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
Hands-On Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 30 minutes | 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 the inside of an 8-inch square pan with 2 lengths of foil, positioning the sheets perpendicular to each other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan, or with a single large sheet of extra wide foil or parchment paper. Lightly butter the foil or parchment. [Editor's Note: The original recipe calls for a 9-inch square pan, although we've had 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. And therein lies the difference between dry, crumbly brownies and what many brownie mavens around the world feel are, indeed, 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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Robert’s Absolute Best Brownie Recipe © 2010 David Lebovitz. Photo © 2010 Maren Caruso. All rights reserved.