A brownie recipe that never gets old.
Brownies. Chocolate chip cookies. Pie dough. There are sweets for which every blogger searches for that one perfect, timeless recipe. Somewhat strangely, everyone seems to be looking for a homemade brownie recipe that echoes the store-bought Betty Crocker mix of childhood. I’m not immune; the light, fluffy sheet cakes produced by the Duncan Hines lemon cake mix and frosting-from-a-can ruined me forever for homemade cakes, which now – OK, not now exactly, as I’m the terrible chef who doesn’t taste what she makes, but definitely after age eight – taste like heavy, dense bricks of sugar and flour.
So if you want the brownies to taste like they came from a mix, why not just buy the mix? Half a cup of oil, two eggs, and a few tablespoons of water, and you’re on your way to chocolatey heaven. But no matter how delicious those brownies may taste, bringing them to a party or bake sale will always make you feel like a fraud. That’s where The Hunt comes in.
My own Hunt led me on search for brownies designed to check off every box on my OCD list of brownie “musts.” First, they had to include not only cocoa but real chocolate chunks as well. While the first brownie recipe that pops up in a Google search is for a recipe by Food Network fixture and indubitable cooking expert Alton Brown, it gets its chocolate flavor solely from cocoa. Why does that bother me so much? I’m not really sure, but for some reason cocoa-only brownies just seem fake. Maybe the brown Hershey’s powder looks too close to a dry box mix for comfort.
Second, my prefect brownie recipe had to have that smooth top that shatters into a thousand spidery fault lines when you cut it. The secret to that, according to one of my favorite blogs, A Pastry Affair, is a recipe that includes just enough white sugar to get that crackle but enough brown sugar to get that signature chewy texture.
Third, these had to be fudgy brownies. No cake-like, frosted treats for me. If you’re going to make brownies light enough to be a cake, if you’re going to frost them with some sort of airy chocolate spread . . . well, you might as well be making a cake. When I bake brownies, I want them to turn out dense, packing as much chocolate as possible into every bite.
Lastly, they had to be rich. Dark chocolate all the way – none of those milk chocolate or semi-sweet morsels for me. The chocolate had to be chopped from a bar, since the chocolate chips you buy in the Nestle or Hershey’s bag contain less cocoa butter in order to keep their shape in baked goods like cookies. You can always swap morsels for chunks, of course, but I lucked out in finding a brownie recipe that already knew what was up.
So which recipe earned its own blog entry? Cooking Light’s Classic Fudge-Walnut Brownies came through with flying colors. They’ve got cocoa and “real” chocolate, they call for a cup of white sugar, and they have two eggs to double down on that fudgy mouthfeel. I made a few changes – I used equal amounts white and brown sugar, left out the walnuts (because who wants a nasty old nut to get in the way of pure chocolate enjoyment?), and made sure my “bittersweet chocolate chunks” were broken off a nice 60% dark Ghiradelli bar. I’ve opined before about how the difference between, say, Gold Medal flour and the store brand is hardly enough to taste, but I’m a believer when it comes to quality in chocolate: it definitely varies, and if you’re working on a recipe designed to convey the most chocolatey bite possible from plate to mouth, you’d better go for the gusto.
Here it is. I hope the perfect brownie recipe – the recipe that brought my Hunt to its conclusion – will mark the end of your Hunt as well.