Baby’s First Brownies (no, really)

Until about a week and a half ago, I had never made brownies from scratch. Sure, I’d made layered ricotta cakes and light-as-air macarons and fresh sourdough bread and all SORTS of complicated sauces and things, but somehow I must have missed the day where I was supposed to learn the recipe for good old-fashioned brownies.

But then, on a magical day when it wasn’t omgIamgoingtodieofbusy at work, I was scrolling through one of my favorite recipe/food blogs looking for a good recipe for goat cheese ice cream (which, of course, she had), and I found a picture of little individual brownies, served with a scoop of ice cream, and a salted caramel sauce. The brownies looked so amazing.

And all of a sudden the ice cream wasn’t top priority anymore. I needed brownies. NEEDED them.

But sadly, I also needed to do another 6 hours of work, and then I had promised that I was going to be home to take care of some home-things…so there were going to be complications. Namely, I wasn’t going to make it to the store, and I didn’t have any cocoa powder. Or a bunch of other stuff, including coffee, that the brownie recipe I’d found called for.

So I hit the interwebs, looking for a recipe that WOULD work with what I had. Who else would I trust to make brownies well? David Lebovitz, obviously!

Would he pull through? Could I make brownies with just what I had at the house (and a few creative tweaks)? Yes, yes I could. Adapting from this amazing recipe, which he had taken from a cookbook appropriately titled Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, I could melt down the dark chocolate chips I had, add a RIDICULOUS amount of butter and sugar, and make myself some pretty stellar (according to Mr. Liebovitz, who knows from stellar, lemme tell you) brownies.

And oh, they did not disappoint. They were fudgy and messy and chewy and outrageously rich. They stuck horrendously to the foil with which D.L. insisted the pan be lined (smart man), and only gave up the fight after a stern talking to (and the threat of a hot, damp knife).

They were everything I had hoped for. They were so tasty. They were…gone so fast! I had to make another batch within the week.

Oh well, I’ll actually try ’em with cocoa powder this time.

Chewy Dark Chocolate Brownies

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used 60% cacao in chip-form),
2 sticks salted butter
1 1/4 cup unbleached white pastry flour
1/4 tsp salt
*2 Tbsp dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (I didn’t have any the first time I made them, and I didn’t miss it too much, but it was awesome *with* it, too)
1 1/2 cups raw sugar (evaporated cane juice)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 c coarsely chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the inside of a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with foil, and rub the foil with butter to “grease” the inside. Make sure you leave enough foil on the edges to use as a handle to pull the brownies out after cooling. Melt the chocolate and butter together (Liebovitz says to use a double-boiler, and he’s probably right. My lazy self used the microwave). Once the chocolate/butter are melted and smooth, whisk in both sugars and the eggs. It’s easier if they’re beaten a bit before mixing, or if you add them one at a time. Add the vanilla extract and stir to incorporate fully.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder (if you’re using it). Get all the lumps out of the flour if you can (I actually put mine through a sieve because it was a little old and VERY lumpy). Gently fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients being careful not to over-mix. At this time, also add the walnuts if you want them (I’d recommend it – they break up some of the doughy texture in a lovely way).

Pour/scrape the batter into the pan (DO NOT SKIP THE FOIL), and bake for 30-40 min, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Like most brownie recipes, it’s best to underbake than to overbake.
**not pictured because camera ran out of juice: adding nuts, putting batter into pan, licking batter off all utensils, having to clean most of kitchen from resulting chocolatesplosion**
D.L. says to wrap these brownies well when storing. Me, I think they get BETTER after being cut and left out to dry a bit on the edges. It’s a texture thing, but I swear by it. Believe me – they are moist enough that they will not dry out if you leave them for a while.

Another neat thing I learned is that they freeze well…which, if you can stop yourself from eating all of them (or feeding them all to your boss because he’s just so darned HAPPY when you bring brownies to the office, and who doesn’t like a happy boss?), is a cool thing to have frozen. Brownies. Whenever. Think about it.
Next time I’m making two pans.

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