Who doesn’t like brownies? Okay, maybe there’s someone out there who doesn’t, but I prefer to believe they’ve just never had a really great homemade brownie baked from scratch. Maybe they’ve only eaten brownies made from a boxed mix, or expensive ones from a bakery. But I’ve finally created the ultimate brownie recipe that could win anyone over – and it couldn’t be easier to make. Simple ingredients that can be found in nearly any market and just a few utensils – a whisk (or fork) and a spatula (or spoon), a couple of saucepans and bowls, and a baking pan - are all you need.
Everyone has their favorite brownie recipe, maybe more than one version depending on the situation. As for me, I travel a lot (40 different countries across five continents and counting!) and often want to prepare a simple dessert or give a homemade gift to friends, no matter how limited the kitchen facilities. But sometimes it’s hard to find the right ingredients or equipment to make a special treat. So it took a long time to develop the perfect brownie recipe that fit my strict “Can I make this anywhere in the world?” requirements:
- Not too sweet but with an intense chocolate flavor
- Dense and fudgy inside with a crackly top
- Delicious plain or topped with confectioner’s sugar, frosting, nuts or caramel
- Long shelf life (not that these last more than a few days in my kitchen!)
- Readily available ingredients (use whatever brands are in your pantry)
- No electric mixer required
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 5 oz. - Semisweet chocolate chips (or baking bar)
- 2 oz. - Unsweetened chocolate
- 8 Tbsp. – Unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp. - Cocoa powder
- 1 ½ Tbsp. – Espresso powder
- 3 – Large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tsp. – Pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. – Pure cocoa extract (optional, if you can’t find it, just add water)
- 1 ¼ cups – Granulated white sugar
- ½ tsp. – Kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp.- Tahini
- 1 cup – AP flour
Line an 8” square pan with aluminum foil, laying a sheet of foil one direction with enough to hang over the edge of the pan, then lay another sheet the other direction. You can leave the foil loose or wrap it over the edges of the pan. Lightly spray the foil in the pan with nonstick cooking spray. Since you’re lining the pan with foil, the pan itself doesn’t need to be non-stick and you can even use a disposable baking pan.
In a medium bowl over a double boiler, melt the chocolates and butter, stirring until smooth. To make a simple double boiler, just add 1” of water to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer, then nest a slightly smaller saucepan in the water, making sure no water seeps into the pan on top. Using a double boiler reduces the chance that the chocolate and butter mixture will overheat and burn. After most of the mixture has melted, you can turn off the burner and let any remaining bits melt in the pan until it’s completely smooth.
Remove the smaller saucepan from the double boiler. Whisk the cocoa powder and espresso powder into the melted chocolate and butter mixture until well incorporated and set aside to cool. The mixture will thicken slightly and there should be no lumps.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, cocoa extract and salt until well combined.
Whisk the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture; then stir in the tahini until well-blended. The tahini adds a nutty richness and helps keep the brownies moist.
Finally, fold in the flour until just combined. The batter will be quite thick but there should be no white flour streaks.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and, with a firm grip on both sides of the pan, gently tap the pan on a hard flat surface 2 or 3 times to even out the batter and eliminate any air bubbles.
Place the pan on the center rack and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until the top is slightly cracked. Don’t overbake or the brownies will be too dry. Remember, the brownies will continue to bake from the residual heat of the pan even after they’ve been taken out of the oven.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely, then turn out the brownies onto a flat surface and cut into 16 squares. If you like them sweet, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, frost them or spread hot caramel over the top before cutting. Serve with a cold glass of milk, a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.
If you’re giving them as a gift, cut the brownies and stack a few, then wrap in cellophane and secure with a twist tie. Or shingle the brownies in a box lined with parchment paper and tie with a festive ribbon. These brownies will stay fresh up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge, or they can be frozen for up to a month and reheated in the microwave.
Learn more baking tips at one of our upcoming classes at The Chopping Block: