Sunday, February 9, 2014

Best Cocoa Brownies

This brownie recipe has been floating around for many years, and has been on my 'to make' list for far too long.  With all the snow days we've had on the calender lately, I've been able to spend more time in the kitchen and finally we have them.  If you are in need of instant gratification, without a lot of fuss and fancy ingredients, most of which you probably have in the pantry, this is going to make your day.
The creator of this recipe, Alice Medrich, author of eight cook books and one of the country's foremost experts on chocolate and chocolate desserts urges the use of everyday natural unsweetened cocoa powder (the dark brown box in the back of the cupboard) for these brownies.  She believes it delivers a richer chocolate flavor than the often called for Dutch-process cocoa.  I believe Alice is on to something.
Best Cocoa Brownies
Makes 16 large or 25 small

10 Tb unsalted butter
1 1/4 C sugar
3/4 C plus 2 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder
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
1/2 C chocolate chips (optional) 
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8" square or similar size baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
This next part really sold me.  These brownies can be made on impulse, no need to let the butter soften or have the eggs come to room temperature as is typical with most baking.  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. 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 spoon.  Stir in the nuts and spread evenly in the lined pan.
Here is where I pulled out my artistic license and sprinkled 1/2 cup of chocolate chips over the batter. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 25 to 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and gently swirl the melted chocolate chips over the top.  Let cool completely on a rack.  Lift the ends of the parchment and transfer the brownies to a cutting board.  Cut into 16 or 25 squares.
These are really good.  Go ask Alice...I think she knows...chocolate.

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