I’m fully conscious of the boldness contained in this post’s title. It’s a robust claim. But if you know me, you know I’m someone who doesn’t flail such claims about without reason or utter certainty. When I taste something, a sandstorm blows around in my mind. Things are “meh”, “okay”, “good but not that good”, “good but not great”, “pretty great”, “excellent (never)”, and “the best (even less)”. I’m not sure when this bestness obsession started, but I remember my college roommate always making fun of me for asking “but which ones the best? I want that one!” with anything ranging from chicken to munchie induced ice cream chocolate bars. I’m uber picky, finicky, and pretty hard to please when it comes to food. My standards annoy me. I stare at the faces of people who try what I make with such urgency before they’ve even swallowed to see what they think or how I can change the recipe for the better. And this is why I strongly suggest you get in the kitchen stat if you want the best brownies in the universe to be a part of your world.
Because brownies are my desert island and last meal dessert. They symbolize home, they symbolize childhood, and they symbolize sweet beautiful fudgey comfort. I have made and eaten way too many brownie recipes in my life that have drawn me into brownie-induced coma(s). Some are really good. The cakey ones are brownie blasphemy, blah, super yawn-worthy, and should not be called or placed in the same realm as brownies because they are chocolate cake. Some are really great if you want to use unsweetened chocolate pieces. Others are made excellent with the use of humble cocoa powder. Ones that warrant 11 ounces of dark chocolate are the best.
These brownies are intense and special. Everyone around the internets and the world including Oprah, Cook’s Illustrated, Deb (my favorite and the best food blogger out there, yeah we’re on a first name basis), a hard-to-please Italian man with a pristine palate who still asks me about “il brownie” and now me have dubbed these the best, and I’ve hesitated to post them for so long because for some reason I didn’t want to cave and agree. I unnecessarily tested wayyyyy too many other recipes, making this one earn its name with each other not-good-enough attempt.
So much so that when I made my culinary school final dessert, this is what I chose. It was a towering layered brownie with peanut butter cream cheese layers, pretzel crunch, and salted caramel. Yes. The judges only had one thought: it was too big….whatever, I’ll take it. They too agreed it was the best brownie they’d ever had.
And I hope you do, too.
The best brownies in the universe
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
Note: I really believe brownies are best when they are left to rest overnight and eaten the next day even considering the amount of strength involved with this type of restraint. But, I always eat one warm brownie, snipped off the edge for “sampling purposes”.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Set the oven at 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 glass or light-colored metal baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cocoa powder together.
Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey (gross, don’t do it!!!).
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them int osquares and serve.
Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.