Micah’s taste in brownies is—ahem—particular. He claimed the first brownie I ever made him contained too much cocoa powder (it did); the second, too few nuts (possibly); the third, not enough espresso (these hairs are getting real split, boy); and so on, until I started to feel like a character in Goldilocks and the Three Brownie Recipes. I’m satisfied to report, however, that after much tinkering and a fair amount of sobbing, I’ve finally made a recipe that is just right.
The usual suspects are all here: chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, flour, salt, and a scant amount of cocoa powder for good measure. But this recipe takes the cake (should we be saying “takes the brownie” now?) because of its more unorthodox ingredients: vanilla bean, espresso powder, even fleur de sel, which—as we all know from past recipes—is handpicked and thus makes us feel fancy.
But despite these somewhat highfalutin’ ingredients, what really makes this and any brownie is baking time. I’m here to tell you that life can be messy, and the center of a brownie should reflect that. Don’t overmix your biscuits, and don’t overbake your brownies. OK? OK. Gosh. I feel so bossy and powerful.
Pop these in an oven preheated to 350°F for 25-30 minutes, depending of course upon the idiosyncrasies of your home hotbox, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Ours are pictured here served with Beckie’s homemade affogato ice cream, and I could do 10 minutes of good material on this pairing if provided a microphone and a glass of wine. So don’t get me started. Don’t even get me started.
- 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1⅓ scant cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ vanilla bean, scraped (use whole bean if omitting vanilla extract)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used Mexican vanilla for an extra oomph)
- ½ tsp fleur de sel or sea salt
- ⅔ cups flour less 2 tbsp
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp espresso powder
- 1 cup walnuts or other nut of choice, roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8 square baking dish with parchment and grease liberally with butter or cooking spray.
- In a double boiler over medium heat on the stovetop, melt chocolate and butter together until only a few lumps remain. Alternatively, you may accomplish this in a heatproof bowl in the microwave in 30 second bursts (my preferred method), stirring between intervals.
- Whisk in sugar, then eggs one at a time, then vanilla extract, scraped vanilla bean caviar, and salt.
- Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and espresso powder in a small bowl. Mix dry ingredients into wet using a spatula until just combined. Mix in nuts if desired.
- Spread batter into prepared pan until even. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let cool before serving. Dust with powdered sugar if desired, though the crackle-top appeals to my own aesthetic sensibility.