Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies

February 26, 2013

Test Kitchen-Approved

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
Prep time: 25 min
Cook time: 25 min


  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 140 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (80 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (65 grams) 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 (65 grams) walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
In This Recipe


  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 hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. (It might look gritty here but don't worry, it will smooth out later.) 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.

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Reviews (213) Questions (14)

213 Reviews

Dindin S. February 13, 2019
My living room smelled so chocolatey. I love this recipe, because I always have cacao powder in my kitchen. It means that I can bake it everytime :-) The batch tasted a bit bitter, however the brownies turned out so shiny, so fudgy in the centre, it tasted devine. Genius!
Dindin S. February 13, 2019
My living room smelled so chocolatey. I love this recipe, because I always have cacao powder in my kitchen. It means I can bake it everytime :-) The batch tasted a bit bitter, however the brownies turned out so shiny, so fudgy in the centre, it tasted devine. Genius!
Dindin S. February 13, 2019
My living room smells so chocolatey. I love this recipe, because I always have cacao powder in my kitchen. The batch tasted a bit bitter, however the brownies turned out so shiny, so fudgy in the centre, it tasted devine. Genius!
Vero February 9, 2019
Made first time as directed; thin brownie with crackly top--satisfied my box-mix loving fam. Ready in 20 min. The second time, I doubled the recipe and used Cup4Cup gf flour instead of ap. Got a thicker brownie that was loved even more. Baked them for 30.
Dani February 8, 2019
Dense, fudgy brownies! They were a hit. I skipped the flaky salt on top and instead upped the salt a little bit in the batter. They are great for a quick last minute dessert.
Kate M. February 3, 2019
Great fudgy brownie. This size recipe goes a long way as these brownies need to be cut in bite size pieces. So rich!! Very satisfying and delicious.
Nancy C. February 3, 2019
I just checked my cocoa supply. Yes, I have enough of my Atlasta non-alkakine organic cocoa to make these scrumptious sounding brownies. Only thing I might add is some KAF espresso powder, as it enhances any chocolate confection you add it to.
Nancy C. February 5, 2019
Donna H. January 30, 2019
Just baked these this morning and they are fabulous! They probably could have used another couple of minutes in the oven (27), but they are delicious and not terribly sweet. I sprinkled them with Celtic Salt when I took them out of the oven - May try powdered sugar next time on half of them. This is such an easy recipe, I’m sure I will be making it a lot!
D M. January 10, 2019
Ive made these a number of times and the are exceptional. I top them with salted caramel and they are to die for! Two things on the production, 1) during the heating of sugar/butter/cocoa I temp it to 155 f. But more importantly, when the eggs are added it is critically to beat (I switch to a stiff whisk) vigorously. If not, it will separate (sweat). This with well mixed flour creates a much lighter texture when baked.
Mark L. December 1, 2018
These are delicious. But, be aware, that they are extremely dense and fudge-y, to the point that I would classify them as a hybrid of a flourless chocolate torte and piece of fudge.
Leslie V. November 6, 2018
Has anyone at a High Altitude baked these? What adjustments did you find you needed?<br />I am 4000' and in what we say High Desert, so dry climate, so almost every item i bake i have to adjust. <br />Always looking for the perfect Brownie recipe.<br />Thank you
Sue October 19, 2018
I make this recipe all of the time for my friend's daughter, Emma. She LOVES it. At one point, Hershey made a Special Dark cocoa powder that took this recipe over the top, but I think it's been discontinued. :(
Catherine D. October 19, 2018
I've tried that Special Dark cocoa and prefer good old regular Hershey's more. I never bought the Special Dark again after that one time. I'm drinking Hershey's regular cocoa now, I just finished making it - so comforting!<br />
ctgal July 11, 2018
Missy Leone, what gluten free flour do you use for this? I omitted the flour completely, which was fine for one batch and not great for a doubled recipe.
Missy L. July 11, 2018
This recipe is so good. I followed the recipe exactly as written and these are the best brownies I've ever made. I've made them several times over the last two years and just adore them. They're so much better than any other recipe I've found. The interior is fudgey, the exterior has a beautiful shiny crinkle. The edge pieces and middle pieces have the same amount of fudgey feel. The flavor is to die for.<br /><br />I always bake according to weight, not volume. So with the weight instructions, you should be good to go. I always bake with a gluten free flour mix because I have to, and it was just fine. <br /><br />Also, these were a little runny at 20 minutes, but at 25 minutes, they were perfect. You can calibrate your oven to make sure it's at the right temp...those of you having problems with undercooked brownies, perhaps that's the problem.
Sabrina S. March 10, 2018
I cut the recipe in half and cooked for about 20 minutes in a square aluminum foil mold. I pulled them out when the center looked shiny and not quite cooked. This gave me two (substantial) brownies that are crazy fudgy and rich. This is perfect for when you're craving chocolate but don't want to make a full batch! Best brownie recipe ever.
Susanna January 29, 2019
That's s great idea! I might do that my self
Marcy R. February 9, 2018
I've been making these cocoa brownies for decades. I got my recipe from the box of Hersheys cocoa. This recipe is basically the same but you don't have to put the ingredients in a bowl over a skillet with water, not necessary.
ctgal February 7, 2018
I have a question. I made 2 batches at once to bring somewhere, and I made one batch to keep and serve to friends. The doubled batch was made with Ghirardelli unsweetened choc, and valhrona unsweetened for the single recipe. That one came out spectacularly, perfect squares. The doubled recipe I made tasted fine but totally fell apart. What do you think it was? Different chocolate or a doubled recipe? Everything else was exactly the same. And I omitted flour in both cases as I am gluten free. Help!
lerkes February 3, 2018
I made these yesterday and followed the instructions and they came out perfect. I added some orange zest to the mix and put some sea salt on top when they came out of the oven. They were yummy.
LauraineJaeger January 15, 2018
Why do you recommend 40 strokes with a wooden spoon to mix in the flour. I thought you had to mix flour into mixture with a minimum of mixing so as to not toughen the mixture. Also, is it necessary to do the double boiler technique to melt butter . Why not just carefully melt the butter in a saucepan?
Amy D. February 15, 2019
I may be wrong but I think I've read that when the flour amount is a low ratio to the other ingredients you don't have to worry about the batter toughening up...
Roxanne L. January 15, 2018
I’ve made this brownie recipe twice in as many months and they have turned out beautifully both times. <br />I doubled the recipe both times without any issues. I had to add 11 mins to the bake time. <br />I am most definitely not an experienced baker nor a very precise one and yet they come out perfectly for me. My family absolutely loves these as do I. Perfect in every way!!