Doing a Google search for “brownie recipe” brings up a whopping 3.96 million hits. Even narrowing the parameters to include only “the very best brownie recipe” drops it to a mind-boggling 1.44 million hits. Methinks someone is lying there… Let me save you the trouble. Just make these. Ah, this may take convincing, I see. I understand completely. I am a chocolate snob. A chocoholic. A chocomaniac. A connoisseur (when in doubt say it in French! Adds a certain weight, a certain panache … see what I did there). These brownies are not quite cake-like but not fudgey. They are densely chocolatey but not heavy. They have a silky texture that defies their ease of preparation. Need more? They catch men! Being as I’m married, I practice the old catch-and-release … oh, I digress.
It was the name that first caught my attention (pun intended). Many moons ago, 2007 to be exact, there was a terrific Washington Post food chatter named Kim O’Donnel who introduced us readers to the recipe. To that point, I really never had made a brownie that was that perfect balance of flavor and texture. A go-to recipe had been elusive … until that magically fateful day I decided to give these a try. I mean, anyone who would go so far as to say they can attract an entire subset of humanity is either delusional or onto something. Kim, my dear, was onto something. They are virtually impossible to mess up as long as you do not overcook them. I have yet to meet a brownie lover who doesn’t swoon. Please do try these and let me know what you think. If you are so bold as to try mix ins (nuts, chocolate chips, etc.), let me know how it goes. I just can’t do that … I am a purist but am always willing to pass along a good suggestion.
Enjoy wallowing in the goodness!
If your first question is “HOW MANY STICKS OF BUTTER IS THAT?!” you may want to sit back and wait for my salad post … yes, this is three sticks of butter. No oleo. No… I can’t even say it but it rhymes with Trisko. Buttah, all buttah … and it should be unsalted at that.
Add the sugar to the melted butter …
… and the light brown sugar (yes, two cups)! Stir it all in.
Now add the two cups of cocoa powder … not hot chocolate powder (you know who you are). I use Hershey’s. These are brownies for crying out loud. Save the Callebaut for something chi-chi … like eating the whole bar when nobody’s around so you don’t have to share.
The texture at this point is grainy and you may be cursing me but have patience, grasshopper. Get some elbow grease going. It all works out in the end.
This is the secret to an excellent chocolate baked good. Espresso powder! It doesn’t impart a coffee flavor as much as it intensifies the chocolate flavor. This is about one tablespoon. Toss it in and keep mixing.
Now for the ploop! ploop! ploop! ploop! ploop! ploop! of six eggs… You can, of course, crack them into a separate bowl, whisk to incorporate and then add, but I like a one-bowl brownie so I just go whole hog into the big bowl. Bonus: saying “ploop!” makes me smile. Notice the texture change as you stir in the eggs … getting silky and shiny now!
Add two tablespoons of vanilla, measured very carefully. A side note here: Vanilla flavoring is not vanilla extract. It should not be sold as a food stuff. If you don’t have real vanilla, choose any liquor you have in your cabinet and you’ll be better off than using vanilla flavoring. I make my own vanilla extract with bourbon (that’s what this batch is) or vodka and a few vanilla beans that I’ve slit down the side and let sit in a bottle for a few weeks. Okay, back to the recipe. Stir in the vanilla.
Once you have all the eggs incorporated, it will look like this … a totally unnecessary picture but (I must repeat) I am a chocomaniac and this sight makes me happy.
Add the flour and salt and switch to a spatula to fold in.
You only want to stir until the flour is gone. Over-stirring can make a tough brownie … I guess you could use a mixer but I never have with these. It’s an easy batter to mix by hand and I’d be afraid to over-beat with the machine.
Time to scrape every last bit into your properly prepared pan (and yes you will want to take the time to foil and spray your pan).
If you’re not a salmonella sissy, now is the time to lick the bowl and the spatula (and a couple of scoops of the batter if you’re really hard-core). I am of the sissy camp so I just admire the lusciousness for a bit.
Pop it into the preheated 350 F oven for 40 minutes and go find something to do. You will need to know your oven but in mine, I bake it for 40 minutes, turn off the oven and let it sit in there for exactly 5 minutes. Then I take it out and let it sit on a wire cooling rack for at least one hour (yes, yes, I know dear .. .go for a walk or something).
Gilding the lily.
Time to get a fork.
Man-Catcher Brownies (adapted from The Washington Post)
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 cups cocoa powder, sifted (natural or Dutch process)
1 tablespoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking oil spray.
Melt the butter in a large heat-proof glass bowl in the microwave. This can be done in a saucepan over medium heat as well. Remove from the heat and add the sugars. Stir thoroughly.
Add the cocoa powder and espresso powder, stirring to incorporate completely.
Add the vanilla extract. Add the eggs and whisk in thoroughly. If you’re a stickler, you can crack the eggs into a separate bowl and then add to the chocolate mixture; this gives the added assurance that no shells get into your brownies. I, however, like to live on the edge and hate to wash dishes so I do as I do, not as I say.
Switch to a spatula and fold in the flour and salt until just combined; do not overmix.
Spread the batter evenly in the pan, making sure the corners are filled. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a crust forms on the surface and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack; cool completely before cutting the brownies.