Because Everyone Else Has...

I will too.

I’ve been on a search for a really long time. That search for the absolute ultimate brownie. For the one that transcends and stands apart from all other baked goods. It was a laborious search before I settled on one to make. I didn’t just want to pick any ‘ole brownie recipe of the existing millions at random. I knew what I was looking for but was scared of choosing the wrong option and ending up with an entire tray that did not meet my vision. Now granted, a brownie is a brownie no matter how you cut it (chocolate, butter, sugar…all good) yet it is amazing how many varieties do exist. And I had a mission in mind and nothing but one result was going to satisfy me.

I am a very anti-box mix sort of person. I don’t care if its the most expensive one on the shelf but box mix brownies are nothing more to me than a lackluster and poor excuse for dense chocolate cake. They are so deficient of chocolate flavor that the main taste component more so resembles the cardboard box it was packed in. A brownie should not a have a flaky and fluffy crumb to it. That’s what cake is for people. With brownies, I want something creamy, melting, and rich with just the right amount of leaven to make something with a little more springiness and tenderness than fudge. That happy medium between cake, cookies, and candy that stands all on its own.

I finally decided that I found a winner after seeing the recipe for Alice Medrich’s Cocoa Brownies on Smitten Kitchen’s blog. Just by the picture I know it was what I was looking for. They looked dense, rich, and intense, yet still carried a delicacy and lightness. I bookmarked this and later, after just a little more brownie recipe research, realized that everyone and their mother has made this recipe with the same results: they are the best brownies to ever exist. If I could take them and give them a name of my own it would without a doubt be something along the lines of black velvet. Smooth, but with a dark side. Creamy, but daringly bold. They are what I’ve been looking for such a long time.

And let me just say that they are easy easy easy. People go for box mixes to avoid struggle but I swear this is easier. It requires nothing more than a double boiler. Now, don’t let the fancy terminology scare you off; this is just a metal bowl sitting over simmering water. There is no need for a mixer, its only 6 ingredients (seven if you count the pinch of salt), and it dirties nothing more than a bowl and a wooden spoon that you get to lick clean anyway. Do I have your attention now? They get the deepest, most intense flavor from nothing but straight up Dutch-processed cocoa melted into a grainy tar-like paste with butter and sugar. It’s gets mixed with a few eggs, vanilla, and the tiniest smidge of flour and it magically transforms into literal liquid velvet. It bakes off, rising slightly with the subtle gluten network giving it some bounce but for the most part it stays compact, sealing the fudgy richness inside. And when you cut in, the deep black interior is revealed, dark with the secrets of its mind-blowing powers hidden within. You will blow people away with these. They will literally think you are a culinary genius and to be honest, this simple recipe makes for brownies that are far superior to anything I’ve EVER had in a restaurant. Just wait for it, that pinnacle moment when all of your guest reach in for these and before you know it, a crowd of people, lost in chocolate induced coma, are standing around your kitchen, a smile playing on their mouth and teeth as black as the night. It’s a sight to see.

Cocoa Brownies
Recipe originally from Alice Medrich
makes 16 or 25 brownies

These are great on their own but I always have a tendency to want to jazz thing up a little. The first time I made these I topped them with a simple ganache and candy cane pieces. That’s what is pictured above. I did overcook the first round a little because my oven at school is abnormally hot, but I made them a second time yesterday and cooked them to exactly they way they are supposed to be. This time I gave them a coating of soft amaretto ganache and a dusting of cocoa power. And since they were still a little gooey and soft, I kept them in the freezer for about an hour to firm them up, which made for really clean, perfectly squared slices.

10 Tbs. butter
1¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup plus 2 Tbs. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla
½ cup all-purpose flour

For the ganache
3 oz. dark chocolate
3 oz heavy cream
possible mix-ins (1 Tbs. amaretto or other liqueur of choice or 3 chopped candy canes or anything else that suits your fancy)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 8X8 inch brownie pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over the edge and lightly coat it with oil. Set aside. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a metal or glass bowl. Place the over a saucepan filled with about one inch of water (the bowl should not touch the water) set over medium heat so that it is simmering. Stir the mixture occasionally with a rubber spatula until it starts to melt and then stir constantly until all of the butter is melted and the mixture is just warm to touch. Remove from the double boiler and set the bowl aside to cool for a minute.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat each one into the mixture with a wooden spoon. Once fully incorporated, the mixture should go from a grainy paste into a very smooth batter. Mix in the vanilla and then add the flour and fold in until just incorporated. Finally, using the wooden spoon, give the mixture 40 vigorous stirs. Pour into the prepared pan and cook for about 25 minutes until the top is set and springy. A toothpick will not come out clean but don’t worry, they are done. Pop into the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour to firm up.

Once the brownies have been in the freezer for the hour you can eat them as they are or top them with the ganache. To make the ganache, finely chop the chocolate and place it in a metal of glass bowl. Heat the cream in the microwave until just boiling. Pour it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Then stir it until it is smooth and glossy. You and incorporate any mix-ins or flavorings at this point. Pour it over the brownies and place back into the freezer for about 30 minutes to set. Once the ganache is firm, remove the brownies from the pan by pulling up on the parchment. Cut with a sharp knife into however many pieces you desire and dust with cocoa powder.