Mmmm. The smell of freshly baking chocolate brownies brings children, young and old, to the kitchen without fail. Who can resist those fudgey squares of dense chocolate love, those cubes of cakey goodness that harken to a simpler time in our lives. Brownies are the quintessential dessert foundation. You can top them with ice cream, dress them with genache, tease them with whipped cream, or enjoy them au naturel. You could even enjoy them prepared from a box. As long as they aren’t overbaked, many a boxed brownie mix are acceptable in a pinch. But let’s consider brownies from scratch.
Chocolate is our biggest concern. Excellent chocolate can turn a humble brownie recipe into an overachieving superstar. And subpar chocolate can ruin what could have been a crowd pleaser. Brownie recipes will either call for unsweetened chocolate baking bars, or unsweetened cocoa powder. A further step down the rabbit hole, and we’ve got to choose between natural unsweetened cocoa, and Dutch-processed cocoa.
Cocoa beans headed for the Dutch-processing facility are first washed in a mild alkali solution to remove some of the acids from the beans that impart unsweetened cocoa’s bitterness (not all bad. Coffee has many of these same properties.). Once the beans have been washed, they are processed in the normal fashion. Chocolate treats made with Dutch-processed cocoa have a deeper chocolate flavor without the bitterness of natural unsweetened cocoa. Baked goods also have a darker chocolate color after they are baked adding eye appeal to your dessert.
If you’d like to have unsweetened cocoa on hand, but you have limited space, or don’t want to keep both natural unsweetened cocoa and Dutch-processed cocoa in your pantry, which one would be best to keep. Dutch-processed cocoa can be used in any recipe that calls for natural unsweetened cocoa, even without additional base leaveners such as baking soda or powder added. Test kitchens have interchanged the two chocolates with excellent results. However, the Dutch-processed cocoa provides a deeper, more balanced chocolate flavor, and for us, that’s the clincher. Brownies, made from scratch, using Dutch-processed cocoa is where we’re headed.
These brownies, served with a simple genache and a side of whipped cream are beautiful to behold, and downright heavenly to eat. The next time you’re hankering to satisfy your sweet tooth, these brownies are easy, fast and delicious.
- 1½ cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup butter, melted
- ¾ cup Dutch processed cocoa
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chopped nuts, optional
Preheat your oven to 350°F, with the convection fan on if you have it. Lightly spray a 9×9 inch cake pan with non stick cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the brown sugar and eggs with either a hand mixer or balloon whisk until the sugar is mostly dissolved and the mixture is creamy and light. By hand, this will take about 5 minutes. Your brownies will have a crystalline, crunchy texture (quite unpleasant) if this step is skipped or skimped on.
After the sugar has been dissolved, add the melted butter and vanilla to the sugar mixture. Completely combine these. Add the salt and baking powder and thoroughly combine. Carefully add the cocoa powder and thoroughly combine. If you are adding the chopped nuts, add these next and combine using a spatula.
Add the flour ½ at a time using a spatula being careful to mix until just combined. If you overmix the flour, the brownies can become hard when they are baked. This brownie batter will be very thick and a little bit of flour showing is fine.
Spoon the batter into the cake pan and spread it evenly over the surface. Bake the brownies, on the middle rack for 18 minutes. Do not overbake. The brownies will set completely once they are cooled. Cool in the pan for an hour and invert onto a cutting board to serve.
To serve: dust a dessert plate with powdered sugar. Place two brownies overlapping on the plate and top with the genache. Finish with whipped cream on the side.
Simple Chocolate Genache
- 8 ounces Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate
- 2 ounces heavy whipping cream
Heat the chocolate and cream in the top of a double boiler. Stir to combine. Serve warm.