Let’s get things straight here: I am no food stylist. If I were, I would know that trying to cut into a panful of brownies immediately after taking them out of the oven would result in extremely jagged edges, serrated knife and all.
But good-looking brownies be damned. Yesterday was my birthday and I didn’t think I should have to wait. The temptation was just too great: its crackly top gleamed diffusely, its gorgeous smell tickled my nose, and most importantly, there was the knowledge that a truly great brownie—possibly the brownie—was waiting. After all, no Genius Recipe has failed met yet. This one was no exception.
You all probably know Alice Medrich better than I do. I’ve only recently been officially introduced to her and her incredible repertoire of desserts, but long before I became aware of the obsessions of the food world, her kamut pound cake had already collapsed synapses in my brain—in a good way, haha—something that no baked good has done in quite the same way since. I was a fan way before I even knew it.
I think these are probably the best brownies I’ve ever had. Their crackly top is exemplary, and, though I know we all judge our brownies by different metrics so that there is no universally-accepted Best Brownie, these are, conclusively, it. This statement comes from the mouth of someone who has not done all that much perfect-brownie-chasing in her life but recognizes instant chemistry when it happens. It’s like falling in love all over again. I mean, it is falling in love all over again, only with a brownie.
I don’t even know why I felt like brownies yesterday. My birthweekend (a phenomenon which inevitably happens when your birthday falls on a Monday) had already been full of beyond-normal levels of hedonism. I can only offer this, something my mom told me yesterday: it had been snowing when I was born. Do you think this explains my predilection for the gooey, rich, and chocolate-y? Whatever the case, they are definitely the perfect way of easing myself into my XXth (I’m keeping the figure undisclosed) year.
Cheers, y’all! And go make some brownies!
ALICE MEDRICH’S COCOA BROWNIES
Makes 16 to 25 brownies
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet via Food52
10 Tbsp (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1-1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp 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 — it should weigh nearly 2.5 ounces)
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional—I didn’t use them)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8″ square pan (I used a 9″, which resulted in slightly flatter brownies) with parchment paper so that there is an overhang on each side.
Let a skilletful of water come to a gentle simmer. In a heatproof bowl, place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt, and place it in the skillet. Stir while the butter melts. Once the mixture is hot, remove the bowl from the skillet and let it cool until it’s only warm. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla, then stir in the eggs, one a time, vigorously. Once the batter looks shiny and well-blended, stir in the flour until no streaks remain. Vigorously beat the batter for 40 strokes. Stir in the nuts if using. Spread the batter evenly into the pan, then place it into the oven.
Bake until a toothpick in the middle comes out slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes (in my 9″ pan, it took about 20 minutes). Remove and let cool completely before lifting out of the pan and transferring to a cutting surface. Cut to your desired size.