Have you ever felt, for no apparent reason, as though something big was about to happen? I don't know why, but there seems to be something looming on the horizon. I say looming because I'm not sure yet if it's a good thing, the clouds are retaining a soft air of ominousity, but that could just be the over-thinking realist in me. The part that becomes a little bit leery of spectacular twists of fate and their potential price tag(s). Or, it could just be the wonderful warm months of summer ahead. Who knows? :)
What on earth does all this have to do with brownies? Well, one never has to worry about the motives behind chocolate induced happiness. It's pure, get-straight-to-the-point, what you see is that you get, bliss. And when it comes to these, what you get is a simple, classic fudgy brownie. The baked incarnation of straight-shooting perfection. In this case the shot may be aimed into, rather than from the hip, but you get the idea.
Don't fear the cocoa powder. Some people are hesitant to use it as the sole ingredient in brownies or cakes, but it does pack quite a chocolate punch. I almost panic when I'm half-way through certain baking supplies, especially butter, and chocolate bars. But there is always a reticent container of cocoa powder sitting patiently in the cupboard. It deserves some time in the limelight. Besides, who can turn down one of Alice Medrich's recipes!?
This is one of those recipes that is so simple, it makes you feel guilty. You only need one bowl and you don't have even have to use the mixer. Dish washing duty is not quite the punishment it normally can be so you can't use that as an excuse to justify making something sinful. The final product is a rich, moist, fudgy brownie which speaks for itself and has no need for the embellishment of nuts or chocolate chips (but you may add them if you so desire.) This is the quintessential, little black dress, brownie recipe. It's perfect for when you're pressed for time or simply want something to bring balance and happiness to a sometimes unstable universe.
Best Cocoa Brownies
(recipe from Alice Medrich's book, Bittersweet)
* printer friendly Recipe *
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter (cut into pieces about the size of a tablespoon.)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt ( I increased mine to 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan (8x8-inch) with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. *I had to leave mine in for about 30 minutes. Normally my oven is too hot but these took longer to 'set.'*
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board.
Makes about 16-20 brownies.