Best Cocoa Brownies

April 20, 2010

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.


  1. Hi Valerie, these look really rich, and I love the shiny top-just like a brownie should be. I'm going to see if I have everything to make them now, b/c I love a simple recipe that inspires the word 'best'!

  2. It always surprises me how strong cocoa is in a chocolate cake so no reason it would be any different in a brownie!
    These look dense and very chocolatey, Valerie. Perfect.

  3. I love baking with cocoa! These brownies look and sound deliciously awesome!

  4. I've been looking for a cocoa brownie recipe, I'll have to try this. They look fantastic!

  5. I know exactly what you mean, Valerie. Been feeling that for a few days now. Kinda scary and fun all at the same time. :-) I love Alice Medrich. She never steers us wrong! :-) Happy "Something Big Expecting"!! :-)

  6. so beautiful! This recipe has been made by so many people but not me! You have inspired me to make a batch very soon. Say, tonight... :)

  7. Hi Valerie!
    I thought of you while watching Martha Stewart today - they made a chocolate cake. yum yum yum
    Oh! Earlier this year, in a state of utter chocolate withdrawal and lacking chocolate, I made my first brownies ever using cocoa. They turned out fine (and of course were eaten in double time!) but my heart still belonged to real chocolate. Yours look so delish and who can argue with Alice Medrich (?!), so I'll look forward to giving these a try.
    Happy week to you!

  8. Thank you, Sally. I had to read that twice. At first glance I thought you said that I remind you of Martha Stewart (I have scalded pans and stains on my stove which say otherwise) But upon further reading, it made more sense. :p

    Please let me know if you try these.

  9. It's amazing how simple that recipe is. I hate how so many brownie recipes over-complicate the dessert. This one hits the nail in the head!

  10. I always prefer a brownie recipe that contains cocoa, I don't think you can beat it for that intense chocolatey flavour! Your brownies look delcious and I will have to try this recipe :-)

  11. Eddie, I agree with you. Less is almost always more. :)

    Thanks Nikki! Cocoa is surprisingly powerful.

    *Side note* I'm housesitting for the next several days and I'll be without a computer. So if you have a question and I don't respong right away, it's not because I'm ignoring you or trying to solve it like a mad scientist in a kitchen lab. :D Please feel free to email me and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

  12. I've been making cocoa brownies for years and they really are fantastic.

  13. I'm totally into baking with cocoa for both cakes and brownies or anything else that may call for it, grins. Wouldn't turn down one of these beauties, and I don't think anyone else would either!

  14. Oh. My. I have seen this recipe on a few blogs and wondered about it. I am SO trying this after reading your review. You definitely know your desserts so this has got to be good!

  15. These look so dense and delicious!

  16. I'm salivating and totally printing this recipe. I'm a chocolate obsessed individual and brownies are a fave!
    Lila Ferraro
    Queen Bedroom Sets

  17. THAT looks fantastic. LOVE brownies. Booking marking these.

  18. SO easy, and yet so good looking :)

  19. I've been waiting for the perfect day to make these brownies. This is the day, since both of my daughters are having friends over. That should prevent my family from gobbling up the whole pan of brownies at once!
    And having made them, I know that would be a real danger. Because these brownies are fabulous! I cooked them for 22 minutes and it was just perfect. You didn't specify the pan size but I used 8" by 8".
    I will definitely make them again -- maybe some time when we won't have to share them at all!

  20. Yikes! Sorry about that, Beth. Good call though, it is an 8x8-inch pan. Thanks for the heads up. :)

  21. quite possibly the best brownies ever!

  22. I made these when I had company over to visit and I have to say, hands down, they were the BEST brownies I have ever had. (The easiest too!) Thanks for sharing.

  23. @Sarah, I'm happy to hear that you (and everyone else), enjoyed them! :D

  24. i added smarties and white choc chips instead of nuts and they were delicious!!! Also, they're tastier if stored in the fridge otherwise they are a little too soft, but thanks!


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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