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. I’m with you on the specifications of your search, Tiffany. No yelling here, just a caution that, given what a precise science baking is, tinkering with a recipe can court either an epiphany or a disaster. So, as I’m sure you know, proceed with caution. As to the baking time, if you used an 8-inch pan, the brownies would actually take slightly longer to bake than the above recipe, given that you propose to bake them in a smaller pan, which in turn causes the batter to be deeper. I’d give them at least 35 minutes. I wouldn’t recommend playing with the proportion of flour, not until you’ve made them at least once. (We find David to be quite adept in the kitchen, you may be surprised at just how perfectly aligned the flavor of just chocolate, as opposed to chocolate and cocoa, is with your criteria.) And as for the cocoa content of the chocolate, that depends entirely on you. If you prefer a drastically dark, intensely bitter flavor, go for the 85 percent. Something in the 70s is going to give you more of an all-around appealing chocolate flavor that still has notes of complexity.

    1. Thanks for your helpful feedback, Renee. I’ll give this recipe a whirl without any modifications (a feat for me) and let you know how it goes. I also asked about using an 8-inch baking tin because my new 9-inch square tin from Nordic Ware appears awfully larger than my old one, but perhaps it’s the rounded edges that is giving it that illusion, but I digress.

      1. Let us know how it goes! As for the pan size, I’m thinking subbing the 8-inch may wreak a little havoc with the texture, creating an imbalance between perfectly fudgy and chewy. But I know you like your brownies tall, so do as you see fit. And be sure to report back…

        1. 5 stars
          Hi Renee,

          As promised, here are my thoughts:

          I made the recipe, following the directions precisely and using a 9-inch baking tin, this evening using Valrhona Guanaja chocolate (70% cocoa content). It only took 20 minutes to be done (My oven appears to have a mind of its own. Initially the thermometer was at 350°F but after 10 minutes, it had jumped to 375°F. So as a word of caution to other bakers, make sure you closely monitor your oven temperature!)

          Although this recipe didn’t end up having some of the brownie qualities I desired, I definitely appreciated the meandering riverbed-like crust, its lovely sheen, and almost pate-like texture underneath. Eating the ends of the brownie was a pleasure, too, as they had a slight chewiness to them.

          I chose to use toasted pecans and found that to be complementary to the brownie because it had a haunting sweetness that cut through the richness of the chocolate rather than compete with it (which, in my opinion, hazelnuts would do).

          As for the height, although it wasn’t more than 3/4 inch high, I felt that for this recipe, it was the correct thickness; any higher and the brownie would be too rich.

          Thanks for this recipe!
          Tiffany

  2. Hello. I’ve tried the following recipes in search of the perfect brownie (which, to me, is a thick, tall square that straddles the fudge-like and slightly chewy realms): Baked Brownie, Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies, Nick Malgeri’s Brownies, Martha Stewart’s Brownies, Nigella’s Brownies, to name a few. I know I’ll be yelled at for tinkering…but I’m going to ask anyhow: If I baked these in an 8-inch square tin, do you think they would take 20 to 25 minutes to be done? Also, would you advise substituting some of the all-purpose flour for undutched (or dutched) cocoa powder? (I have some leftover Valrhona cocoa I want to use up.) Also, what cocoa content of the chocolate you would recommend using in this recipe (60%, 72%, or what about 85%)? Thanks in advance!

  3. 5 stars
    As promised, I had my brownie for breakfast. These are a fudgy chocoholic’s dream. I liked the contrast in texture of the nuts plus the break they gave from the intense chocolate flavor. Great with a cup of joe.

  4. Such an easy recipe for such a decadent treat. I’ll be good and let them cool in the pan, so I’ll be having them for breakfast.

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