Brownies hold a special place in my heart. They’re not my favorite dessert. They are–and always have been–my sister’s favorite dessert. They were also the first food I ever baked for a boy. My high school boyfriend devoured the brownies I gave him. I never told him they weren’t technically made from scratch. Instead, I cut out the front packaging of the boxed mix I used in order to remember which brand of brownies he claimed were the best brownies ever. And then I only bought and made that brand.
Brownies were also the dessert my elderly neighbor across the street made for our family as a thank you for helping her out with something, a special treat on our birthday or a way of welcoming us kids home when we visited from college. Those were made from scratch, and she refused to give us the recipe. She recently passed away, but her memory will live on whenever I try a brownie. Because my family and I claimed her brownies were the best brownies ever.
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together.
3. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
I always think food tastes better when it’s not made yourself. I also think food tastes extra better if it’s made for a special reason or given to you out of love. Therefore, nothing will probably top my neighbor’s brownies. But if I can’t have her brownies, the ones from Brooklyn bakery Baked may just have to do. Oprah agrees with me. So does my chocolate-loving roommate. As for my high school boyfriend? I have no idea. But now I don’t regret throwing out the box package front after our break up. Because I’m confident that this recipe can very well make someone claim that these are the best brownies ever.
Do you have a go to recipe for certain desserts? If so, please share! Also, have you ever pretended something you made from a mix was homemade? Please tell me I’m not the only one.