My parents are hosting Christmas dinner for the extended family this year, which gives me some say in what happens with the food. As the cook in my immediate family, it's my place. I think about food, I read the magazines, I like organizing and making lists...it's only fair. I prefer the non-traditional - trying new dishes, keeping things fresh, maybe even leave cheese off a few dishes (!), NOT having turkey and stuffing. My dad is requesting the later and I quote him, "I don't want any of that esoteric shit." This is a man who would qualify roasted squash or some sort of kale salad as esoteric. Oy. Wish me luck. Whatever the food, I am really looking forward to it. My mom sets a beautiful table, my grandma will make a few innocent while still slightly offensive comments and my sister and I will be silly at our corner of the table.
It got me thinking of dishes that are exceptional in their own right, for their simplicity or purity, before getting creative with them. I can't say there is much of that on this site, besides Hugh's coffee posts. I could even argue this topic is subjective between those preferring the traditional versus the modified, but a classic brownie recipe is something I need to have in my back pocket. If I am going to identify myself as a food blogger, there needs to be a brownie recipe on this site. It's an unspoken expectation. Not one with black beans or applesauce or mashed banana but let's start with straight up buttery, rich brownies. The kind I would eat warm with a scoop of ice cream and feel guilty about.
I had my mind set on a classic brownie recipe. I flipped through David Lebovitz' Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes because with a title like that and a reputation like his, I knew there would be a brownie recipe and it'd be exceptional. Holy moly was my gut correct on this one. First off, they are crazy easy and let's be honest, everyone apreciates that. These brownies are decadent and deeply chocolatey, so much so that even one with a fierce sweet tooth can have one small square and be satisfied. These are fudgy brownies but not so fudgy that you feel like you're eating underdone batter. The recipe reigns from a friend of Lebovitz' who co-founded Scharffen Berger so these are no cocoa-cakey brownies, this is chocolate in all its glory. Excellent on their own, and still a perfect canvas for adding in what you please. THAT is the brownie recipe I want. A la mode of course.
BROWNIES // Makes 12
Adapted from David Lebovitz Ready for Dessert
David notes that the minute long stir to incorporate the flour is crucial for everything staying together. I used oat flour, which gave reason for a slightly crumbly brownie but they stayed together just fine. If you use GF certified oat flour, these are gluten free. I grind my oat flour from old fashioned oats, so it's a tad coarse as you'll notice in the photos. Once the brownies are baked, I don't believe it compromises the texture at all.
- 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup natural cane sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/4 cup oat flour or unbleached all purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup cocoa nibs for topping
Add-in options (from both David and myself):
- 1 cup toasted and chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts)
- 1/3 each cup chopped dried cherries and cocoa nibs
- 1 tsp. mint extract and crushed candy canes for topping
- 1-2 tsp. espresso powder
Preheat the oven to 350'. Line the inside of a 8'' square pan with parchment or foil allowing the excess edges to extend beyond the edges of the pan. Lightly grease with butter or cooking spray.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, then add the chocolate and stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour, pinch of salt and stir energetically for 1 full minute, until the batter looses its graininess, becomes smooth, and begins to pul away from the sides. Stir in the chopped nuts of preferred add ins.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle the cocoa nibs on top and bake until the center is almost set, about 25-30 minutes. Don't overbake. Let them cool completely before lifting out the parchment to remove brownies.
These brownies will keep well for 4 days and can be frozen for one month. For a clean cut, chill the brownies to get even edges and clean the knife between slices.