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.

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

David Lebovitz’s Best Brownies

4.79 / 71 votes
I’ve made a lot of brownies in my life, and these really are the best.
David Leite
CourseDessert
CuisineAmerican
Servings9 brownies
Calories401 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time40 minutes

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

Instructions 

  • 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.)
Ready for Dessert

Adapted From

Ready for Dessert

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 brownieCalories: 401 kcalCarbohydrates: 33 gProtein: 6 gFat: 28 gSaturated Fat: 12 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 63 mgSodium: 22 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 23 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2010 David Lebovitz. Photo © 2010 Maren Caruso. All rights reserved.


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!

Picking the best brownies 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.”

These brownies are very quick and easy to put together. The vigorous stirring for 1 minute is a must. You can see the very grainy texture before you mix, but as it goes along, everything comes together. What a difference 1 minute makes!

I made 2 batches of this best brownies recipe—one with pecans and one without—and they both turned out fantastic. The batch with the nuts almost acted like 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 gone.

These brownies have entered the weekly rotation at my house. They are as delicious as they are simple and quick.

You can easily shift the flavor profile by using semi or bittersweet chocolate, adding different nuts, or even using orange- or mint-infused chocolate. Cook them for less time for a very fudgy result or longer for a more traditional brownie chew.

I saw David Leite’s comment about espresso powder, so we added a teaspoon of King Arthur Flour Espresso Powder to the latest batch. This wasn’t enough to give the brownies a discernable note of espresso so we will definitely add more next time. However, we added a teaspoon to the cream we were whipping and this put the brownies over the top!




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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Recipe Rating




216 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    I tried these brownies last week and they were excellent! Very easy to make and only one saucepan to clean. 🙂 I baked them today again but with fructose instead of sugar. They came out good too. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  2. 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

  3. 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. Victoria, I’m always so impressed with how thorough you are with helping our readers. Danke!

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

          4. 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.

          5. 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!

        2. 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.