May 2, 2011

Julia's Best-ever Brownies

So I have written about my personal quest for the perfect brownies recipe. Or rather, I am seeking out that same taste, that same sensation, that re-enaction of a care-free, breezy summer on a patio. As the wise ones had said, you never cross the same bridge twice, I guess I just may never experience that perfect brownie moment ever again.

But that is not to say I am giving up.

I came across an archetypal brownie recipe as I was culling through my recipe collection. It came from the much revered Baking with Julia. Really, can one ever go wrong there? I made the recipe once again (after it having been buried at the bottom of a box for the last several years) and truly, it is the best-ever. Well, unless you belong to the "I like my brownie cakey" camp, then that is a whole other story, because this brownie is the fudgy type. It is very, very rich, satisfying and groan-inducing.

Best-ever fudgy brownie
I did make a couple of small changes to the recipe, instead of using two different types of chocolate I used semi-sweet only, and added a teaspoon of espresso powder (having this in my pantry makes me feel safe).It's not an easy-peasy one-bowl recipe, requiring a couple more steps, but I think you'll agree it's worth the extra effort.

And this is not the end of the happily-ever-after story. My quest is still on. Call me silly or crazy, I don't care. The thing is, in that same pile of recipes I spied a few intriguing ones involving brownies, and I know I will just have to try them one of these days. And I may just finally hit upon that dream brownie. But in the meantime, this one sits on the top of the pile, no two words about it!

Julia Child's Best-ever Brownies
Recipe from Baking with Julia

  • 1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped(I used 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate)

  • 2 cups sugar (I reduced by 1/4 cup)

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 tsp espresso powder (optional)

    1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Sift the flour and salt together and set aside. 
    2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently and keeping a watchful eye on the pot to make certain the chocolate doesn't scorch (Alternatively, you can melt the ingredients in the top of a double boiler over, not touching, simmering water.) Add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture and stir for half a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
    3. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.
    4. Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into a bowl and mix or whisk by hand just to combine.
    5. Little by little, pour half of the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don't set from the heat.
    6. Fit the whisk attachment to the mixer and whip the remaining sugar and eggs until they are thick, pale, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.
    7. Using the rubber spatula, delicately fold the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture.
    8. When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients.
    9. Pour and scrape the batter in to an unbuttered 9-inch square pan.
    10. Bake the brownies for 25-28 minutes, during which time they will rise a little and the top will turn dark and dry.
    11. Cut into the center at about the 23-minute mark to see how the brownies are progressing: They'll be perfect if they're just barely set and still pretty gooey.
    12. Cool the brownies completely in the pan on a rack.


    1. I find it very interesting that the ingredients for these are almost identical to my own "best-ever brownie" recipe from The Joy of Cooking, with the exception of the salt. I always add the salt as I cannot fathom a sweet recipe without it.

      Talk to me about whipping the eggs. Do you feel the extra effort is worth it? Have you tried NOT whipping them, and how the result compares? I have never added this step and am reluctant to start, at least until my indentured servants graduate into happily washing dishes in exchange for brownies!

    2. Melinda, I've also done some comparisons and found the ingredients to be mostly the same, but this one has a higher proportion of butter, chocolate and eggs!
      I do feel the extra effort with the separate whipping of the eggs is worth it, though I certainly understand how you feel about having to wash an extra bowl! I think it makes it easier to incorporate the eggs, with less agitation to the batter, which gives this brownie that unique fudgy-but-delicate mouth-feel. That said, I cannot say this is my go-to recipe for fudgy brownies because of the extra step, but it may be worth the extra time and effort for a special occasion! :-)