Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies

By • February 26, 2013 • 104 Comments


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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.

Comments (104) Questions (7)

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2 days 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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14 days ago amandat8n

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

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14 days 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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17 days ago GennyG

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

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17 days 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!

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25 days 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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about 1 month ago Storm

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

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about 1 month 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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2 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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2 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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2 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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2 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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2 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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2 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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2 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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2 months ago Bebewatson

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

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2 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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2 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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19 days 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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3 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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3 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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3 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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3 months ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

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

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3 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.

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3 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Senior 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!

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3 months ago Eliz.

Thanks for featuring this recipe! Since I never got around to making World Peace cookies for the holidays there was just enough Valrhona cocoa on hand last night when I made a batch of these brownies instead. Wonderful! Trust the 20-25 minutes specified if you prefer a texture that yields; even though my oven's a bit slow, I found that after 35 minutes, the brownies were more fudge-solid than I would have liked. Should I ever make the recipe again--so many brownies, so little time says Medrich--I'd be tempted to mix in bits of dried, Blenheim apricots or plumped currants & cocoa nibs, though toasted pecans were great. REQUEST: If it's possible to edit the directions or add an explanatory end note, please respond to the confusion many of us had when told to stir melting cocoa mixture in heatproof bowl until soft. The sugar will not melt completely at this stage. After spending much more time at the stove than seemed reasonable, I consulted the recipe published in "Chewy, Gooey...". The wording does not give the impression that the contents of the bowl should lose their grainy consistency. Just a quibble since I am grateful for the nudge and the captivating photograph.

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3 months ago maria

Best brownies I have ever had! Top them with sea salt for better results :)

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4 months ago JohnL

I adore Alice Medrich, so although I haven't yet prepared this recipe, I couldn't help but notice how nearly identical it is (ingredients & proportions) to the Dec. 2012 recipe in Bon Appetit for "Cocoa Brownies", which is one of my very favorite brownie recipes. Two differences I see are glass baking dish in Bon Appetit's recipe, and they stress not to overbeat after the flour has been incorporated, whereas Medrich instructs to continue beating 40 strokes. The Bon Appetite recipe turns out ultra moist and fudgy with a barely discernible crumb. Another similar brownie is the Mancatcher Brownies recipe devised by a former staffer at The Washington Post, which are much bigger thicker MANLY brownies also made with cocoa and turning out very similar in both rich flavor & texture to the Bon Appetit recipe, except for their size and heft. Both recipes produce brownies that stay perfectly fresh stored covered on the counter for a good 5 days. I also like the Ghiradelli cocoa brownie recipe which is a wonderful brownie but with a slightly lighter texture; unfortunately they start going stale after just a couple of days. The Mancatcher recipe makes a BIG batch of extra thick brownies in a 9x13 pan, so if you want to impress a lumberjack, the Mancatcher recipe is a no-fail go to recipe. Highly recommend all three recipes. The trick to all moist fudge brownies is to pull them out of the oven at the right moment before they lose their marvelous texture.

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4 months ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I made two batches of this, and it's a fabulous brownie. But I didn't find that the mixture got at all smooth in the beginning - and think it would be tough for the sugar to all melt into the chocolate and butter. I would think if the mixture was hot enough for that, then it would be too hot for the chocolate. I almost threw it out, and decided to soldier on with it. So, so glad I did. Both batches also took more like 50 minutes to bake. I added 1 teaspoon cardamom powder to one batch and scattered some malden salt over the top of the other. Just might be the best brownies I've ever made.