David Lebovitz’s Best Brownies

These best brownies by David Lebovitz are chewy fudge brownies that are easy and moist and homemade from scratch and all the things a chocolate brownie ought to be.

A parchment-lined square pan filled with pecan-studded best brownies.

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.–David Lebovitz

WHY DO I HAVE TO STIR ENERGETICALLY FOR ONE MINUTE?

As David Lebovitz says in the author note, above, he doubted this direction himself—and paid the price. We really, really, honestly, suggest that you time yourself doing this. Vigorously stir until the batter loses its graininess and lightens in color. You’re doing this for the sake of the texture of your finished brownies. As the batter becomes thick and glossy, your brownies will become fudgy and rich because you’ve smoothed out all the graininess and made a more cohesive batter. It’s a simple trick but it works.

David Lebovitz's Best Brownies

A parchment-lined square pan filled with pecan-studded best brownies.
I’ve made a lot of brownies in my life, and these really are the best.
David Lebovitz

Prep 15 mins
Cook 25 mins
Total 40 mins
Dessert
American
9 brownies
401 kcal
4.72 / 45 votes
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Ingredients 

  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted or salted butter cut into chunks, plus more for the pan
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped
  • 3/4 cup granulated 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

Directions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  • 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.
  • In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the chocolate and whisk until it's completely melted and smooth.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and, still using the whisk, stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined.
  • Whisk in the eggs by hand, 1 at a time. Add the flour and whisk with everything you've got until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Seriously, time yourself. During stirring, the batter may appear to separate, and midway through stirring it may appear grainy, but when you keep whisking with vigor, you'll end up with a batter that's rich and thick.
  • Stir in the chopped nuts and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the center is almost set, 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overbake.
  • Place the pan on a wire rack and let the brownies cool completely—yes, we understand how difficult this can be—before removing them from the pan by lifting the foil or parchment paper. Cut into 9 squares. (In theory, the brownies will keep, covered, at room temperature for up to 4 days and in the freezer for up to 1 month. But c'mon. We both know that's not going to happen.)
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1brownieCalories: 401kcal (20%)Carbohydrates: 33g (11%)Protein: 6g (12%)Fat: 28g (43%)Saturated Fat: 12g (75%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 63mg (21%)Sodium: 22mg (1%)Potassium: 260mg (7%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 23g (26%)Vitamin A: 319IU (6%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 40mg (4%)Iron: 4mg (22%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

Anything with “Best” in the title has to be worth a try. The flavor was superbly rich and chocolatey. 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. 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.

I was craving brownies and needed a brownie fix and SCORE! I had all of the ingredients for these best brownies in my pantry. "Best Brownies" is quite a claim, but this recipe lives up to the name in my book. I have to say, this has instantly taken the spot as my new personal favorite brownie recipe. I love a fudgy but not gooey decadent brownie with a crackly top and just a bit of cake or crumb. And this recipe delivers on a rich, deep, buttery, walnut flavor with a chocolatey goodness I was hoping for.

The brownies are somewhat dense but still light. This recipe was so easy to make, especially because I tag-teamed it with my husband and he did all the measuring, stirring, and assembling. (Often when we cook together, I read out the recipe and he cooks to speed up the process. It made for a quick assembly. My husband put this recipe together in less than 5 minutes.) I love that only 1/4 cup of flour was used in the whole recipe. One alteration we made was cutting the sugar down to 1/2 cup and I am glad my husband decided to do so, mainly because we were using Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup) instead of bittersweet. The brownies were almost on the verge of being too sweet but were perfect. For semisweet chocolate, 1/2 cup sugar is enough sweetness, although I would use only 3/4 cup sugar with bittersweet chocolate.

I did not toast the walnuts ahead of time but they still tasted toasted in the finished product. We started to smell an intense brownie aroma at 22 minutes and by 25 minutes they looked done with a crackly top and a toothpick coming out practically clean. We pulled the pan out just at the right time. Sorry, we just couldn't wait till they cooled. The brownies were delicately cut into squares and were fine even when slightly warm. Boy, did these make a good brownie sundae!


Originally published April 6, 2010

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Comments

  1. Hi HB,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your “fried” brownies. How long do you think that you stirred the batter? I have one of our testers giving the recipe a once-over tonight to see if she can recreate your problems. Will let you know.

    Beth

  2. While I was energetically stirring, my batter broke. “Yikes!” I thought, and smeared it into the pan, as the more I stirred the more butter squeezed out. Needless to say, it was a disaster. The brownie sort of fried the whole time it was in the oven. My only deviation from the recipe was I didn’t wait for the eggs to come to room temperature. Should I have dumped the batter in a stand mixer and beat ’til smooth? Would that have worked? Any thoughts?

    1. Hi, HB! I made the recipe last night using cold eggs as you did to try to recreate the problem you had. The batter did not break for me and the final outcome was sensational. I am sorry that you encountered this disaster. I’m still trying to figure out what could have gone wrong. Did you mix the melted butter and chocolate until smooth? Did you use real butter? Was the batter grainy after you added the sugar and vanilla? Did it “break” after you added the eggs or after you added the flour? Lastly, what kind of chocolate did you use? Hopefully, we can determine the cause. Will wait to hear back from you. Thank you for your post.

      1. Despite the amount of butter, I was worried that direct heat would cause the chocolate to seize so was particularly careful with the melting. The chocolate and butter were very smooth after melting. I used a combination of unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate, the brand of which I don’t recall. It was probably Callebaut. Major bummer. The butter was a supermarket brand. Not my preference but I was so anxious to make these brownies, I compromised and bought what was easily available. Sugar and vanilla went in no problem.

        The batter broke after all ingredients were in, including the flour (King Arthur AP). It started out smooth and stayed smooth. It just went greasy during the “full minute.” I could’ve poured off the butter, it was so broken. I don’t think I actually made it a full minute with the stirring.

        BTW I was using a silicon spatula, my tool of choice when working with melted chocolate. Once the batter broke, it seemed like it was making matters worse, somehow pressing more butter out. Maybe a wooden spoon would have helped emulsify the batter?

        Thanks so much for your help! I have a bar of Scharffenberger waiting to make another batch.

        1. Same butter separation for me; Kerrygold butter, 85% chocolate, silicone spatula. Could the stirring inplement really be the culprit?

          1. Beth, it seems doubtful, but I’ve only ever used a wooden spoon, and it’s never separated. I think using 85% chocolate could be the issue. I use bittersweet 60% chocolate.

        2. Hi HC. I apologize. I thought I entered a response to this last week. Not sure what happened there. Anyway, I am unclear what could have happened with your intial batch. If you are certain you measurered the chocolate and butter correctly, it should have worked out fine. Who knows, maybe one of the ingredients was bad. With that said, I would hope you will use that wonderful bar of chocolate and try it again. I personally used Ghiradelli 60% Cacao chocolate and Land O’ Lakes butter. The results were amazing.

          Regarding your question about trying to “unbreak” the batter by putting it in a stand mixer is intriguing. I think I would have considered that as well, adding maybe a teaspoon of flour at a time (up to 3) while mixing. Hopefully, when you repeat the recipe, you won’t have to even think about it because it will turn out perfectly.

          Please let us know how your second time around works out.

          Thanks for writing in!

          1. I had the same thing happen. My batter was fine, I melted everything on low, then when I added the King Arthur all-purpose flour and stirred, the batter totally broke. I added it to my stand mixer but that didn’t help. I used Lindt Excellence 70% and 85% cocoa chocolate bars. I was so disappointed. Rather than try to bake it anyway, I added more sugar and one more egg, more flour, and I just made cookies out of it. I spent too much money on the ingredients for me to waste it! I would love to hear if anyone figures out why this happens. My eggs were not totally room temperature; I had them in warm water for a few mins, so not toally cold, but probably not as warm as they needed to be. And I did use one ounce of Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Dark Chocolate….

          2. Hi, Sara. I’m so sorry to hear you had a problem with the recipe. As I said above, I’ve made it many times without any problems. You made some changes and substitutions that could have affected the final results. There is a significant difference between semisweet and unsweetened chocolate. Also, not having the eggs at room temperature could cause the mixture to seize. Did you mix vigorously with a wooden spoon for just 1 minute? That really is what makes the difference.

            But I’ll get our Never Cook Naked guys, Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein, to weigh in here.

          3. This is a few years late, but I happened to see a question about this that Alice Medrich had answered on a blog that related to this particular separation issue. See the post below:

            Q: Sometimes, when I make a brownie with melted butter, the batter seems to separate during baking, as if the butter is oozing out, and pooling around the edges of the pan. The brownie ends up being dry and crumbly, instead of fudgy and chewy. What causes this?

            This “butter leakage” also happens sometimes when baking cookies. The cookies start to spread like crazy, and end up being flat and greasy, instead of buttery and crunchy. It happened with a cookie recipe that called for melted butter, but it’s also happened to other recipes that don’t call for melted butter.

            I can’t predict when it happens—most times it doesn’t. It only happens when I’m short on time, and have to take something somewhere!

            A: I know the problem well, Sandi. Brownies batters (and cookie batters too) that have loads of chocolate and melted butter but not too much flour in them must be mixed vigorouly enough to emulsify the batter in the first place, before you pour it into the pan–otherwise the butter weeps out, exactly as you described. I have a couple of tricks to help the emulsification process, first, when making brownies, I usually add my eggs cold. Don’t worry if the chocolate and butter mixture is hot; after you stir in the sugar, it’s safe to add the eggs, stirring vigorously after each one. But, the most important tip is about mixing: after you add the flour, stir vigorously until the batter comes together into a smooth mass and actually pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If you are not strong enough to stir a heavy batter by hand, use a mixer. I write all about this problem in the new book…I hope you’ll have a look.

          4. Many thanks for taking the time to share this Q & A, Fay. Greatly appreciate it. And it’s reassuring to hear that the great Alice Medrich has the same advice that David Lebovitz does—stir the batter vigorously and for an ample amount of time!

          5. David,
            Thank you so much for your reply and tips. I will definitely be trying these again. They look so good 🙂

  3. These look amazing. I like that there is so little flour. Next time I bake, probably for the chocolate onslaught of Valentine’s Day, I will make these. I’ll report back.

      1. 5 stars
        I finally made these brownies. I made them on Friday, let them cool, and today I cut them into hearts with a cookie cutter. I tasted them and they are wonderful. Deep and dark chocolatey. I omitted the nuts as my son is allergic and used Ghiradelli 70% cacao and a portion of Valrhona 40% milk chocolate, as I had it on hand. Just wonderful. I would make these again.

        Also I used my silicone brownie pan, which is 8″, not 9″. Worked well.

        Tonight is the big test—giving them to my hubby as part of our Valentine’s Day celebration. We’ll see what Mr. Chocolate says!

          1. I forgot to write in and let you know what hubby thought. He liked the brownies a lot, and even licked his lips. They were a hit. He ate a second one, and I ate the rest. He doesn’t eat a lot of sweets, but he did like these. I will make them again.

  4. If I want cakelike brownies, I’ll just have chocolate cake. 😉 That being said, if these lean more toward fudgy, I will definitely be giving them a go!

  5. Going to try this recipe tomorrow and will update you as to my success. They sound yummy. I will follow recipe to a T.

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