This may sound familiar: these are the best brownies I've ever had.
It's familiar because I've said it before about other recipes, like these flaked salt brownies & these ultra-dark brownies and even these peppermint bark brownies -- and each time, I meant it. I truly did. But then you find yourself biting into a brownie that feels, well... perfect: It's crackly on top, it's gooey in the middle, and ever so often, you'll get a decadent mouthful of a partially-melted chocolate chunk and suddenly, you realize this brownie is everything. It's like discovering a long-lost lover: Where have you been all my life?
So I'll say it again, and I can't promise it's the last time: these are the best brownies I've ever had.
I know because I made them last night and I made a few mistakes on the first batch (we're going to go over those in a second), but the second batch was... dangerous. I did a little taste test this morning, fully planning on having a tiny bite, and the tiny bite turned into a big bite, which then turned into multiple bites, which then turned into multiple bites out of multiple brownies. Yes, I had brownies for breakfast.
That's not important.
This is, though. There are a few things about these brownies that take them from best brownies to best-ever brownies:
SIFT. YOUR. COCOA. POWDER.
I was tired last night, ok? It was late, and I moved on Saturday to a new apartment and I couldn't find my sifter anywhere. It couldn't be that bad without it, right? Wrong. So wrong. The small, "harmless" lumps of cocoa powder turned into dry spots in the brownies, and they were not pleasant. So please: take the extra 3 minutes to sift your dry ingredients into the batter.
Fold until just combined.
I've learned to pay very close attention to this step in recipes. It's easy to overlook it and to think it really won't make that much of a difference -- but really, truly, it will. Over-mixing will lead to a completely different texture (think cakey brownies, or even worse: dry brownies, which I loathe), and you'll lose that gorgeous, fudgey interior.
Invest in espresso powder.
It's one of those ingredients that you don't always think of when you're compiling a grocery list, and it's one that you only use half a teaspoon of at a time... but it's one that I cannot live without. In fact, I look for excuses to use it. It takes any chocolate recipe over the top, and makes that chocolate flavor richer than ever. King Arthur Flour's container has lasted me for a good while!
Clean toothpicks are the enemy.
Whenever I see a brownie recipe that tells you to "remove from the oven when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean," I want to call somebody, like the police. It should be illegal. If your brownies don't have any moist crumbs in the middle, I don't want them. This isn't cake. Your brownies are done when the edges are slightly puffed and cracked, and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a good amount of moist crumbs (not raw batter). If you're not sure, and the brownies have been baking for 25 minutes or more, take them out. They will continue to bake as they cool.
Prep time: 10 minutes | Bake time: 25-30 minutes | Total time: 35 minutes
Servings: 16 hefty slices
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly warm
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate, cut into chunks
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8x12-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment. Set aside.
Whisk melted butter, oil and sugars in a medium-sized bowl until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
Sift the salt, flour, cocoa powder and espresso powder into the batter, and gently fold until just combined. Fold in 3/4 cup of the chocolate chunks.
Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Top with remaining chocolate chunks.
Bake brownies for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are set and puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.
Let cool before removing from the pan and slicing.