Best Cocoa Brownies

May 21, 2008 | Chuck
Best Cocoa Brownies

I usually don't get too personal in my posts and just stick to the basics (good food, good photos, good recipe). For the most part, I don't think you are interested in what Hungry Bear and I do outside of our adventures in the kitchen. But, I'm making an exception with this post to fully explain why we made these decadent cocoa brownies.

I've mentioned our NYC friends, Jeff and Aimee, in the past. They organized our first cupcake tasting tour. I met Jeff in 1990 when I was a sophomore at Penn State. Despite getting off on the wrong foot (Jeff initially disliked me, imagine that?), we become very close and eventually lived together for a year and half.

I remember whipping up homemade hashbrowns with Jeff at 2:00 AM, when normal college kids would go get pizza. I was there when Jeff and Aimee started dating. They had to keep it a secret initially and it was funny how they snuck in kisses when no one else was looking. I was honored to be in their wedding party six years later. Now, they have a beautiful baby girl, Ava.

We only see each other once a year, twice if we're lucky. But, I have great memories of their visits to San Francisco and my visits to NYC, especially the meals. We've spent time on vacation together in France, Italy and Canada. Despite not living in the same city in over 15 years, we've remained extremely tight and they are still my closest friends.

Last week, Jeff and Aimee received a double dose of bad news. I was stunned and saddened. I've spent a lot of time talking on the phone with them trying to comfort them. I wish I lived in NYC because I feel so useless in San Francisco. Besides being there 24/7 whenever they needed to chat, the only other thing I could do was to make some comforting food for them.

Pouring Cocoa Brownie Batter

Cookies and brownies are probably the easiest things to ship cross country. So, we planned on making cream cheese brownies. One of the first things I ever baked was cream cheese chocolate cupcakes that I made for Aimee. I actually had to make two batches of the cupcakes, because my dog, a little cock-a-poo named Champagne, ate the first batch. Never let cupcakes cool on top of a coffee table when a hungry dog is prowling!

We planned on using Alice Medrich's classic chocolate brownie recipe, modifying it slightly and adding a cream cheese filling. Then we realized that shipping cream cheese baked goods at room temperature was probably not a good idea. Instead, we settled on making Medrich's best cocoa brownies.

We used Valrhona cocoa powder and the brownies turned out great. They weren't too sweet and they had a deep, bittersweet chocolate flavor. Our only issue was the brownies were on the thin side. We would have doubled the recipe had we known. Are they the best cocoa brownies as the name suggests? Well, they're pretty damn close, but we prefer the taste and texture of the chocolate bouchons a little more.

Anyway... Jeff, Aimee and Ava, when you receive the package, besides the original item I was sending, you'll find a little tin of brownies. I hope they are still good and fresh. And I hope you can find a little comfort in them. I love you guys!

Cocoa Brownies

Best Cocoa Brownies Recipe


SND Note: The recipe below is from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet cookbook. The ingredients and directions are the same except for step 2. The original direction was to add the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in the bowl all at once and to melt the butter and make a smooth mixture, which takes forever. We think it's easier to melt the butter first then add the remaining ingredients. The next time we make this recipe, we would double it to make thicker brownies.

Ingredients
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
    1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
  • Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan
Directions
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
  2. In a medium heatproof bowl, add the butter and set on top of a large sauce pan with barely simmering water. Melt the butter, then add sugar and salt, and stir until well combined. Next add the cocoa powder and stir until 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. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
  4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. 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.

Chocolate note: Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here. Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes, which maybe more exciting for you. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies

[Recipe via Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate by Alice Medrich]

[tags]cocoa, valrhona, brownies, chocolate, easy, bittersweet[/tags]

47 Comments on “Best Cocoa Brownies”

  1. Zoe said:

    These look fantastic! The perfect brownie texture as well, from your photos – a chewy chocolatey piece of your friendship. Hope everything works out from the best for your friends – positive thoughts from London.

  2. Allison said:

    Those brownies look delicious. I wish all the best for your friends and from experience, good chocolate brownies may not make things better, but it does make it a little bit easier to deal with. :(

  3. Joy said:

    I’m drooling and hankering like a helpless child here. Those look absolutely divine.

    Sending positive thoughts to your friends. You are all so lucky to have each other.

  4. Mandy said:

    Sending positive thoughts to Jeff, Aimee and Ava too. I made the same brownie and topped it with some green tea cream cheese sometime ago, it was tasty without being cloyingly sweet. I hope it will lift your friends’ spirit after a bit of your thoughtful gift.

  5. I know for sure these are the “best” cocoa brownies, because they were made with compassion for your friends. It’s fun to try new techniques, and master the photography and everything, but when it comes down to it the true joy in cooking comes in the enjoyment and comfort it can bring to others. I’m sure Jeff & Aimee will greatly appreciate your care package, not only for the amazing brownies but for the thoughts behind them.

  6. kickpleat said:

    wow. looks freaking awesome. me want.

  7. Lan said:

    looks scrumptuious!

    hope all is well for your friends. your thoughtful gift will make this time for them easier.

    i’ve decided to have a cookie tour here in baltimore when my bff comes to visit in July. your cupcake tour has inspired me. i start my diet in preparation of that tour … right now.

  8. diva said:

    o i do love a foodblog story now and again! that looks fab. alice medrich is a genius :) as always.

  9. dp said:

    the brownies look scrumptious and I’m not even a big chocolate fan. My son happened to see the pictures when I reading the post and now he won’t stop asking me to make brownies!

    BTW, I understand about the privacy. I’m sometimes hesitant as well, but I think a lot of people enjoy reading the stories behind the food.

  10. Hillary said:

    Those look so rich and gooey…just the way I like them. I think they look better than my Best Chocolate Brownies!

  11. vanessa said:

    this brownie-making method is the best. i use the recipe from the king arthur flour cookie companion that uses the same method, and it’s far superior to any of the melted chocolate recipes i’ve used.

    i’m sorry that your dear friends are having a hard time, and i can’t imagine that the brownies (or more likely the love behind them) wouldn’t help ease their pain a bit.

  12. Chuck said:

    Thanks everyone for your well-wishes for Jeff and Aimee. I really appreciate it and I know Jeff and Aimee do too!

  13. Beautiful brownies — I’m sure they will help to comfort your friends — and what a good friend you are for sending brownies!

  14. Carroll said:

    Very sorry for whatever distress your friends are experiencing at the moment. Having you (and your delicious-looking brownies!) in their life is very sure to warm their hearts and support their souls.

    My own experience from some difficult times past is that it really does make a difference to know that even complete strangers are streaming good thoughts in one’s direction — am sending them plenty from Cupertino!

    Incidentally, my husband and I met as Seniors at Penn State (long LONG ago!) Good memories and good friends from that time and place, for sure :-)

  15. Jeff and Aimee said:

    As you can probably guess by the drool coming from your mouth while gazing at the photos, the brownies were absolutley amazing and very much appreciated! Ava even had a second (and maybe a third) helping and she normally does not eat a whole lot of sweets (not by her choosing mind you :). We are really lucky to have friends like Chuck and Hungry Bear in this world and also thankful for all of the prayers and well wishes from SND’sters out there too – thank you!

  16. Chuck,

    I made these last night and they are absolutely amazing! My coworkers loved them and I guess I’m in a position now where they would do anything for me. :)

    I did not take photos, but I intend to make them again and post about them – would you be OK with that?

    Thank you for sharing such a great and easy recipe!

  17. Chuck said:

    Patricia, I’m glad you now have the power or “hand” over your co-workers! Please feel free to post about them. It’s Alice Medrich’s recipe. All we did was tweak a step slightly to make it easier to make.

  18. Oanh said:

    Hi!

    I have cooked this twice now, and each time the brownies have been excellent!

    Thank you!

  19. Great recipe. Made these last night and already they are gone!

  20. Those look so rich and fudgey!

  21. What size pan did you use? I can’t wait to make these Saturday afternoon. I love chocolate and I’m glad I found your blog.

  22. joylania said:

    Hi Chuck,

    I made these brownies twice. The first time round the batter was a little thick, but I baked them anyways, they did turn out rather dry. The second time round, I added about 3 tablespoons of water and they turned out fine. I’m not sure if you left out any ingredients in the recipe above because both times my batter turned out quite thick (and I had to add water the second time).

    Other than that, this is a great recipe!

  23. Lauren said:

    I made these tonight for a family member’s birthday and they were absolutely fantastic! I baked them for 22 minutes in an 8×11 pan and got 15 decently sized brownies. The batter was really thick and sticky but the brownies themselves turned out dense, chewy, and very moist.

    Thanks!

  24. ashley said:

    omg.these were THE best brownies ever.seriously.they turned out thick,moist ,and chewy.thanks

  25. Grace said:

    I couldn’t get them to set :( I’m not sure what I did wrong. It’s yummy “fudge,” but not really brownies

  26. Sofia said:

    I made these last night. They were basically amazing. I added two teaspoons of instant espresso powder, which I thought was a nice variation.

    Thanks for the great recipe. :)

  27. skampie said:

    I made a double batch in an 8×11 glass baking dish. My cooking time was 35 minutes. They’re cooling at the moment so I hope I took them out at the right time, I’m a little worried they are just going to be a gooey mess.

    Just for the record though my oven sucks.

  28. skampie said:

    the edges are perfect, the centre is a gooey delicious mess! Next time I’ll bake for 40 min.

  29. foodizm said:

    Indeed it is the best cocoa brownies!
    I tried making it and I really love it, great recipe :)

  30. Melinda said:

    Delicious, easy to make, fudgy and wonderful brownies.
    Once I converted a “stick” of butter into grams it was all smooth sailing.
    I’ve tried cocoa brownies before and found them too insipid and cakey, but these were perfect.

  31. sonya said:

    this is the exact same recipe i use and they are truely amazing, i even do the butter melting step as well hehe…I found the recipe on epicurious.com and its the only beownie recipe i ever use..super easy and have NEVER gotten anything but rave reviews about them..they are sooo addicting :)

  32. gumby said:

    Those pictures melted me and i knew that i HAD to make these brownies. I added a 1/4 cup of coffee liqueur to the butter/sugar mix and increased the flour. I also used some Pure Organic Cocoa and the mixture tasted devine. They are in the oven now and i can;t wait to eat them :)

  33. Kelly said:

    I actually JUST finished baking (and eating!) the recipe and must say that it is truly delicious! My baking time was only around 20 minutes or so; not gooey in the center, but quite soft, just the way I like it. The only changes I made were to use only 100 grams of butter, add 2 tablespoons of applesauce (I was out of butter), add 2/3 cups peanut butter chips and reduce the sugar to 1 cup only.

    Really great brownies, very moist and fudge-y center without being overly gooey; there is a nice crumb to it without being too cake-y either.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  34. Tianna Harris said:

    Hi, I was wondering if I could have permission to publish a photo of your brownies in my school newspaper. Your information will be cited, I just need your permission before I do so.

  35. Rachel Pennington said:

    I have made these brownies several times, all to rave reviews. They are so dense and chewy, the perfect brownie (in my subjective opinion). I use dark chocolate cocoa to make it even more full in the flavor.

  36. Lily said:

    I made these just now and they’re currently cooling on a rack :) My batter was a bit thicker than the batter in your picture, perhaps because I took my time adding the cocoa. I didn’t quite spread my batter evenly due to that and now one side is about twice as thick as the other…oh well! It smells delicious! I will update on the taste tomorrow.

  37. Wow! I wish I can have one right now. I just love brownies.

  38. I tried this recipe but the texture of the brownies was more like a cake than brownies. The taste was good though.

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