Who can explain the perfect alchemy of brownies? Whether you like them warm and á la mode, dense and fudgy, as fluffy as cake or bittersweet and sprinkled with sea salt, the brownie is an American dessert without peer. Once, on the plane back from Madrid, I sat next to an adorable Spanish couple who were visiting New York for the first time. We spoke at length about Manhattan and they asked if I could provide them with some culinary recommendations for their trip. I’ve got to say, the first question they asked surprised me. “Where can we find brownies? Nos encantan brownies!” they enthused.
Hopefully, somewhere in Toledo they’re baking their own brownies with a recipe like this one from CookFight, by Julia Moskin and Kim Severson. Take a peek at the trailer, but be warned: these authors are as charming as the recipe below.
Whether your brownie sits on the fudgy or the cakey side of the aisle, its character should come from the underlying structure of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and chocolate, not from frills like marshmallows or peanut butter. This perfect formula is the accidental creation of baking guru Nick Malgieri, who (in a rare human moment for a pastry chef) once forgot to double the flour when baking his own fudge brownie recipe. He also adds a measure of brown sugar.
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for the pan
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar, such as Muscovado
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped walnuts or ¾ cup whole walnuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan, line with parchment paper, and butter the paper. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, or on low power in a microwave. Let cool slightly. Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl (or use a stand mixer). Whisk in the salt, sugars, and vanilla. Whisk in the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour just until combined. If using chopped (not whole) walnuts, stir them in. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. If using whole walnuts, arrange on top of batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the brownies are shiny and beginning to crack on top. Cool completely in the pan on a rack. Serve, or, for best flavor, store, tightly wrapped, overnight before serving. Makes 2 dozen brownies.
Senior Library Marketing Associate, Brooklyn foodie, and author of The Roaring 20s