Yes, I realize that I am sounding quite complacent, announcing to you that these brownies are “The Best Brownies in the World.” After all, how many brownies have you enjoyed in your lifetime? If you are like me, likely you cannot recall each brownie, and likely, you couldn’t even begin to rank them from worst to best. I doubt I could list my top 5 brownies ever. So, you ask, how can I be sure that this is the best brownie? Well, my best, most well-thought-out answer?
Because I say so.
But I will explain more about that in a moment.
Of course, we as a society cannot even agree on what makes a brownie “the best brownie.” It’s definitely a subject for debate. Some insist cakey brownies are king. Some love fudgy. Some are purists and insist chocolate-only, some enjoy nuts. And let’s not even get started on whether frosting, cream cheese, or fruit belongs in or on a brownie. For a dessert that is so universally loved, it’s hard to define exactly what makes that dessert so great.
What makes a brownie the “best brownie in the world”, for me? I’m a bit of a purist. Nuts are acceptable (not preferred), but a real brownie does not have frosting, cream cheese, or any creative, extravagant ingredients. I enjoy those things at times, but when I think of a brownie, this is the criteria: The brownie must be chewy and fudgy. No cakey brownies for me – I like cakes that are brownie-like, but not brownies that are cake-like. And they must be intensely chocolatey, so I very much prefer those made with a high-quality melted chocolate. Cocoa powder just cannot deliver that chocolate flavor that makes your knees go weak and your eyes roll back in your head. In order for a brownie to be the “best”, it must consume me with its chocolatey-ness.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have delayed in sharing this recipe with you. Not because I don’t care. I do. I want you to enjoy the pleasures that this brownie has to give. It’s just…well…I made the recipe the first time, and was so impressed with it, that we ate all of the brownies before a picture was taken! And the second time? You would think I would have learned my lesson, especially with children around, but I didn’t get a picture taken that time either! So, third time is a charm. If it is any consolation, they are well worth the wait.
This recipe originally came from Saveur magazine, and were named Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies. I modified them to include the addition of miniature chocolate chips, and I cut the quantity of nuts back (or omitted them entirely, as I did with the most recent batch). These brownies are dense, with perfectly chewy edges (my favorite part) that almost remind you of a chocolate biscotti, only moister and chewier. They are just sweet enough, with enough salt to really allow the chocolate flavor to sing. And that delicate, glossy, crackly crust! Of course, they taste amazing on their own, with a glass of milk, or as my husband requests, still warm, with ice cream on top.
After this most recent batch, I announced to my husband that I had just made the best brownies in the world. My rationale, besides “Because I say so”, was that I could not think of a thing to do to improve them. They were perfect. I’m sure I’m biased, but I hope you agree!
8 T unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 c sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 c chopped walnuts (optional – I did not include them in this batch)
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used the mini ones)
1/4 c flour
1/4 t kosher salt
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8″ X 8″ baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, grease the paper. Set aside.
Melt the butter and the chocolate together in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to make a smooth batter. Add the nuts, if using, the chocolate chips, flour, and salt, stir until incorporated. Pour the batter into the baking pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Cut and serve.
Hint – letting brownies cool is the hardest part. The smell will be amazing and overpowering, and it will require all of your willpower to resist. But if you wish to cut neat, square brownies, then wait you must. The brownies will cut (instead of crumble) with a sharp knife once they are mostly cool. Of course, if you don’t care how crumbly your brownies are, then dig right in!