Birthday brownies

Today we’re having a birthday party for my daughter, who is turning two. TWO. Half of me is in complete denial about this; the other half is self-medicating with chocolate and sugar.

My daughter is opinionated and shy and fierce and funny (so funny) and verbal and stubborn. She’s a lot like me, and utterly unlike me at the same time. One thing we will probably always share, however, is a passion for brownies. (I realize this is hardly unique; who are these people who claim to dislike chocolate, anyway?) So for this birthday bash, we’re having brownies instead of cake.

As soon as I finish up this blog post, I’ll be baking a double batch of my longtime, all-time favourite brownie recipe. These brownies are good enough to make you weep. They’re also brilliant because they use melted butter, cold eggs, and cocoa powder instead of chocolate, so they’re perfect spur-of-the-moment brownies. You can also make it gluten-free by directly substituting any GF flour for of wheat flour. We like teff but really, anything goes.

Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies (from Bittersweet, 2003)

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8″ square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

There are a lot of brownie recipes out there, but this is the one I’m prepared to stand by. How about you? If you love brownies, what’s your go-to? And if you are one of the unicorns who really doesn’t care for chocolate, please speak up!

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8 Responses to “Birthday brownies”

  1. MelodyJ says:

    Happy Birthday to your daughter! I can’t believe she’s two. Time really does go fast. I started reading this blog long before she was born. That does seem so long ago.

    I’ve heard of people who don’t like chocolate too. Unbelievable! But sadly there are others who are allergic to chocolate. Could you imagine a life without chocolate?

    I love brownie but don’t have a stand by brownie recipe. Sometimes I use a mix and put nuts just on the top. This looks like a good recipe to try. Thanks for sharing.

  2. L says:

    Happy birthday to your daughter! Clearly she has superior taste, if she’s learned to appreciate brownies at such a young age :) I haven’t got a standby recipe, but I did once make brownies with peanut butter and they were fantastic.

    I am one of those unicorns who slowly went off excessive chocolate past my mid-twenties – one would still have to tear the Nutella, brownies and Toblerones out of my cold dead hands, but these days the idea of eating chocolate cake with chocolate icing, or an excessively fudgey (as opposed to cakey) browniw makes me a little queasy. Also, I go easy on chocolate sauce in my sundaes but imo caramel sauce is better!

  3. Ying says:

    Thanks for the birthday wishes, Melody and L! I should confess that I’m not as much of a chocolate fiend as I used to me. Like you, L, I grew out of it partway and became more interested in fruit/ginger/lemon desserts. But I will defend the fudgy brownie with my last breath! If you like cakey brownies, you’ll detest that recipe I posted. I love the idea of adding peanut butter, though.

  4. Ellie says:

    Happy Birthday to your daughter,
    Two is such an exciting age!
    The brownies sound delicious!
    Enjoy this…. It will be gone before you know it.

  5. Ying says:

    Thank you, Ellie! I love this age, tantrums and all.

  6. Rachel says:

    Happy Birthday to your daughter! My son is about to turn 2 in mid-July and I can’t believe how big he’s gotten and how much of his personality is taken from me and my hubby, though uniquely his own as well. Could do without the tantrums, but living with it b/c I’ve been sworn that it gets better, lol.

  7. Tanya says:

    Amazing, I love yummy brownies. I am going to try a batch of these at the weekend. I made some super healthy gluten free brownies and they turned out really super tasty. Here is the link if you are interested :)

  8. Ying says:

    Thanks for the link, Tanya! I may try these using honey or maple syrup instead of stevia. (I just don’t care for the taste of stevia.) Did you try Alice Medrich’s significantly less good-for-you recipe in the end? And Rachel, I hear you on the tantrums, but don’t you think they’re also just a bit funny? So much passion & energy directed at things like getting another cookie, or wanting to run out into the road…

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