Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cocoa Brownies

Brownie stack

A while back I read that brownies made with cocoa instead of chocolate were superior, though I can't remember why.  In this recipe, Alice Medrich writes: "Cocoa brownies have the softest center and chewiest candylike top 'crust' of all because all of the fat in the recipe (except for a small amount of cocoa butter in the cocoa) is butter, and all of the sugar is granulated sugar rather than the finely milled sugar used in chocolate." The top wasn't as crackly as promised, but the brownies were wonderfully fudgy.

brownie stack 2

Medrich also notes that any unsweetened Dutch-process or natural cocoa powder works well in the recipe -- natural cocoa (this is the kind you usually find in your supermarket) will produce more flavor complexity while Dutch-process has a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor.  I went with a Ghirardelli natural cocoa powder, which gave the brownies a deep, bittersweet flavor.

Best Cocoa Brownies
From Alich Medrich's Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies
10 tbs (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter
1¼ cups sugar
¾ cup plus 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
⅔ cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch 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 side 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.


  1. They definitely do look amazingly fudgy...I've just come around to loving brownies and am making up for lost time..(the one and only time I had food poisoning was from brownies) but that's ALL past me now...^.^

  2. I like bownies so much. It's always good to have more recipes for great brownies. Thanks :)

  3. I always made brownies with cocoa powder until very recently when I started using melted chocolate. They really are different, but I love them both ways. I mean, they're brownies! What's not to love? :) These look so dense and fudgy--definitely craving brownies now!

    1. Yes! Though I've had cafeteria brownies or book store brownies that were truly awful. Almost no chocolate flavor but boatloads of sugar. Homemade ones are hard to mess up, I think.

  4. Ohhh that looks so good

  5. The way you described about these brownies sounds perfect to me. I do have Dutch-process cocoa powder (but not too sure what that means!) in my pantry. I already feel that I like this version than chocolate one... Saving the recipe!

    1. I usually prefer Dutch-process, and my favorite is the Guittard brand. It's so intense and complex. But for this recipe I liked the description for results with natural cocoa, and Ghirardelli is my stand-by.

      Here's a good explanation of Dutch-process:


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