We’re on a cocoa kick here in the Walbacz house. Actually, we’re almost always on a cocoa kick, so I don’t know why I’m bothering to even say that. But let’s talk brownies.
Once upon a time, I made a batch of brownies for a work event. I got mostly good reviews, but I overheard one person say, “These are all right, but they’re just too chocolatey.”
This person never has been, nor ever will be, any friend of mine. This comment also made me realize that I’d found the perfect brownie.
Sadly, in my lifetime, I have been disappointed by more brownies than awed. Why? Because most brownies that I eat are lacking in the number one thing they are advertised to have: chocolate. This, my friends, is unacceptable. Brownies should floor you with chocolate. They should have the slight bitterness of dark chocolate, not be a reminder of what chocolate you could be eating instead. They should be chewy with a crackly top. Cake-like brownies? Get out of my house with that mess – if I wanted a cake-like brownie, I’d make a danged chocolate cake. Just thinking about picking up and biting into what I think is a brownie and is, instead, a horrible, sugary hybrid of sadness, sans chocolate flavor, makes me want to throw things.
Am I overreacting? Maybe. But am I right? Darn skippy, I am.
Several years back, I went on a quest to find a brownie recipe that didn’t suck. This meant it had to have all of the things listed above that a brownie should be: dense, chewy, crackly, and dark with chocolate color and flavor. It was an arduous journey of mediocre recipes and batches, and I’m still perfecting my recipe as I go, but along the way, I’ve discovered several non-negotiables in delivering all of the things I need in a brownie:
- Brownies must be made with cocoa powder. Melted chocolate loses its flavor in the batter, and doesn’t deliver the bitter punch through the sugar. The darker the cocoa powder, the better, and I prefer non-alkalized cocoa (AKA not Dutch-process) because it gives it all the more chocolate flavor.
- Brownies must be made with more cocoa powder than flour. Fight me.
- For best, even baking results, brownies should be made in a square metal pan. My experience with glass and Pyrex pans have resulted in super long baking times, burned corners, and unacceptably raw centers. (Slightly underbaking a brownie, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable.)
- Speaking of that last comment, underbaking a brownie is better than overbaking. Err on that side.
I’ve got two recipes that I work with, depending on how gooey I’m wanting the brownies to be. This recipe is a little less gooey and dense than my other recipe (which I will share at a later date), but tends to be more reliable and is easier to cut into neat bars. It checks all the boxes, and, therefore, may appear at your next picnic or potluck.
Ready to die in chocolate heaven? Yeah, let’s do this.
Cocoa Brownies I
You can use a combination of brown and white sugars here for a deeper flavor – you just may need to add a bit more flour or increase the baking time to account for the extra moisture that brown sugar provides. These brownies also take mix-ins beautifully, from nuts to dried fruit to chopped chocolate – add in up to 1/2 c of any for even more tastiness!
You will need:
- 1 c cocoa powder, preferably non-alkalized
- 1/2 c all-purpose flour (you can sub up to half wheat flour here)
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 c salted butter, or 1 1/2 sticks, melted
- 1 1/4 c sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Liberally grease a 9×9 square metal baking pan, or line with parchment paper so that the ends hang over the sides. Sift together cocoa, flour, and salt in a small bowl.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter and sugar until thoroughly combined and glossy (this means the crystals should not be visible and everything should be homogenous). Allow to cool for 3-5 minutes, then add the eggs and vanilla, whisking until thoroughly combined.
- Whisk in the cocoa mixture until thoroughly combined, and fold in any mix-ins (nuts, chopped chocolate, dried fruit, etc.). Pour batter into prepared baking pan, making sure to spread the top evenly with a spatula. Tap the pan against the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles.
- Bake at 325 degrees F until the center is just barely set (it shouldn’t jiggle, but it shouldn’t be super hard, either) – you can test with a toothpick to see that it comes out clean or mostly clean. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting, unless you want a literal hot mess of crumbs. You do you.