You know how there’s like the good recipes and then there’s the great ones?
I think the distinguishing factor is whether or not it gets remembered and requested again or if it quickly falls into that lonely pit of recipe oblivion and is just a one time thing. Obviously there are no hard fast rules here, and there is definitely plenty of grey area, but in general if it doesn’t make an impression then it doesn’t make the favorites list and become an instant classic.
I think you’ve probably all figured out by now that I have a problem leaving plain and simple alone. It’s pretty bad. I’m always wanting to add that one extra thing that takes food to the next level. I consider this somewhat irritating habit to be both a gift and a curse because when it comes into play it usually ends in (eh hem, if I do say so myself) works of utter and complete genius!……..or, more often, in complete failure. Wah, wah, wah….
So in thinking about all of the recipes that I actually use all the time and trying to figure out which ones I’m missing, I realized that I have somehow never come up with an IT brownie recipe. Yeah, I’ve made a ton of different kinds of brownies in the past. I’ve tried everything from mocha brownies to healthy ones with beans and avocados in them (which considering that, were shockingly good by the way), but I’ve never created that basic brownie to top all other brownies, you know? That’s what got me started on this search to find it. I’ve been making small batches of brownies for a few weeks now as a kind of side project and testing different tweaks after each one. Luckily for me, there’s a handful of people around at all times that are willing to help me out in testing them and then make it ridiculously easy to vanish the extras. Ha, imagine that, a few extra brownies disappearing without effort.
There will always be another twist to add, or tip to follow in the baking world and it seems like so many people are out there claiming to have the “best” brownie recipe ever. That’s what I don’t want to do I don’t want to ruin a good thing with such a cliché, but at this moment this is my new go-to brownie. The nutella frosting and chocolate drizzle are just a bonus because I was having fun accessorising my brownies for you guys like a 6-year-old with a barbie doll. These brownies can hold their own perfectly fine as is.
If you’re here and you’ve been looking for the same thing, then let me tell you a few of the things that worked and didn’t work for me personally. [If you just came to drool over pictures of yummy chocolate then please feel free to skip the rest ’cause I’m about to go all boring-baker-stuff on you.]
I browsed through so many different recipes to get inspiration but at the end of the day I just started comparing each batch to my last one, mad-scientist style, until I was happy with the result. Let’s break this down, a brownie is only a few simple ingredients but primarily you need; some form of fat, some form of sugar, and some form of chocolate, and usually eggs. Then there are the smaller things that can make a big difference like baking soda or powder, the ratios of all these things, and the order and technique for putting them together.
So on the fat, oil based brownies or ones with mixed fats can be really delish but I realized how much of a purist I am when I contrasted those to an all-butter brownie. There is just so much flavor when you stick with butter (pun unintended until after I typed it and LOL-ed). When it comes to the sugar, many people add all or partial brown sugar to their recipe. I do love the depth that it gives but I found that it results in a drier brownie and I think the texture outweighs the flavor here. I mean, fudginess is what this is all about right?
Okay, then the chocolate is where things tend to branch out a lot. Oh, and I forgot to mention that this is one of the critical points of what I wanted to do, to create the perfect brownie with only cocoa powder. There’s no doubt that melting good quality chocolate into your batter can make them amazing but I feel like it sort of defeats the purpose of making brownies from scratch. This doesn’t apply to the extra chunks though, those are a must people!
For the eggs, I really liked the ratio of 2 eggs to my other ingredients. Then on the baking soda/powder, I tried different variations with each but my favorite textured attempts were when I left it out all together. Then you’ll need some flour to hold it all together, some vanilla because yum, and skipping salt is way out of the question. After that you can cram these full of as many chocolate chips as you think you can handle and then the toppings are, like I said, optional.
Now then, when you get to actually making these you’ll want to melt your butter completely to mix it with the cocoa and the sugar, but you don’t want to get it too hot or you’ll shock your sugar and seize up the cocoa. Just get it to melted temperature and you’re good. Once you mix in the eggs try not to stir too much because it messes with you end texture, you only want to stir the final batter until it’s smooth. Okay, and last but not least I should probably mention the pan size. The recipe is for a half-batch and works well in an 8×8 pan or, what I use, a 7×11 pan. The pictured bars were a double batch baked in a 13×9 because a half-batch just doesn’t cut it for my family.
Wow, that was a LOT of words to tell you about these brownies but I really want you guys to have success with these and experience the (okay, I’m gonna say it) “best” brownies ever! Scratch that, I want you to experience the best brownies that you’ve ever made because that’s half the fun. K that’s it, so get baking!
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 10 tablespoons (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) butter
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/3 cup chocolate chunks
- 1/3 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (nutella)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 (about 60g) milk chocolate, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C) and grease and 8x8 inch square pan with oil.
- In a small saucepan set over low heat, slowly melt the butter with sugar and cocoa powder while whisking. Once melted, remove from heat and scrape into a medium bowl then stir in espresso powder, salt, and vanilla until combined. Add the eggs and stir just until mixed, then the flour and stir in until smooth.
- Pour the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle chocolate chips over the batter evenly. Bake the brownies for 18 - 24 minutes until the center doesn't jiggle when the pan is nudged (you can also check center with a toothpick and see if it comes out clean). Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes before adding the frosting.
- While the brownies are cooling, whisk the melted butter, nutella, vanilla extract, and milk in a small mixing bowl. Add the salt and powdered sugar and stir until creamy smooth. After about 10 minutes of cooling time on the brownies, scrape the frosting out of bowl and on top of them. Allow the heat of the brownies to soften the frosting for about 5 minutes, then very gently spread it over top being careful not to tear the brownies.
- If you want to add the extra chocolate, melt the butter and milk chocolate in a double boiler or microwave safe bowl in short intervals until smooth and use a small pastry bag (or just a fork) to drizzle over the top.
- For perfectly squared brownies, allow them to finish cooling completely (you can put the pan in the fridge or freezer if you're in a hurry) before cutting. However, for yummiest but messy brownies, dig in while they are still warm!!!