Everyone has opinions about brownies -- cakey, squishy, dense, studded with random stuff. There are dozens of books with "brownie" in the title, and no self-respecting pastry-chef-author would write a cookbook without a brownie recipe. The Gold Standard -- the one from which you will learn everything you could possibly want to know about baking a brownie -- is Maida Heatter's two-pager which appears in Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts (p 216-217, Alfred A. Knopf, 1981). All of her recipes are the equivalent of a day of baking school, and this one is no different.
The late Laurie Colwin's recipe is much more accessible. Her take on the recipe attributed to Katharine Hepburn appears in the classic More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen (p. 75-76, HarperCollins, 1993). Her recipe has four simple steps, and you can mix the whole thing in a saucepan. If you like short, dense brownies, this is for you. My five-step version is similar to the original, but I have switched out bittersweet for unsweeted chocolate and added espresso powder. My colleagues loved them. You will, too.
Hepburn-Colwin Brownies (respectfully revised)
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
4 oz good bittersweet chocolate
½ tsp espresso powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
- Butter and flour a 13x9 pan. Preheat the oven to 325.
- Melt the butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan. Stir often and don’t burn the chocolate. When the butter and chocolate are melted, take the pan off the heat and add the espresso powder.
- Add the sugar to the chocolate mixture. Stir until the mixture cools enough so that when you add the eggs they won’t scramble. Add the vanilla and stir until you can’t see any more egg.
- Stir in the flour and salt. Don’t beat this to death, but make sure that there are no flour streaks left. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Watch carefully at the end – if your oven runs hot, you can have a scorched mess.
- Remove from the oven to cool on a rack. You will be amazed at how easy it will be to remove the cooled brownies neatly from the pan if you cut them while they are still hot.