These homemade brownies from scratch are soft on the inside, with a chewy, candy-like surface on top. They are not overly sweet and have a distinct, though not overpowering, bittersweet taste. They are delicious and highly addictive.
Is there a dessert that excites you? Makes you fall in love with it? Think differently about it? How about cocoa brownies? Is a brownie even capable of doing that? The answer is a resounding ‘YES!’ These homemade brownies from scratch are so fabulous that even my wife, who is partial to brownies, ate one. Then another one. And another one.
Tastes differ and everyone has their own idea about what a perfect brownie should be. However, most seem to agreed that a moist inside, chewy, and not overly sweet brownie is what they would prefer. Yes, traditional, overly sweet, brownies seem to be the thing of the past.
Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate book, which contains five (!) homemade brownie recipes and three additional variations.
The book is as innovative as it is inspirational. I want to try practically every recipe in the book. Alice’s depth of knowledge on the subject is striking. What a breath of fresh air.
Experiments with sugar while making brownies
I tried this brownie recipe with both white granulated sugar, as suggested in the original recipe, and Muscovado sugar. And the winner is… plain ol’ granulated white sugar.
Muscovado is the finest brown sugar with higher molasses content, and is perfect for making brownies as it increases chewiness. I also love its toffee-like taste. I have been using this type of sugar increasingly ever since trying it in Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies published in Chad Robertson’s Tartine Book No. 3: Modern Ancient Classic Whole.
However, in this recipe Muscovado did not work well at all. Yes, it added a little bit of toffee flavor to the brownies. But it also totally killed the beautiful, candy-like chewy crust. The brownies tasted good, but became plain and one-dimensional. Well, live and learn.
A note on cocoa powder
These are cocoa brownies. There is no chocolate in them. They may be the best cocoa brownies out there, and many I am sure would agree that they are, but if you use poor quality cocoa powder the brownies will be sub-par. So, use the best, the highest quality cocoa powder you can find. It will be totally worth it. Which cocoa is of high quality? Alice Medrich suggests that cocoa should have fat content of between 22% and 24%, twice the amount of typical cocoa you will find at a grocery store. This translates into 1 gram of fat per 5-6 grams of cocoa.
My favorite one is Valrhona Dutch-process cocoa. I started using it based on David Lebovitz’s recommendation in one of his books and never looked back. It’s a little more expensive than most other brands but it rewards you with superb flavor complexity and refined taste. It’s also darker and richer, perfect for brownies. I usually buy a 6.6 lb box and split it with a friend. This is the most economical way to buy Valrhona cocoa.
You can also use natural cocoa which produces brownies with a lighter color and lot’s of tart, fruity notes. Dutch-process cocoa is mellower and less bitter. I personally prefer it over natural process cocoa.
- 10 Tbsp (140 g) unsalted butter
- 1¼ cups (250 g) granulated white sugar
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (80 g) high quality unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 cold large eggs
- ½ cup (65 g) all-purpose ﬂour
- ⅔ cup (65 g) walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325F.
- Line a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving some paper hang outside the pan. This will help with removing the fudge once it’s baked.
- Melt the butter in a medium heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of simmering water. Add the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt and heat for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the temperature of the mixture reaches 120-122F – the temperature at which if you insert your finger you would want to immediately pull it out. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside for about 5 minutes to cool down, until the mixture is no longer hot to touch.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla. Then add the eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. Continue stirring until the mixture will look thick, shiny, and well blended. Add the ﬂour and stir until it is well incorporated.
- Using the same wooden spoon, beat the mixture vigorously for 50 to 60 strokes. Stir in the nuts, if using.
- Transfer the mixture into the line baking pan and spread evenly.
- Bake on the lower rack for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out slightly moist with batter. Remove the brownie from the oven and let completely cool on a cooling rack.
- Remove the brownie from the pan by lifting up the ends of the parchment paper or foil. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 16 pieces. Serve immediately.