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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

World's best brownies. Guaranteed.

Do you like a dry, cakey brownie? One with lots of nuts and possibly other mistakes mix-ins like orange peel or candied fruits? With a milk-chocolate-y taste and a light, crumbly texture?

Stop reading. Now

My brownies are precisely the opposite of that sad description. They are moist and rich, dark as night, fudgey and gooey, and filled with nothing but chocolate, and then more chocolate, and then some more chocolate. They are ridiculously easy to make and deliver more CPMs (compliments per mouthful) than just about any other dessert I know of. I’ve been baking them for decades, and I promise they will make you the most popular kid at the party.

There is one simple secret: You must use good quality chocolate. When you have a recipe with only seven ingredients—a recipe that spotlights one ingredient above all—you go for the best. Dine on rice and beans the rest of the week if you have to, but don’t stint here. That means no Hershey and no Bakers (heaven forbid!). I’ve tried all the possibilities over the years and while a side-by-side comparison would be fun (as long as insulin was on hand), I couldn’t say which I like best. Callebaut, Valrhona, Ghirardelli, Sharffen Berger, Guittard…they’re all good. 

Need proof that quality matters? Serious Eats had the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, do a brownie taste test, comparing Bakers, Scharffen Berger, and Betty Crocker. Being a down-home, anti-elitist kinda' gal, she was all for the supermarket stuff to win. Was she surprised? Find out here.

And for even more information on chocolate quality, check this out.

The chocolate vortex
 But back to the world’s best brownie recipe. Here are a couple of things you need to know. The brownies must be chilled overnight (even better, right? dessert is ready well before company arrives!). Fresh from the oven, or even cooled for a couple of hours, things fall apart (RIP, Chinua). But after one night in the fridge, they coalesce into dark chocolate perfection. Another point: These are very rich, so cut them into small pieces. They freeze well (emergency dessert!). Also, you might not want to sneak a brownie shortly before bedtime. Between the chocolate and the coffee, these babies deliver quite a hit of caffeine.

One last point: Resist, resist, resist the temptation to add stuff. (Yeah, I'm talking to you AS.) No nuts, no raisins, no (shudder!) orange peel. This is about chocolate, so don't junk it up. 

For perhaps the world’s best dessert, serve the brownies with ice cream (coffee and vanilla are my favorites), and a bit of whipped cream. Or, if you really want to go crazy, make an ice cream pie, with layers of ice cream or sorbet, crumbled brownies, and chocolate sauce, in a chocolate graham cracker crust. But you don’t have to go to all that bother. A heaping platter of the world’s best brownies is really all you need.

World’s Best Brownies
Makes about 8 servings, depending on level of chocoholism

½ cup (one stick) unsalted butter, cut up
2 TB strong coffee (I use espresso)
8 ounces good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (do I need to say don’t use imitation?)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1-2 cups chocolate chips (these don’t have to be top quality, although it never hurts)

  1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
  2. Line an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch high sides with foil and oil the foil (love the sound of that).
  3. Melt the butter and coffee in a heavy saucepan. Reduce heat to low and add the chocolate. Stir till melted and smooth. Cool a couple of minutes.
  4. Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thick, about 2 minutes. (I use a hand mixer.) Stir in the chocolate mixture. Mix in flour and chocolate chips. Transfer to pan.
  5. Bake until brownies are cracked around the edges, about 25 minutes.
  6. Cool. Cover and chill overnight. Cut into pieces. 
  7. Try not to eat all at once.

Good place to buy chocolate (also Fairway)

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