I don’t know anyone who makes real brownies…
You know what I’m talking about… as in, not from the box. I grew up on box brownies, so I’m not complaining. I know people make them from scratch, but I don’t know these people. Those people and I should to be friends. If you’re out there, you should say hi, or leave a comment. We’d get along well. That being said, I have a husband who’s practically a chocolate connoisseur. The man adores French silk pie, and he only eats Ben and Jerry flavors that consist of a chocolate core. The poor guy married one of the few women on earth who isn’t an American chocolate fan*. It’s a struggle in our marriage, but we make it work.
*I LOVE European chocolate. It’s bitter in a good way… and nothing like American dark chocolate. It’s hard to describe, but I know it’s not the same.
Once in a blue moon, I make a treat that includes chocolate, and when I do, my husband hovers in the wing, waiting to taste-test as I go. Today, I made the ultimate ‘chocolate effort’ knowing he’d be changing the oil in his car, keeping him out of my way, most of the time.
I’d had a surplus of cocoa powder leftover from a velvet cake I’d made a few weeks back. Each time my husband made dinner, he’d open the pantry and ask how long we’d had hot chocolate mix. I broke his heart, explaining that it was unsweetened cocoa powder that would result in terrible hot chocolate. I had to prevent him from making a mistake in the event I wasn’t home, so I killed two birds with one stone by getting it out of the cabinet and making something he’d love.
This recipe is not for those in search of a quick chocolate fix, unless you skip the baking part and go for gusto, eating straight from the bowl. It takes patience, delay, and suffering but makes for a heavy, fudgy brownie that is so rich and filling, you’ll only be able to eat one or two max.
Introducing… ‘Real’ Brownies.
Based off my exploration from reading my trusty On Food and Cooking book I created this recipe hoping to make something with ingredients to suit my favorite flavors while maintaining rich, chocolatey standards. If you’re a choco-holic, you’ll adore these. If you aren’t, you’ll STILL enjoy them. Trust me, I made an almond butter adjustment that makes a huge difference.
Makes 16-24 small brownies, depending on how generous you are with cutting once cooled.
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 1 1/4 cups sugar*
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used Himalayan Pink Salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup of cake flour
* I’m tempted to use brown sugar to monopolize the molasses content. If you try it, report back and let me know if it’s worth it.
Coat the bottom and sides of a baking pan or casserole dish with butter then line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on opposite ends. I recommend leaving the overhang on the furthest ends. Trust me… you’ll see why later when pulling it out of the dish.
If you’re confident in the following steps, go ahead and preheat the oven to 325°F now, with the rack in the middle. If you’re slow like me, wait until the step before you add the vanilla, then turn the oven on. It’s not summer yet, but I took longer than expected to melt the first half, and my kitchen was a sauna when I finally put the dish in the oven.
Put a wide skillet or large saucepan filled with about 2″ of water on the stove and bring to a simmer. You want to fill it so that a medium glass bowl, that can withstand heat, sits atop so the water is touching the bottom or just a hair shy of touching the bottom. Put the butter, almond butter, cocoa, and salt in the bowl. Your bowl should have PLENTY of room to stir. Trust me. If you don’t have a big bowl, you’ll make a huge mess and spill over. Let it sit on the heat and stir occasionally until the butter is melted and you have a gorgeous smooth mixture. Slowly add in sugar, bit by bit, mixing each time so each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Once the sugar is in, you should be able to put a finger tip in quickly to test. Visually, it will look like really gritty, wet mud. If you’ve watched Drop Dead Fred, you’ll recognize the mud pie mixture. It’s not pretty… but worth it.
Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside on the counter until the mixture cools. It should be warm, not hot. Stir in vanilla with a wooden spoon. Then add eggs and stir to mix well. Add flour and stir until you can’t see any more white bits. This took me roughly 30-35 strokes with a large wooden spoon. If it becomes too hard to stir, you added the latter ingredients too early and pre-cooked the egg. Like I said, patience is key. It should be thick, not difficult.
Pour into the center of the baking dish and spread evenly with the spoon to make sure it’s distributed well, pushing it into the corners. The batter would take FOREVER to settle naturally; encourage evenness as much as possible with your spoon. Once satisfied with the spread, pop it into the oven and enjoy the smell that emits as it bakes.
You’ll want to bake it for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean with a few crumbs of batter or a really thin film coating it. This can vary by your oven’s efficiency so check every few minutes after the 20 minute mark. When ready, take out and promptly place onto a cooling rack. I am a fan of the sweet and salty flavor, so at this point, I ground fresh Himalayan pink salt on the top while still warm to help stick. You’ll want to let it cool to room temperature, and continue to wait a little longer. This can take an hour or more… you don’t want to rush it! Cutting into them too soon will result in a mess, and if you have an impatient person waiting, plan ahead. Once they’ve set enough to lift the parchment out of the dish without creasing, transfer to a cutting board or back onto the cooling rack to sit a little longer. If you really want them to firm up quickly, pop them into the freezer.
When you can cut into them without the majority of it sticking to the knife, they’re ready! Some crumbs will stick to the paper and knife, but these suckers are so rich, you won’t notice the leave behinds. It’s like cutting into fudge. The colder they are, the better they cut, so patience is key, and the fridge/freezer can be your friend. I planned poorly, so my husband constantly asked if they were ready yet, then proceeded to tell me I was cruel when I told him to wait just a little longer.
The things we do for love.
These also reheat well. Use a microwave or place on an oven safe dish at 200° for 7-10 minutes. Feel free to plop a scoop of French vanilla ice cream on top and ignore the fact that you may or may not be on a diet.