are absolutely amazing, but for something 1-2-3 and something that you can munch on with some double vanilla ice cream, these are something that everyone should start off with if they are trying to get off the horrid tasting boxed-variety. Wouldn’t you agree?

  • Lauren
    January 12th, 2011
    23

    Okay. I need to make these. Then, if Elissa is making them, we’ll have fulfilled Tessa’s comment ;).

  • Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes)
    January 16th, 2011
    24

    I’ve seen these around a lot!! They look gorgeous, so fudgey :) Bookmarked :)

  • Damaris
    January 18th, 2011
    25

    Those brownies look good. I’ve only recently been converted to brownies made from scratch.

  • Patricia Scarpin
    January 22nd, 2011
    26

    These are wonderful – I have made this recipe and they were such a hit I could only photograph them the fourth time or so (they always vanished before I could even grab the camera). :D

    I looooove your photos!

  • Shaheen
    January 30th, 2011
    27

    Awesome awesome brownies!! I made them yesterday and they have disappeared =) They are a HUGE hit in my house! Eating them cold is the best! I def. agree about Nielsen-Massey Vanilla..I use their bean paste =) Btw, you have a great blog!

  • cindy
    February 4th, 2011
    28

    this is one of my favorite brownie recipes, good call on subbing in whole wheat pastry flour. looks fantastic!

  • pickyin @ LifeIsGreat
    February 7th, 2011
    29

    I first made these brownies after seeing them at Smitten Kitchen’s. There are definitely the best and the only ones I make now (double batch every time!). Whole wheat pastry flour is interesting, might just try it out when I can find it.

    By the way, I love what you, Hannah and the rest are doing with the new collaboration, keep up the good work!

    kamran replied:

    Hi there! I get my whole wheat pastry flour at whole foods, if that helps!

    Also- thank you so much for your kind words; we really appreciate it! :)

  • pickyin @ LifeIsGreat
    February 7th, 2011
    30

    You’re welcome! Actually I live in Singapore, I’ve seen whole wheat flour of course but whole wheat pastry flour may require some more lurking around. I know WF practically has everything.

  • Grace
    February 8th, 2011
    31

    Really enjoy your website! Here’s another vanilla to try–while I love Nielsen-Massey and have used it for years, there was a baker a year or so ago on Martha Stewart who turned us on to Blue Cattle Truck Mexican Vanilla: http://www.mexicanvanilla.com/

    I didn’t think I’d ever find another that rises to the level of NM, but I have to say I prefer this now. Hope you get a chance to try it out.

  • B
    February 10th, 2011
    32

    This looks amazing, can’t wait to try it. Also, your blog is beautifully designed and your photographs are killer! LOVE THIS! Thank you for sharing.

  • Julie
    February 19th, 2011
    33

    Love the brownies. Love the photos! thanks for the inspiration!!

  • Lea
    March 4th, 2011
    34

    Oh my good – these look so delicious! Very dark…
    Unfortunately, in Switzerland, there is no Dutch Processed Cocoa… But, of course, black 70% + chocolate something absolutely normal here :)

    Your brownies look amazing! It’s quite interesting how everyone, and every country or region, has its favourite kind of brownies.

    The best brownies I have ever eaten, and even for lots of people that ate american brownies, just for everyone here, are baking mix country from “Migros”, haha.
    Soon, I will try a recipe for brownies, hoping they will taste like them :)

  • Sabine
    March 7th, 2011
    35

    How do you manage taking a picture with both hands in the frame? Or do you have someone else take those pictures for you?
    The brownies look really good by the way, I love how dark they are!

    kamran replied:

    I get that question a lot. I use a tripod and the timer on my camera.

  • Cocoa Brownies with chocolate chunks |
    March 18th, 2011
    36

    […] added black cocoa powder to make Midnight Cocoa Brownies, The Sophisticated Gourmet made a slightly healthier version by using whole wheat flour and sugar cane juice, and Honey & Jam‘s was the one that I […]

  • Fragolina
    March 28th, 2011
    37

    I did those brownies last weekend, they were sooo delicious….. thank you for the recipe.

    kamran replied:

    My pleasure!

  • Amazing Chocolate Brownies, Gluten-Free | the sophisticated gourmet
    June 6th, 2011
    38

    […] me to try a new one. Brownies are no exception to this rule, even if I have shared a small handful (this, this, and this) of brownie recipes with you in the past. Up until mid-April, it was nearly […]

  • it’s nerd-tastic «
    June 22nd, 2011
    39

    […] brownies are legendary. They’ve been around the web for a while now – it seems as though every man and his dog has made and written about them. For good […]

  • Yvonne
    July 15th, 2011
    40

    Beautiful photos! Beautiful cocoa brownies! I’m going to try to make these today but have a quick question…I don’t have natural cane sugar at home (& too lazy to go out today). Can turbinado sugar be substituted? Or should I just stick with granulated sugar?

    kamran replied:

    Hi Yvonne- I’d just stick to plain ‘ol granulated sugar.

  • Tasha
    March 11th, 2012
    41

    Make your own vanilla extract. All you need is vodka and a good vanilla bean. Split the vanilla bean and soak it in the vodka for a couple of weeks in the back of the pantry. You can strain out the seeds or think of them as a bonus.

leave a comment

Subscribe by: EMAIL or RSS Feed