I have a blanket mistrust of any recipe with a superlative in the title. “The Ultimate” or “The World’s Finest” always makes me raise an eyebrow. But how else can I describe these brownies? I’ve made a lot of brownies in my life, and these really are the best. I learned to make them from the late Robert Steinberg, who changed the world of American chocolate when he cofounded Scharffen Berger chocolate. Part of Robert’s unique charm was that he was quick to argue and that he, like most people who hold strong opinions on things food-wise, was invariably right when you would taste the results.
He adapted his brownie recipe from one by cookbook author Maida Heatter. The first time I made the brownies, they were a dry, crumbly disaster. Unconvinced that they were worthy of their accolades, I listened carefully as he walked me through the steps. When he asked if I had stirred the batter vigorously for 1 full minute, I stammered and then finally admitted that I cut that step short. “Aha!” he said. So I made them again, and discovered that was one life-changing minute.
This recipe takes well to mix-ins. I’ll sometimes add 1/3 cup chopped dried cherries or 1/3 cup cocoa nibs to the batter. To make minty brownies, crush the contents of one 50-gram tin of peppermint Altoids in a sturdy resealable plastic bag. Add the crushed mints to the batter along with the nuts (or, if you prefer, omit the nuts). If you like very minty brownies, add 1/2 teaspoon mint extract along with the crushed mints.–David Lebovitz
LC Absolutely The Best Note
Like David Lebovitz, we, too, take superlatives quite seriously–our editors wield their red pens warily over such boastful words. Still, after tasting these chewy but not gooey brownies, we chose to leave the words “absolute best” in the title intact, for reasons that we think are obvious. Cakey on the outside, fudgy on the inside, and absolutely the best through and through.
Robert’s Absolute Best Brownie Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 15 M
- 30 M
- Makes 9 to 12 brownies
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
- 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- 2. Line an 8-inch square pan with 2 long lengths of aluminum foil or parchment paper, positioning the sheets perpendicular to one other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan. Lightly butter the foil or parchment. [Editor's Note: The original recipe calls for a 9-inch square pan, although we've had better success with an 8-inch pan.]
- 3. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the chocolate and stir by hand until it is melted and smooth.
- 4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs by hand, 1 at a time. Add the flour and stir energetically for 1 full minute—time yourself—until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan. [Editor's Note: There are two crucial elements in the making of these brownies. One is throwing yourself into the making of them by stirring them "energetically," as the recipe stipulates. The second, also spelled out in the recipe, is making certain you stir the batter thusly for a full minute. It may appear to separate a few seconds into stirring, and it may appear grainy midway through, but when you stir with vigor for a full 60 seconds--and we do mean a full 60 seconds, along the lines of "One Mississippi, two Mississippi..."--you'll end up with a batter that's rich, thick, satiny smooth, and glossy as can be. Therein lies the difference between dry, crumbly brownies and the world's best brownies.] Stir in the chopped nuts.
- 5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the center feels almost set, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake.
- 6. Let the brownie cool completely in the pan—this is the difficult part—before lifting the foil or parchment and the block of brownie out of the pan. Cut the brownie into squares. (The brownies will keep well for up to 4 days and can be frozen for up to 1 month.)
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Testers ChoiceTesters Choice
Apr 06, 2010
I made these the other day, and they were incredibly rich, chocolate-y, and oh-so-easy to whip up. I used a wooden spoon to stir it all by hand, and the texture went from grainy to grand in about 1 minute. They were even better the next day when the flavors melded. The next time I make them, I’ll add a bit of espresso powder to kick up the flavor and make it more complex.
Apr 06, 2010
Anything with “Best” in the title has to be worth a try. The preparation for these brownies is simple and straightforward. The chocolate melted within 90 seconds of being added to the butter. About 25 seconds into the “energetic” mixing section of the recipe, the batter looked like it might separate. I kept up my mixing for the duration of the minute and found that the batter turned glossy and began to pull away from the pan in its entirety—no separating. The brownies baked in 30 minutes and they looked beautiful with their crackly surface. When I cut into them, the brownies were fudgy but in no way underdone. The flavor was superbly rich and chocolatey. The almonds added a bit of crunch and texture. All in all was it the best brownie? I think they’re pretty close to one of the best brownie recipes I’ve ever tried. I think I will continue to test other recipes, though, just to be sure.
Apr 06, 2010
What a difference one minute makes! I made two batches of these brownies–one with pecans and one without–and they both turned out fantastic. These brownies are very quick and easy to put together. The vigorous stirring for one minute is a must. You can see the very grainy texture before you mix but as it goes along everything comes together. The batch with the nuts almost acted like making bread because the batter started pulling away from the side of the pan while you stirred. There is still a slight grainy texture when you finish mixing but that’s okay. It produced a fairly thin, dense, moist, fudgy brownie. I suggest cutting them into 12 bars because these are very sweet. Everyone said they wanted the recipe because it will be the only brownie they make from now on–these brownies are that good. Now all I need to do is make more brownies because both batches are all gone.
Apr 06, 2010
Picking the best brownie recipe is a lot like picking a favorite child. It just can’t be done. Sometimes you’re in the mood for one, sometimes the other, and sometimes having them both around you at once is the best. And there’s always room for more good ones, just as with these brownies. The recipe worked as written and gave me a fudgy brownie with crisp sides. I used the nuts and found that toasting them really enhanced their flavor. Mixed by hand with a wooden spoon, the batter is easy to make, easy to clean up, and yummy to lick from the spoon. Not sure about absolutely the best, though. Maybe they should be called “absolutely include these in your brownie recipes brownies.”
Robert’s Absolute Best Brownie Recipe © 2010 David Lebovitz. Photo © 2010 Maren Caruso. All rights reserved.