If you are like me, you probably grew up on brownies made from a box. While there is nothing wrong, per se, with brownies from a box, homemade is certainly better. Or maybe this is just my culinary neurosis speaking: too ashamed to serve brownies from a box, plus made from scratch brownies are hardly much more complicated than a mix.
So when the February issue of Bon Appétit arrived, Claire took one look at the cover and emphatically exclaimed, “You NEED to make THOSE.” Those being what Bon Appétit called on the cover, “Best-Ever Brownies. Warning: You Will Eat the Entire Tray.” When I looked at the recipe, I found that we actually already had all the ingredients save the walnuts in our pantry, which saved me from having to break the bank to buy ingredients.
Last Wednesday having the day off from work, I decided to surprise Claire with the brownies for dessert.
Do they live up to the hype? I think so. These are some of the best brownies I have had. The top crisped up nicely. The brownies were fudgy and chewy, but not too fudgy as we could still eat them with our hands. They were rich, which is good as it prevented us from eating the whole tray. The browned butter and walnuts added a nuttiness and earthiness that helped to cut the richness.
Here is the recipe from Bon Appétit, February 2011 (also available on-line here).
Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts
Makes: 16 brownies
Time: 40 minutes active time (plus a couple of hours too cool)
- 10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- ¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
- ¼ teaspoon (generous) salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons water
- 2 large eggs, chilled
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 cup walnut pieces
Note: The recipe requires you to add things quickly; therefore, I strongly recommend having everything measured out before. You can combine the sugar, cocoa powder and salt in one bowl, and have the flour ready to go in another bowl. In the profession, this is called mise en place, which translated means “everything in place.” You will dirty more bowls in the process, but your cooking will be more organized, clean and efficient.
- Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray.
- Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. (Personal note: The difference between brown butter and burnt butter can be a matter of seconds, so watch the pot carefully.) Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and ¼ teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot).
- Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
- Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. (Personal note: I pulled mine at 23 minutes. Every oven is different, so start checking around 20 minutes. Nothing is worse than an over-baked brownie.)
- Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies.
Do Ahead: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.