16 May 2013

Cocoa Brownies

The official title of these brownies is, "Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies" and with a name like that, I wasn't sure what to expect. What classifies a brownie as being the best? Everyone likes it a little different I should imagine. I have previously baked up two brownie recipes on this blog so far, that I liked very much (black bean and cherry almond) but have never made an actual straight up brownie (on here). But here we go. Everything happens at the right time because, I can tell you that I am having a hard time doing anything right now except gushing about how good these are.

I didn't even put nuts in them as I'm inclined to do with almost everything. I wanted them pure and that they are. Their tops will rock your candy-coated dreams, for they form a nice, candy-like thin crisp crust atop while giving way to perfectly chewy centers. They are a more-than ideal afternoon treat.

What makes these brownies different from most other recipes out there is the use of cocoa powder rather than a baking bar (a whole 3/4 cup of it, so if you were wondering what to do with that powder in your cupboard besides sprinkle it on your chocolate bar brownies, rejoice. This uses quite a bit of it.) And that also means less flour, and less of an opportunity to over-mix.

The technique is all pretty nifty (while melting the butter, sugar and cocoa together in a heat-proof bowl in a wide skillet, not bothering with a double boiler and then with the 40 beats/strokes you'll find yourself wondering if you're partaking in an experiment of some sort but, just trust. With Medrich being the dessert expert that she is, I don't have to explain the science behind how this works. With Medrich, you don't ask, you just do. You're a follower.

Except with the baking time on these.

As several other people out there have noted, think about it. You're baking at 325 degrees in a 9-inch pan. In order to set these brownies you must count on baking them an extra ten minutes than the 20-25 called for. I took mine out at 35 bordering 37. I tested with a tester in the center a few times. And I was very glad I did that because, maybe I'm an anomaly here, but I do not like under-baked goods, even brownies. I like them baked as far as they can and should go. But if it's super goey you're after, by all means, stick to the 25. I just like a bit more structure.

Also, you must let these cool completely. You can even send them to the freezer for a bit before cutting. And then, you should cut them with a dinky plastic take-out knife. Because, that is what works. An elegant brownie demands some contrast to deter its knife-clinging nature. Lastly, I baked these off in a 9 inch round pan which worked out just fine being it's the same surface area,. It also meant I could have cut them in wedges. But in the end I opted for baby squares with some half moons on the side. And about that salt sprinkle, I don't think Medrich would mind : )

And on another note: did you ever notice how much iron is in cocoa powder...8% of your "daily need" in a Tablespoon? Well then this entire batch has almost 100% of your daily need of iron. Ahem, that was not a go-ahead to eat the whole pan. But you know what, these are so rich in their little squares you can learn to find pure satisfaction in one or 2. It also helps to keep most of them frozen.

About storage: they were equally delicious and chewy the next day after baking, having been stored at room temperature in a glass container, but I don't know about longer than that. The rest are cut into squares in the freezer, eagerly awaiting their departure.

(click here for a previous Medrich cookie recipe)

Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghiradelli)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (unsifted, measured by stirring briefly, spooning into the measuring cup until it's heaped above the rim, then leveling it with a straight-edged knife or spatula)
  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-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.(MN note: I used a 9 inch round)
  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.
  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. (More like 30-35) Let cool completely on a rack.
  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. (It helps to chill first)

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