Thursday, July 2, 2009

Who are those angels, and why are they singing in my kitchen?


It has long been a source of great shame for me that the best brownies I've ever made came from a box. The box in question (Ghirardelli's triple chocolate brownie mix) is no sloucher, mind. But I'm a firm believer in the virtues (and superiority) of baking from scratch, and my inability to craft a brownie that measured up to Ghirardelli's has been a thorn in my side for years.

My quest to find that holy grail of brownie recipes has been complicated by the perpetual lack of consensus over what makes a perfect brownie. Some like them cakey, others like them fudgy, others like them chewy but not too dense, and so on. As a result, I've often gone ahead with a recipe that's guaranteed to be "the best brownies evah!" only to find them lackluster, or at least not at all what I was looking for.

Cleaning the bowl

So when Katie told me that her mom had recently discovered a recipe for "the best brownies she'd ever made," my reaction was mixed. On the one hand, my faith in Katie's mom is such that I trust anything she says about cooking. On the other hand, experience has led me to be skeptical when someone extols the virtues of their favorite brownie recipe.

Well, my faith remains intact, for this is indeed the best brownie recipe I've ever made--with or without a box mix. These brownies are dark and moist, with rich chocolate flavor and just the right amount of chew. I won't claim that these are the best brownies you've ever made--for all I know, you might like them cakey--but in my book, they win, so I would be remiss in not sharing the recipe with you. I highly recommend that you give them a try, and of course I also recommend that you have a glass of milk handy when they're done.

Brownies and milk

Fudge Brownies

Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes one 9x13" pan of brownies


  • 1 cup (2 sticks, or 1/2 pound) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips


  1. Place oven rack in middle position, and preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
  2. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.
  3. In a small saucepan, or in a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. When the butter is melted, add the sugar and stir to combine. Heat the mixture until it is very warm (110-120F, or about 45C), but not bubbling. It should look shiny as you stir it.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Whisk in the cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Stir until smooth. The mixture will be quite thick and stiff, so it might take some muscle to make it smooth.
  5. Add the re-warmed butter-sugar mixture, and stir until smooth.
  6. Add the flour and stir just until combined, then gently mix in the chocolate chips. The batter will be thick.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. You might have to help it into the corners.
  8. Bake the brownies for 25-30 minutes. They're done when a cake tester or sharp knife inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs. The brownies will be set on the edges, and moist in the center (but not gooey). Cool completely, if you can manage it, before cutting and serving.


  • The world won't come crashing down if you use regular (non-Dutch-process) cocoa powder.
  • Add chopped nuts if you like.
Brownie stack


Carolyn said...

Wow! Those look amazing. . . I'll have 2 boxes shipped to me asap please :) LOL if only it worked that way eh!!

Glad to see you back in the kitchen and taking that box mix to task. Nice Job!

Bee said...

How did I miss this recipe???

(I've been a bit out of the blog-loop lately; sorry.)

Such a shame, as I've made brownies THREE times this week. (long story) Like you, I've never really been satisfied by any one recipe . . . can't wait to try this one. Is my quest over?

Anne said...

No worries, Bee, nice to have you back! Were you on your Spanish riding trip, or is that still yet to come?

I won't make any grandiose claims about this being your one true brownie recipe, but I think it's mine, and in any case it's worth a shot. If you can stand to make any more brownies, that is!

Anonymous said...

Made these this weekend. THANKS! Even a chocoholic like me was satisfied.

Kathryn said...

These look lovely! They seem to be more on the "darker" side, though. If I were making them for a milk-chocolate person, what would you suggest changing? Less cocoa powder?

Anne said...

It's funny, I don't usually think of brownies as being either milk chocolate or dark chocolate... but I suppose these are pretty fudgy. I don't know about reducing the cocoa powder (you could certainly try it, but I'm not sure what effect it would have). My first step would be to use milk chocolate chips rather than the usual semi- or bittersweet chips. You could also reduce (or eliminate) the espresso powder. Good luck!

Kathryn said...

Thanks! I tried the Cook's Illustrated recipe you gave me, actually, which turned out not to be too "dark." (It's not *me* that has a problem with dark chocolate! It's some other sick person...) The important lesson learnt, though, was never bake a batch of brownies just for yourself unless you want to spend some serious time in a gym afterwards!