Friday, May 23, 2014

Chewy Cocoa Brownies

I feel like I have been waiting for this post to happen for such a long, long, long time.  Since change of season took place, I've been obsessed with working with light seasonal flavors and fresh berries and all things pastel and pretty.  At the same time, however, there's been a part of me that's been feeling more and more neglected as time passes.  The more I worked with berries and lavender and vanilla, the more and more I kept craving chocolate.  It's been so long since I last posted anything with chocolate in it (this Double Chocolate Pound Cake from the beginning of April is my last recipe with any chocolate in it!), and my last post was the complete opposite of chocolate- Vanilla Bean Ice Cream!  As much as I love working with all these spring flavors, I felt like I was going to go crazy if I didn't have anything indulgent, rich, and full of chocolate soon.  


This past weekend, I took care of that problem in the best way possible- by making an enormous batch of rich, chocolatey brownies.  I hadn't made a batch of brownies in a really long time, so curing my chocolate fix with brownies seemed to be the perfect remedy.  There's just something so comforting about biting into a chilled fudge brownie, and I'll never get over the first taste of intense chocolate flavor to hit your mouth.  A good fudge brownie is a treat that I don't ever see myself turning down.  


When I'm thinking of gooey fudgy brownies, I always think of them as starting out in the same exact way: melting butter and chocolate together over a double boiler to create a rich fudge base.  In the past, this is how I have always made my brownies, and I will almost always pass up on a recipe that uses only cocoa powder.  An all cocoa powder brownie recipe just can't be good, right?  There's no way it'll turn up rich and fudgy, and will just end up dry and cakey.  Don't pretend like you haven't had these thoughts before.  


Well, it turns out that you and I were all WRONG.  

WRONG as in COMPLETELY wrong. 

Fudgey brownies made with only cocoa powder are possible. 


Leave it to Deb from Smitten Kitchen to show me just how wrong I was.  These brownies are ultra rich and decadent, super fudgy, and are made exclusively with cocoa powder.  I didn't make any real changes to the recipe, aside from doubling it to make a big 9x13 pan of brownies (I had a huge craving) and adding in some extra semisweet chocolate chips at the end.  My mind was blown when I tried these brownies for the first time.  I just couldn't believe that I was getting that perfectly rich texture from just cocoa powder.  This brownie version starts off very similar to the more traditional fudge brownies that I'm used to.  Cocoa powder, sugar, and butter are melted together to create a fudgy base.  Deb recommends doing this over a double boiler, and while I usually endorse the double boiler method myself, I actually found it easier to simply melt all the ingredients together in the microwave.  Do so in thirty second intervals, always stirring in between, and for heaven's sake, please use a larger bowl than I did.  Your kitchen counters and shirt will thank you.  Once you have a thick and smoothish chocolate base, eggs are stirred in, to give the brownies some hold, followed by a bit of flour, for some structure. I love chocolate chips and walnuts in my brownies, so I made sure to mix in generous amounts of each.  The batter then gets poured into a large pan, and is ever so slightly underbaked.  


To get perfect slices of your brownies (and by perfect, I mean brownies with clean edges, not necessarily perfect squares- I have yet to master this), it's important to chill the brownies in the fridge for an hour or so and use a clean, hot knife to make each cut.  Even if you don't care about clean edges on your brownies, you should still let these cool to room temperature, because otherwise they'll just turn into a mess when you attempt to cut them into squares.  I personally loved the way these brownies tasted straight from the fridge, but they are also equally tasty if left to warm up to room temperature.  However you choose to enjoy them, I guarantee you that you'll love them.  They're so rich, decadent and fudgy, you won't believe that they're made purely with cocoa powder and only take a few quick moments to whip up.  These are the brownies to make when a mega brownie craving hits. Enjoy!

Chewy Cocoa Brownies
recipe adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped (optional)
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch pan with parchment paper, and leave a 2-inch overhang on two opposite sides.  Lightly spray the parchment paper with nonstick spray.


Combine the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in a large microwave safe bowl.  Heat the cocoa powder mixture in your microwave in thirty second intervals, making sure to stir, until the butter has melted and the mixture is fairly smooth.


Stir in the vanilla extract with a wooden spoon, followed by the eggs, stirring them in one at a time. In a small bowl, quickly whisk together the flour and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, mixing just until the flour has been combined in.  Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips, if using. 


Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean with a few small moist crumbs, about 45 minutes. Let the brownies cool completely on a wire rack before slicing into squares. To get perfectly clean cuts, place the brownies in the fridge for a little while so they have time to chill, then cut with a sharp knife, making sure to wipe it down after each cut.  Enjoy!

Makes 24 brownies

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