Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies -- John Q. Tullius
This being the contingent truth, some of us favor cocoa and some of us chocolate. I belong to the latter category. I adore chocolate and all things baked with it. Bakes with melted chocolate get me to the kitchen faster than those with cocoa .Give me a recipe which has both and I will have one foot in the kitchen even before I bookmark it . Though I like cocoa and make sure I have some in the fridge at all times, my loyalties lie towards chocolate. A box of chopped dark chocolate is a must in my kitchen for all those times when I have to bake something chocolate and fast .So when I come across recipes which have both the words 'best' and 'cocoa' in them, I am tempted to try. Will this make a convert of me? Having discovered my love for dense, fudgy brownies (cakey brownies are just not my thing, well, cakey brownies are CAKES, why call them brownies??!!), I succumb to the temptation to bake some Best Cocoa Brownies. Little room for doubt when the recipe is by Alice Medrich and baked by one of my fav bloggers, Deb( who else?) of Smitten Kitchen.
Reading her post, I nod my head as I am certainly one of those folks who sincerely believe that 'all roads to fudgy, dark and rich brownies must be paved with bricks of tempered chocolate' Count me in please! But then she says, this brownie will make these folks eat humble pie...oh sorry, brownie and then make converts out of them - from 'Only chocolate for me' to ' Wow Cocoa, you have me sold!' or something to that effect. These brownies are rich, fudgy, very chocolaty and truly good.
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet. You can find Deb's recipe here
Unsalted butter, chopped - 141 grams / 10 tablespoons/ 1 1/4 sticks/ 5 ounces
Sugar - 280 grams /1 1/4 cups / 9 7/8 ounces ( I have measured 1 1/4 in my cup)
Unsweetened Cocoa powder , natural or Dutch-process - 82 grams / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 2 7/8 ounces
Pure vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon
Cold Eggs - 2, large (refer note)
All-purpose flour - 66 grams / 1/2 cup / 2 3/8 ounces
Walnut or pecan pieces - 2/3 cup (optional, I did not use)
Salt - 1/4 teaspoon ( I omitted this)
Procedure : Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C / 325°F . Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt (if using) in a medium sized microwave safe bowl and microwave on HIGH power for one minute, then 30 seconds each time, stirring in between ( Or place all of these in a 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 or microwave and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret says Deb — it should smoothen out once the eggs and flour are added. Note: Mine was not completely smooth even after adding the eggs and flour. See the picture above.
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 a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. I used a wooden spoon. This is some amount of effort as the batter will be quite thick, don't tell me I did not warn you! Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, mine took about 40 minutes. As Alice suggests 20-25 minutes, safer to check at 20 minutes, bake longer if needed. Let cool completely on a rack. I left my pan on the rack for quite some time, then left it in the fridge, covered with clingfilm overnight. I was determined to get cleaner cuts this time, kids away helped!
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares. These are quite rich, my suggestion - make it 25 pieces.
Note : I am not sure if the mixture not being completely smooth (like Deb's) even after the addition of eggs and flour was in any way critical to the texture of the brownies. I was happy with mine. The top was not shiny either. I will next time use superfine sugar and see if there will be any notable difference.
Eggs : The eggs we get here weigh about 48 grams without shells which is the weight of large eggs without shells.
How we liked them : The Best Cocoa Brownies earned some brownie points in the eyes of a die-hard chocolate lover! To be baked again for sure!