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 (199) Questions (14)

199 Reviews

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.
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?
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!!
Emilie R. January 4, 2018
Because I'm weird and require portion control, I usually bake brownies in a muffin tin so I get perfect servings. These brownies didn't rise at all. They taste great, though. Maybe next time I'll add an extra egg...<br />
Plantlust September 18, 2017
My version, cut sugar to one cup. Whirred sugar in food processor until superfine. Added 1/8tsp of espresso powder. Followed rest of recipe but let batter rest in pan refrigerated overnight before baking. Superb results! Fyi- version with port soaked dried sour cherries added is wicked good.
noknok June 22, 2017
Just baked this using the weight measurements. At 20m they were liquid at the center when jiggling the pan. 40 minutes & a long rest... and they are still quite raw on the bottom. I literally flipped them over and put them under the broiler! What a mess.. in the future, I think I'd be inclined to try a higher heat and place them in the middle of the oven instead of bottom third. And add more cocoa or flour, or maybe both. This recipe needs a serious amount of tweaking, :(. Bummed! I usually love Alice Medrich recipes.
Leslie V. May 6, 2017
May I ask.. Did anyone make these in Higher Altitude like over 4000' If so what adjustments did you need to do?? Thanks much,
Cate May 22, 2017
I added an egg, increased the vanilla to 1 teaspoon, and increased baking temp to 375 at 6,000 ft above sea level. Play with it until you find the right mix. Good luck!
Christina March 22, 2017
My brownies came out great, but how on earth are you supposed to get 16-25 brownies? I literally got 6 normal sized brownies out of this....
juliunruly April 15, 2017
They're so rich that I cut them very small. I always cut to yield 16 from an 8x8 pan.
judy March 8, 2017
i make a version of these using whole wheat pastry flour. Works great.
Colin April 11, 2017
Would like to use wholemeal too...any modifications to other ingredients required? Thanks....
Laurie B. February 14, 2017
I'm a regular baker and have tried many brownie recipes. This is my new go-to favorite for brownies. They're fudgy and so chocolatey. I have to bake mine for about 40 minutes and I read the comments and saw a lot of people that over cooked the first step trying to get it "glossy" instead of letting it be granular and stopping the cooking when you can no longer hold your finger in the mixture. If you cook it too long and boil it, it will turn into a rock. Just follow the instructions and you'll be golden. But make these. They're so frickin' worth it!
Emilie R. January 4, 2018
My 1st step never got hot enough and the oil started to separate. Then when I added the egg, the batter "drew up" like chocolate will do... My brownies are greasy and puck-like but they taste great! I will try again...
Aisha O. January 27, 2017
My daughter said they "stuck to the roof of her mouth," and not in a good way. Followed recipe exactly, but other comments were correct in that 25 mins baking time is nowhere near enough! I guess I don't like fudge-like brownies. At least I won't be tempted to eat these and sabotage my diet, LOL.
Missy L. July 11, 2018
Check your oven temp. 25 minutes was perfect in mine.
Heather G. December 4, 2016
These are amazing, although the baking time is way, way off. These took 41 minutes at 325 on the center rack of my oven in an aluminum pan. The butter also took a while to melt into the dry ingredients so I think I'll cut it into chunks the next time to speed the process.