Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies

By • February 26, 2013 • 128 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 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup 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 cup 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 (128)

Comments (128) Questions (11)


about 5 hours ago Denise

Fabulously life-changing. I've only made David Lebovitz's supernatural brownies for the last 10 years but I'll be switching to these. I used "raw" cocoa powder which I think is the same as natural? and switched out half the white sugar for brown. I browned the butter and then added 1.5 TB of water because the mixture looked dry and smitten kitchen says that you lose water when you brown butter. My batter still seemed very stiff and dry and I baked it for just under 30 minutes. Perfectly fudgey! These have a nice buttery flavor but I'm Not too sure if you can taste the brown butter--maybe? but I'll try it next time just regular butter. And the chocolate-ness is off the charts. Would never have expected powder to deliver such a deep dark rich cacao flavor.


9 days ago Carly

I made these brownies tonight. HOLY SHIT!!!! My cats went crazy. The smell of the brownies sent them off into some sexual deviance with our furniture. The began to claw and hump their way into the inside of each couch cushion. Other then that, the brownies weren't too bad.


25 days ago kumalavula

these come together easily and smell divine while in the oven.
i had to bake them almost 15 min longer than the recipe stated to get them cooked all the way through but so worth the wait!
i assume our girls basketball that's headed to compete at the state level will think so as well :) this recipe is a keeper!


26 days ago Debbie

Rich and delicious. I followed the recipe as written and they turned out fantastic. Too bad the company I was expecting didn't come and get to experience these. My husband keeps sneaking out to the kitchen to get another "bite." This will be my new go to brownie recipe. Thank you Alice for a terrific recipe.


about 1 month ago Nichola

I've made these brownies twice in the last week, and they are amazing. I used a mix of nuts (walnut, hazelnut and Brazil nut) that I've been struggling to get rid of.


about 1 month ago barbara

Baked mine in 9x9 metal pan without parchment at 325 and pulled at 22 minutes. Left them to cool completely. They set fine.


about 1 month ago Ann Godfrey

I made these today and they were not baled through enough at 325 for 25 minutes. DId anyone raise the temperature to 350?


about 1 month ago Transcendancing

I love this recipe! I love how it's so pantry friendly! So chocolatey and easy, utterly a win for me. I will say I reduced the sugar total by 1/4 cup, and I used a combination of brown and white sugar - I think that worked really well. They were more chocolatey than sweet which is my kind of brownie. All about the chocolate and a little bit sweet.


about 1 month ago java&foam

I have made these three times now, but today was the first time I made them with dutch cocoa (Valrhona), the previous two times being natural cocoa powder (the Scharffen Berger natural cocoa she recommends in her books). Natural cocoa powder wins here hands down...with a flavor profile so different you'd think you were using a different recipe. It is worth picking up just for these brownies alone.


2 months ago suzanne prael

The tried and true trick to brownies NOT crumbling when they're cut, ALWAYS cut them with a good, solid plastic knife!


2 months ago Kattey

These are very nice, very flat though, but lovely. I would absolutely recommend a scatter of sea salt flakes.


4 months ago Arthur in the Garden!

These are the best!


4 months ago barbara

just delicious! recipe very easy to follow and baked in 22 minutes; added a smidge of espresso powder; all the girlfriends loved them!


4 months ago Rachel Kuhn Stinehelfer

A friend of mine made these and they were delicious. I have tried twice to make this recipe and they just don't set up. They are liquid after baking.


3 months ago juliunruly

Rachel I find that I have to bake them significantly longer than the recipe says. Usually at least another 10 minutes. But then, they're perfect.


5 months ago Marilou

Did anyone else have a problem with the brownies not rising? They were surprisingly thin, close to a quarter of an inch... the recipe is very easy and the taste is ncie and fudgey, but I would prefer a bit more height.


7 months ago Beth

expecting a smooth batter from the butter, cocoa & sugar, I added about 1/3 cup of olive oil to relax the clumps, and the end result was DELICIOUS.


8 months ago Emma Yeatts

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


9 months 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.


10 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


10 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.