Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies

By • February 26, 2013 • 111 Comments



Author Notes: This recipe is one part of a master brownie recipe Medrich designed to use whatever chocolate you have in the house -- but the best version happens to be the one that only requires cocoa powder. By taking out the chocolate, with its inevitable fat and almost-inevitable sugar, Medrich was able to control and fine-tune the proportions of both. When she added back in the fat (via butter), the middles stayed softer. When she added back in granulated sugar, the crusts were shinier and more candy-like. Any cocoa will work, but natural (not Dutch process) will taste more richly of chocolate. Recipe adapted slightly from Bittersweet (Artisan, 2003)Genius Recipes

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (unsifted, measured by stirring briefly, spooning into the measuring cup until it's heaped above the rim, then leveling it with a straight-edged knife or spatula -- it should weigh nearly 2.5 ounces)
  • 2/3 cups walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.
  5. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.
Jump to Comments (111)

Comments (111) Questions (10)

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9 days ago Emma Yeatts

I added a 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and then sprinkled sliced almonds on top before baking--divine!

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about 1 month ago Kris

These brownies are excellent. The recipe was also very easy to make.

I turned up the heat on the double boiler initially and then reduced it after I added the butter-cocoa-sugar mixture. It was a little grainy but what we need to go for is no lumps in the mixture. It will become shiny and smooth after the eggs are added.

I made a few changes. I had only 3/4 cup of cocoa in my pantry. So I did not add the extra 2 tablespoons. I used 1/2 brown sugar + 3/4 cup white sugar. I also added orange zest from 2 small tangerines. The flavor was just right.

My husband and neighbors loved the brownies. I think they are perfect for gifting.

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3 months ago Darlene

When I take cakes or similar items to functions or just at home for family to get a nice clean cut I use unwaxed dentil floss. Holding as if I were going to floss I gently saw into cake pulling floss out at one side from the bottom using a napkin for any icing to clean and continue. Works every time

Julistache

3 months ago juliunruly

I made one batch of these for a party we're having, and was so impressed with the final product that I decided to whip up another batch, and add a little cinnamon and cayenne. I also accidentally added an entire cup of flour instead of 1/2 cup. Somehow, they still came out great.

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4 months ago LeeLeeBee

As other reviewers have noted, the butter/cocoa/sugar mix will not melt completely over heat - I made the mistake the first time of heating it for more than 25 minutes, trying to get it "smooth" - until I read the comments! I just heat it until the butter melts and everything is incorporated.

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3 months ago kasia S.

the melding of ingredients seems to come from vigorous whisking, makes it glossy

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5 months ago amandat8n

how do you cleanly cut the brownies like the picture shown?

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5 months ago JohnL

To cut cleanly, let the brownies cool completely (several hours or even overnight). They will firm up and be less prone to tearing or crumbling. I often routinely let brownies sit overnight because I think it usually improves their texture. Lift them out of the pan. Then all you need is a sharp, preferably large, knife. I would use one with a 10-inch blade, and make quick cuts straight down (no sawing back & forth like with bread). If necessary, you can wipe the blade clean between cuts if the brownies are especially fudgey and moist. I use a regular chef's knife. If you've used a Magic Line pan to bake in, the block of brownies will lift out of the pan with already formed sharp clean corners. Magic Line is the choice of many professionals (Maida Heatter loves them). You can get Magic Line bakeware at Sur La Table.

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3 months ago abond7

I have a hard plastic spatula (I think it came w/my KitchenAid mixer) that I use to cut brownies -- warm or cooled, it does the best job w/little to no brownie sticking to the spatula.

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5 months ago GennyG

Has anyone tried these with some chili powder or cayenne and if so how much would you use?

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5 months ago Jillian Bernardini

When I used about a teaspoon and a half for Dorie Greenspan's cocoa shortbread cookies, I could taste the aftermath of the heat. in a good way though!

Julistache

3 months ago juliunruly

I used about 3/4 tbsp of cinnamon, and a tiny amount of cayenne – two small shakes, probably less than 1/4 tsp.

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5 months ago Paulaob

I've made these a few times and they are wonderful, but does anybody else find it difficult to spread them into the pan evenly? The batter is very stiff and hard to push into corners, especially with parchment liner.

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5 months ago Storm

Used coconut oil in place of the butter...divine!

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6 months ago Jillian Bernardini

Adding dried coconut flakes to these brownies made them like a giant mounds bar. Still garnished with Maldon too! Thanks for an amazing recipe!

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6 months ago clahr

I just made this and I think I overbaked them as its a bit dry, although it was only in the oven for 20 mins. I used dark brown sugar and it really adds to the taste! I'm a massive chocolate lover and this brownie is just simple amazing. I wish I had watched it a bit more to get a fudgey brownie!

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6 months ago Bebewatson

can I add peppermint extract to these to make mint brownies ? if so , how much should I add?

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6 months ago CathyL

I made a batch of these with Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour, and I'm happy to say they were terrific. Beyond my usual tweaks (1/2 brown sugar, double the salt, a tsp of instant espresso), no adjustments needed.

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6 months ago clahr

I'm planning to make these today as they look so tempting! Is it possible to use dark brown sugar for this?

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6 months ago CathyL

I always replace half the white sugar with brown; the caramel/molasses flavor adds a nice edge of complexity to the chocolate.

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6 months ago nutcakes

I resisted making these brownies for a long time because I like chewy brownies and not under baked ones. I thought I wouldn't like them but I was dead wrong. They are great. Deeply chocolate and not cloyingly sweet--just right. I did things wrong, I didn't note the 40 strokes. I meant to overbake a bit but I accidently put the oven to 350 for 20 minutes then turned it down to 300 for 10 min. I had a glass pan. But they were so good and I'll going to try it right next time. Thanks for the foil lining tip elsewhere Alice, works like a charm.

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6 months ago nutcakes

I forgot to mention that this looked a mess at all stages of making it (grainy but hot, leaking butter etc) but I pressed on until I have a smooth shiny batter in the end.

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6 months ago Bebewatson

Can I put peppermint extract in these to make mint brownies? If so how much?

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6 months ago nutcakes

If you click 'Questions' instead of 'Comments' it will be posted to the hotline and more people will notice an reply to you.

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6 months ago cbowsh

This is the first from-scratch brownie recipe I've been satisfied with. Perfect chocolate bite. I skipped the double boiler as well, mixed the cocoa, sugar, and butter over low heat (to melt the butter) in the saucepan, then contined adding ingredients into the saucepan. I will be making these frequently!

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5 months ago teacherbailey

Try the One Bowl Brownies recipe from Baker's Chocolate in the orange box. It's been my from-scratch "secret recipe" for years...

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7 months ago petitbleu

I always make this recipe by browning the butter first, then adding the sugar and cocoa powder, keeping the mixture on low heat until well-combined (I don't use the simmering water method suggested because I find it isn't necessary--just don't jack the heat up, and you'll be fine). This recipe is definitely a keeper, though. Easily the best brownies I've ever had and some of the easiest to make.

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7 months ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

absolutely amazing tasting. Rich but not cloyingly sweet. I'm not fond of any kind of baking, but this was so easy and quick. I chose not to use nuts, followed the directions and ingredient list exacyly and couldn't believe the results! Highly recommend. Sprinkled with Maldon sea salt flakes which brought them over the top.

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7 months ago MRubenzahl

I am confused about the flour. It says: "1/2 cup (unsifted, measured by stirring briefly, spooning into the measuring cup until it's heaped above the rim, then leveling it with a straight-edged knife or spatula." But using dip and sweep, a -full- cup of flour typically weights 4.5 oz so how, using spoon and sweep, would 1/2 cup weight nearly 5 oz?

Anyway, I prefer to never use cups for flour -- how much flour should I use by weight? "Almost five," if I go by what it says but that would be 1 cup, not 1/2 cup.

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7 months ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

The weight is 2.5 oz. for 1/2 cup.

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7 months ago MRubenzahl

Oh. Somehow, I thought the recipe said nearly 5 ounces. Either I misread it (twice) or someone sneaked in and corrected it. (I pasted it into my recipe file and it also said 5, so I think someone corrected a typo.) Anyway, all answered now.

Miglore

7 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

There was a typo in the recipe that was fixed the day it was published, but anything printed or copied that day might still have the wrong amount -- glad you got it figured out in time!