Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home." She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated."
Chewy, Fudgy Brownies From Scratch
Brownies are a go-to snack in our home. They're quick and easy to make, stand up to packing and go down easily with a cold glass of milk or a cup of coffee. Why use a box mix when you only need a couple of extra minutes to whip up a batch of brownies from scratch? This recipe calls for butter rather than oil, which makes a much more delicious brownie than anything you can mix up from a box. And if you buy better quality cocoa powder, you'll turn these brownies into a gourmet treat.
There are two keys to making delicious brownies every time:
- Buy good quality cocoa
- Do not overbake!
It's much better to underbake the brownies a bit than to overbake them. There's nothing worse than brownies with burnt, dry edges. Be sure to hang out by the oven for the last five minutes of baking time so you can be sure you don't overbake them.
I have experimented with many types of cocoa powder: Hershey's extra dark, Ghirardelli, Cacao Barry and Pernigotti. All of these cocoa powders will make delicious brownies. Although Pernigotti is rich and chocolatey, it is also pricey. Hershey's extra dark and Ghirardelli are delicious, but my favorite is Cacao Barry cocoa powder. It's made in France, is more affordable than other European-made cocoa and is rich and dark without a hint of bitterness. I prefer to use alkalized (sometimes called European or Dutch process) cocoa in this recipe instead of natural cocoa since the end result is much more rich and fudgy. Stick around after the recipe to learn about the difference between Dutch process and natural cocoa.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder*
- 2 tablespoons strong coffee
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
*If baking at high altitude, reduce baking powder to 3/4 teaspoon for 6-7,000 feet or 1/2 teaspoon for 8-9,000 feet.
- 2 cups chopped good quality chocolate or chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli
- 1 cup nuts, toasted and chopped
- 1/4 cup cacao nibs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lightly grease a 9x9 inch square pan. If using a silicone pan, skip this step.
- In a large bowl combine eggs, cocoa, salt, baking powder, coffee and vanilla extract. Batter will be dry.
- Melt butter and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until butter has melted.
- Heat butter/sugar mixture until bubbly but not boiling, stirring constantly. The sugar will melt and the mixture will look shiny.
- Allow mixture to cool for a couple of minutes.
- Add warm sugar mixture to the cocoa batter. Beat with a mixer until smooth.
- Add flour and optional ingredients if desired. Blend with a spatula just until combined. Pour into prepared pan.
- Bake brownies for 30 minutes, or until edges are set and pulling away from the pan. The center will look moist but not liquid. It's better to underbake the brownies by a couple of minutes than to overbake them.
- Cool and cut brownies. Store them in a tupperware for 3 days at room temperature, if they last that long. Or you can wrap the brownies well and freeze them for about a month.
Unique Brownie Add-Ins
- Peanut butter brownies: Swirl spoonfuls of natural or regular peanut butter into the top of the batter before baking.
- Turtle brownies: Swirl caramel sundae topping into brownie batter before taking. Sprinkle with chopped, toasted pecans and chocolate chips.
- Peppermint Patty brownies: Spoon half of brownie batter into prepared pan. Add a layer of peppermint patty candies before covering with the last half of brownie batter.
- Almond Joy brownies: Bake brownies as directed. After 15 minutes, remove brownies from oven. Combine 3 cups of flaked coconut, 1 cup sliced and toasted almonds and 1 can sweetened condensed milk in a medium mixing bowl. Drop spoonfuls over brownies. Return to oven and bake 15 minutes longer, or until edges are pulling away from pan.
- Sweet 'n salty pretzel brownies: After brownies have cooled slightly, ice them with a can of chocolate or vanilla frosting. Sprinkle with chopped pretzels and mixed nuts.
What's the Difference Between Alkalized and Regular Cocoa?
Without explaining the chemical process involved, alkalized or Dutch process cocoa is treated with alkali to neutralize its natural acid content. This makes a neutral cocoa that doesn't react to acidic ingredients like baking soda. Dutch process cocoa is darker and richer than regular cocoa, which translates into dark, chocolatey brownies.
Cacoa Barry is my favorite Dutch process cocoa. You can buy it in a 2.2-pound bag which turns out many batches of delicious brownies!