Best Ever Chocolate Brownies
When my daughter, Grace, was two years old, she and her brother would race up the stairs of our old house in New Orleans. Teddy, having two years on Grace, usually won by a margin of five steps, but upon reaching the top, no matter how long it had been since Teddy had crossed the same threshold, or how hard it had been for Grace to climb the stairs, she would confidently declare “Me Win!” I certainly can’t fault her for her competitive nature — it is in her genetic make-up. I have been described as competitive once or twice, and her dad is no slouch either having once played collegiate rugby for a full game after breaking his jaw in the first 15 minutes.
My competitive nature really took hold when I moved to London and I took up Krav Maga. Within a few months, I was training six times a week and traveling all over London for classes. I even booked a course for “simulated real life training” in Poland with some hard-core-seriously-scary Krav Maga masters. Unsurprisingly, and perhaps saving my life, overtraining lead to me damaging my back, and I had to call in sick for the train attack adventures our Polish instructors had in store for us.
So, it is really no surprise that I approached the making of brownies with no less enthusiasm than Krav Maga. Or Grace climbing the stairs. I wanted the perfect brownie recipe. Gooey, but not runny. Only cakey enough to hold their shape. Shiny and crispy on top. In other words: Perfect.
I knew such a thing was out there because seven years ago, shortly after Nick and I started dating, I had an intense brownie craving at his flat. I couldn’t shake it, and there was nowhere in London to get warm chewy brownies. I went to the grocery store while he went in search of a brownie pan. Turns out I incorrectly calculated the likelihood of a bachelor in London owning an 8x8x2 pan. Points off already. I returned first, and quickly went to work so that he would think I was an absolute wiz in the kitchen. Halfway through, I realized I had no way of measuring the flour and had no idea what bicarbonate of soda was. I called Martine in a panic! I remember talking to her on my Blackberry (nostalgic, right?), and sort of cracking up and sort of freaking out that I was going to blow my opportunity to win what was surely my soulmate’s heart by serving bad brownies.
Seconds before Nick returned, I corrected whatever major screw-up was ruining my life, scrubbed the kitchen down erasing all trace of my Lucille Ball moment and, about 30 minutes later, pulled an unbelievably delicious batch of brownies out of the oven with absolutely ZERO way of ever recreating the recipe.
That, my friends, was the beginning of a SEVEN year quest to not only make but record a perfect brownie recipe. I’ve tried just about every combination you can imagine: Cocoa powder, no cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, black chocolate, baking powder, baking soda, white sugar, brown sugar, thin, thick, cakey, gooey … I played with every combination you can dream of. Finally, about a month ago, I nailed it. I have recreated them several times in the past month (including this day) to make EXTRA sure I got it right. Today … I share that recipe with you! This isn’t just a brownie recipe, no, this is a Brownie Opus! This is the cumulation of experience at altitudes, countries, ingredients, oven temperatures and very, very, very tasty screw ups.
This is honestly easier than making brownies from a box. It takes, literally, five minutes to prepare and about that long to eat. Save this. Claim it as your own. Pass it down generations. And you too can confidently declare, “ME WIN!”
- 3 ounces / 85 grams bittersweet chocolate pieces
- 12 tablespoons / 170 grams of unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1.5 cups / 300 grams of granulated sugar (don't use brown sugar)
- 3 eggs
- 1.5 teaspoons / 7.5ml vanilla extract
- 1/3 teaspoon / 1.5 ml salt
- 1/3 cup cocoa (I use the best cocoa I can get my hands on, and for regular grocery store brands Hershey's Special Dark is really nice)
- 1/2 cup / 65 grams cup all-purpose flour
- 1 scant cup / 90 grams walnuts, chopped and toasted
- Preheat oven to 325°F / 165°C.
- Grease the inside of a heavy 8x8x2 pan. This is a great one.
- Put chocolate and butter in a medium to large microwaveable bowl and microwave for 30 seconds until chocolate and butter are both melted. If they are not fully melted, try again for 10 seconds at a time. Stir and set aside to cool slightly.
- Combine the flour and cocoa in a small bowl.
- Add sugar to the bowl containing butter and chocolate and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking until fully blended after each addition. Add vanilla and salt.
- Add flour mixture and whisk until fully blended.
- Stir in walnuts.
- Pour mixture into prepared brownie pan.
- Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and do your best to let them cool before you dive into them.
- When I remember, I line baking pans with parchment paper for making bars of any kind. It makes it easy to remove them and cut them into serving sized pieces. To do this, cut your parchment into two pieces and crisscross them in the pan. Then grease the parchment paper using a baking spray like Bakers Joy.