I’ve been on a quest to make the perfect brownie. I’ve made some really good brownies in my day, but I’ve still yet to crown my ultimate. Everyone has a different idea of what the best brownie actually tastes like, and to me, it’s a little hard to put into words. The differences are subtle. They must be fudgy, not cake-like, and definitively chocolatey, but not overly cocoa-y. I humbly, yet firmly, disagree with this article that says the best brownies are made with cocoa powder and not melted chocolate. I find cocoa based brownies to always be inferior, as they lack the depth and richness of a brownie made with real chocolate. I
want need to taste the butter, so don’t even think about making them with oil. And they need to have a nice, chewy crust.
Are these my perfect brownies? To put it bluntly, no. I still haven’t figured it out. But they’re still really good brownies, and they might just be your perfect version.
Many years back I was working at an office that had a sandwich shop/bakery up the road that I would frequently stop in for lunch. One day, I noticed these big dark brown squares wrapped in plastic next to the cash register and inquired. “They’re really good,” said the girl behind the counter, who happened to be the baker/owner. My sweet tooth was on fire that day, so I said, “okay, let me have one”. Then she asked if I wanted one out of the fridge, insisting that they tasted better cold. She seemed like she knew what she was talking about, so I agreed, paid for my food, and went on my way.
On my drive home later that day, because I possess zero self control, I unwrapped the brownie and took a little nibble off the corner. That nibble turned into bite after bite until I nearly devoured the whole thing before I was even half way home. This was hands down the best brownie I’d ever tasted. Up until this point in my life, I had certainly enjoyed brownies, but I never went nuts over them. This one, however, was life changing, and they became my total weakness from that point on.
Even after I left that job to become a personal chef, I would still take trips over to the shop to buy a stash of brownies. Then one day, the place was all closed up and I had no idea what had happened. It’s since reopened with different owners, but they don’t make brownies, and I’ve been trying to recreate those perfect, mind blowing chocolatey bars ever since.
So… then there’s these brownies. They were an attempt at making those brownies, and while they are definitely not them, they are still really, quite good. Just ask all the construction workers I shared them with on the day I made them (the perks of working at my house on recipe day). They’re sweet and intensely chocolatey with mellow coffee undertones, and just like the brownies from that sandwich shop, they’re best served ice cold.
A little bit of coffee is known to enhance the flavor of chocolate, but in this recipe, I wanted to really taste the coffee. That said, the flavor is still fairly subtle, which is all the more reason to pair them with a nice strong cup of joe. We recently got a fancy schamcy Nespresso machine, which, if you’re not familiar, is like a Keurig for espresso. They’re all the rage in Europe and they’re starting to become more popular in the US thanks to an awesome ad campaign with George Clooney and Danny Devito. While it’s not going to replace our morning coffee anytime soon, this baby has been perfect for making quick shots of caffeine on those afternoons when I’m too busy (read: lazy) to grind beans, boil water and wait for the French press to brew.
The only downside is that the pods are pretty pricey. It’s not a huge deal considering we don’t use it every day, but still something worth considering. I’ve since, however, stumbled upon these Gourmesso coffee capsules that fit the machine. The quality is just as good, but they’re about 30% less expensive. Score!
These brownies are the ultimate afternoon pick-me-up and they’ll make an excellent addition to your next holiday party. They come together faster than my salted caramel brownies, but taste just as sinfully sweet. While they may not be my perfect brownies, they’re still brownies I’d be stoked to eat anytime and I think you’ll agree. As for my perfect brownie, I guess I’ll just have to continue on my quest and try, try again.
Do you have a perfect brownie recipe you’d like to share?
One Year Ago: Oven Baked Parmesan Truffle Fries (Video!)
- 12 tablespoons butter
- 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons espresso or very strong coffee
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler on the stovetop.
- Remove from the heat and use a wooden spoon to beat in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, being sure to fully incorporate the first one before adding the next.
- Add vanilla, espresso, espresso powder and salt, then beat for one minute. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and mix until well combined.
- Pour into a parchment lined 8x8" pan and smooth out the top. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay, but be sure there is no runny batter).
- Allow the brownies to cool, then transfer to the refrigerator until they're ice cold (overnight is best, but this can be sped up in the freezer if desired). Cut into 16 squares and serve.