The Best Cocoa Brownies

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.]

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.)

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