There are two types of brownies in this world – cakey and fudgy. Cakey is what I usually think of as boxed brownie mixes. The texture is great, but, with the exception of Ghiradelli, the chocolate taste is often significantly lacking. In a homemade brownie that texture is hard to get (though Cook’s Illustrated has done it in a recipe that, while good, isn’t our fave). Brownies are one of Chris’ favorite desserts so we’ve tried more than a few recipes.
In our house, we have a favorite of those recipes that leans towards the fudgy side but also has a bit of cakiness. However, those brownies also require baking chocolate (chocolate flavor, check) that we don’t always have on hand. And the recipe makes enough to fill a 9×13 pan, which, for two people, is a lot of brownies. I was looking for a recipe that I could just whip up with staples we had on hand when we got the brownie itch. And one that wouldn’t leave us scrambling to find willing eaters when we are finally able to convince ourselves that we’ve had more than our fair share. Or, the worst problem yet, before the precious chocolate filled tasties go bad.
These brownies may not have a lick of cakiness to them. But you won’t hear me complaining as I bite into the fudgy goodness. The browned butter gives them a nice complexity, and the natural cocoa pulls through as a fond reminder of how chocolate baked goods used to taste before we got all fancy with our ingredients. Not to mention we usually have all of the ingredients in stock. However, perhaps the best reason is that they’re mixed all in one pan. Less dishes are always a win in my book, especially when we’re trying to enjoy a holiday induced date night!
Browned Butter Valentine’s Brownies
Originally from Bon Appetit but introduced to me via Jessica Collins. I didn’t change the recipe a bit, but am writing it in my own words to explain where in the process you can get things ready. That’s something I’m never sure of, so I hope it helps you!
- 1 cup walnuts (unless you’re allergic!)
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons water
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit with the rack in the lower middle of your oven. Line an 8×8 square pan with tin foil. Make it long enough to be a sling with an inch overhang on two sides and fold it the long way so that it sits in the bottom without crumpling. Spray generously with nonstick cooking spray.
- If you’re using them, in a small skillet over medium to medium high heat, toast your walnuts. Stir frequently, and remove from the burner to cool when you start to smell them.
- While those are toasting, measure measure your sugar, cocoa, salt, vanilla extract and water into a small bowl. Don’t worry about mixing it.
- In a medium sauce pan (preferably a stainless steel or light colored one) over medium heat melt the butter. The butter will melt, and then foam and then the surface will start to clear. At this point make sure to stir or swirl frequently. After about 5 minutes, you’ll start to see browned bits at the bottom of the pan and it will smell almost nutty. Remove it from heat at this point so it doesn’t burn.
- Immediately add the cocoa mixture and stir until combined. Let cool for 5 minutes.
- While you’re waiting, measure your flour into the now empty bowl and get your eggs out.
- Once cool, add the eggs, one at a time, to the warm mixture and stir rapidly to combine. The mixture will look thick and shiny.
- Add the flour and stir until combined. Finish by mixing for about 45 seconds to a minute.
- Mix in your walnuts.
- Pour into your lined baking pan and place in the oven.
- Bake for around 25 minutes (start checking at 22), until a toothpick inserted in the middle has just a few crumbs.
- Let cool in the pan completely, and then cut with a plastic knife into 16 brownies. And yes, a plastic knife always works best to cut brownies with.