Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alice Medrich's 'Best Cocoa Brownies'

I swear, these really are the best cocoa brownies -- ever. They are by Alice Medrich, the Queen of Chocolate, after all. The inside is so buttery and fudgy, and the top has a delicate, flaky crust. And on top of that, they're easy to make. I made this most recent batch with toasted pecans -- which tastes amazing -- but they are fantastic without nuts, too. I've made them about 10 times now, and they've been great every time. The photo I took above does not do them justice.

And, by the way, you should check out Medrich's book, Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate. The recipes and photos are wonderful, there's a lot of great info in it about chocolate, and it's neat to read about her experiences as a dessert-maker. Chris gave me this book a few years ago...it's a great gift for someone who loves chocolate and baking.

Best Cocoa Brownies
From Bittersweet by Alice Medrich

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies
10 tblsp unsalted butter1
1/4 c sugar
3/4 c plus 2 tblspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2/3 c walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

8-in square baking pan

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set 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.

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. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let 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 squares.

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