pretty darn good brownies


we're back to baking with julia this week. i have so much catching up to do.

does this blog need yet another brownie recipe? probably not. but here you go! 


julia, dorie and rich katz all seem to agree that these are the best-ever brownies. they are good. ridiculously fudgy. impossible to over-bake. 

the texture is light and creamy, in part from the technique, which has you hold back half the eggs and whip them into a fury. the bubbles help give the brownies structure without the weight of too much flour.

i threw in some walnuts at the request of a friend, and they added a nice crunch. 


we've discussed my freezer issues before. in addition to loving to freeze unbaked cookies and all manner of other things for cooking, i love a good frozen baked good. the somm was the lucky recipient of various delightful thin mint treats for christmas that went straight to the freezer when we got home. there is something about the mint and chocolate combination that tastes right cold.

i really did try not to eat them all.

love you honey!


anyway, the recipe promised that extreme fudginess would keep the brownies from fully freezing. thus making them supreme ice cream mix-ins. 

the frozen brownies lasted approximately five seconds in my house. so i pass the challenge onto michi, who has the added benefit of having her ice cream maker accessible in her home. rather than locked in storage container in the wild of the suburbs.

someday, dear ice cream maker, someday i will see you again. in the mean time, there is plenty of trouble to be had.


want more fun tips on the recipe? new york times, to the rescue. in addition, this recipe was hosted by a beautiful mess through the tuesdays with dorie: baking with julia project.

Best-Ever Brownies
from Baking with Julia

1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour and salt together and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently and keeping a watchful eye on the pot to make certain the chocolate does not scorch.  Add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture and stir for half a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour the mixture into a large bowl. 

Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into the bowl of a mixer and whisk by hand just to combine.  LIttle by little, pour half the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don't set from the heat.  Fit the whisk attachment to the mixer and whip the remaining sugar and eggs until they are pale, thick, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.  Using the rubber spatula, delicately fold the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture.  When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients. 

Pour and scrape the batter into an unbuttered 9-inch square glass or ceramic pan.  Bake the brownies for 25-28 minutes, during which time they will rise a little and the top will turn dark and dry.  Cut into the center at about the 23-minutes mark to see how they are progressing.  They will be perfect if they are just barely set and still gooey.  Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack.  Cut into bars and serve.

The brownies will keep, covered, for 2-3 days at room temperature and can be frozen for up to a month!


irish car bomb brownies


we all know i’m a crazy overachiever when it comes to desserts. i may be half-assing my way through many many other parts of my life, but when it comes to treats, i want them to be made from scratch.

except for brownies.

i love me a good brownie. rich, fudgy, with chewy edges.

but from scratch brownies? you know the pitfalls. too cakey. not gooey. not chocolaty enough. and ghirardelli box mix? it treats me right, every single time. i like a brownie i can count on.

well, this recipe may break me from my ghirardelli habit.


these brownies are insanely chocolaty and nearly as easy to whip together as a box mix.

at least compared to my other overachiever dessert recipes!

there’s no waiting for butter to soften, there’s no need to use the stand mixer. you will, however, just have to resign yourself to getting chocolate everywhere. unless, unlike me, you have self control and can keep your fingers out of the chocolaty batter.

like many of my recipe discoveries, i found this recipe to use up the bottles of guinness that have been lurking in my kitchen since st. patrick’s last year when i made these irish car bomb cupcakes that rocked my world.


but cupcakes. they feel so daunting. they are not a weeknight recipe. they are not a sunday-afternoon-crap-i-forgot-we-agreed-to-bring-dessert-to-that-dinner-party friendly.

these brownies are. and they give you way more instant chocolate gratification. extremely dense and fudgy. almost like a flourless chocolate cake by with a bit more of a bite. the edges won’t get that great chewy character of the box brownie, but these are by far the best from-scratch brownies i’ve ever had.

plus, they are a GREAT use for stray bottles of dark beer you may have lying around.

my first night in england on my year abroad, a group of us naive americans ordered a round of guinness at our first pub outing. not realizing that we were in london, not dublin. and that fosters or carling, or even cider, would be not only a more traditional, but also a more tasty choice.

don’t worry, by the end of the year we all managed to get quite high marks in our chosen extracurricular: drinking habits of uni students.

just thinking about snakebites to this day makes me feel a bit queasy.

anyway. guiness, while foul by the pint, is delightful with chocolate. the bitter, sweet, and caramel notes of the beer complements and draws out the best in good dark chocolate.


Irish Car Bomb Brownies

The original recipe had stout in the glaze-like frosting, but I found that to be a bit intense. the second time I made these, I added a glug of Bailey’s instead and much preferred the sweeter flavor as a contrast.  I’ve also sprinkled sea salt on top, and that’s pretty tasty too.  Adapted from Epicurious – find the recipe here.

  • 1/2 cup stout (such as Guinness)
  • 16 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped, divided
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup Bailey’s liquour


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x9x2″ metal baking pan with foil, leaving a 2″ overhang. Bring stout to a boil in a medium saucepan; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

Stir 12 ounces chocolate and 1 cup butter in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Whisk sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in chocolate mixture, then 1/4 cup stout from pan. Fold in flour and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake brownies until surface begins to crack and a tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35–40 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes.  Alternatively, these work well in mini muffin tins – bake 10-12 minutes, and then let set in the tin for about an hour (or cheat and let them firm up in the freezer for 15 minutes).

Stir remaining 4 ounces chocolate in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Add Bailey’s, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; whisk until well blended.

Pour warm glaze over brownies. Let stand at room temperature until glaze is set, about 40 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Using foil overhang, lift brownie from pan; cut into squares



caramel pretzel brownies


i have a brownie confession.  i really, really, really prefer the kind from a box. 

i know, right?   the texture is just so much better.  chewier and gooey-er.  they get that amazing edge. 

from scratch brownies just always seem more like cake to me.  and my cake confession?  chocolate isn't my favorite type of cake.  chocolate frosting: yes.  chocolate cake: eh.

and then . . . america's test kitchen, the people who brought you cooks illustrated, sent me an email promising chewy, like from a box, brownies made from scratch.

these people know what they're talking about.  they're thorough.  scientific.  if you ever need advice about the best ingredients, the best techniques, the best cookware, they are going to have the answer.


i assembled my ingredients . . . iphone, callebaut, you know, the basics.  plus, cocoa powder. 

do you know the difference between dutch process cocoa and regular old cocoa?  dutched cocoa goes through extra processing, which apparently strips out some of the harsher flavors and let's more of the pure chocolaty flavor shine through, according to our cooks illustrated friends. 

i'd always heard that the dutch process also takes out all the acid from cocoa powder, so that it won't activate baking soda – and since baking soda needs to be activated by an acid in a batter, using dutched cocoa in a baking soda only recipe will keep your baked goods from rising.  following me?  baking powder is different from baking soda in that it includes the acidifying agent it needs to be activated as a leavener, so the thinking went that you can only use dutch process cocoa in recipes with baking powder.

whew.  that's a lot of science for a tuesday.

especially since cooks illustrated said it's basically a bunch of hooey.  and you can trust them because they baked at least eight cakes testing different leavener and cocoa combinations.  so much cake in the name of accuracy.  it must be rough maintaining one's figure over there.

i bet you're even more excited about this diversion considering that most brownie recipes don't even include baking soda or baking powder.  leavening is diametrically opposed to the whole POINT of brownies – dense, fudgey, chewy goodness.

also, i ended up using plain old hershey's – a natural, non-dutched cocoa – even though i know it isn't as deeply darkly chocolaty.  but that's what they sell at the local drug store, and you know how lazy lazy lazy i am.

the verdict on the brownies? 


still not chewy enough.  still not gooey enough. 

i mean, it's hard to critique a brownie . . . chocolate, butter, sugar . . . you really can't go too wrong.  i just don't know if it was a good use of my fancy pants callebaut chocolate.  i think i'd much rather put it in these if i'm making something from scratch.

luckily, i don't know when to leave good enough alone and topped this bad boy with lots of sea salt, crushed up pretzels and caramel bits.


i used the regular cubed caramels you can buy in your baking aisle.  they were soft and gooey when the brownies were warm out of the oven, but firmed up overnight – just as the pretzels softened up from their extended exposure to the moist brownie.

the result?  not bad, but not perfect.  the caramel led to some awkward moments at the office as people tried to find the least embarrassing way to pry it from their teeth.

don't you wish you worked with me?!

so, i'm going to tell you how i made the brownies, and how i'd do it next time.  either way, your coworkers are unlikely to turn them down.


Caramel Pretzel Brownies

  • Brownie batter: The from scratch recipe is here.  Otherwise, buy a box of Ghirardelli and spend the extra 10-15 minutes you saved yourself playing with your cat. 
  • About 20 caramels, like these
  • 1  cup crushed pretzels, I'd recommend NOT using the honey wheat kind I had on hand, but try something with a harder shell and more salt
  • Sea salt
  • Optional: 3 tbsp milk

Preheat your oven according to brownie instructions.

Assemble your brownie batter – pour into a 13×9 pan prepared according to your brownie instructions.

Chewy Caramel Version: Chop each caramel into 4 pieces.  Seriously, you don't want them any smaller.  Clean your knife frequently cause it's gonna get sticky.  Sprinkle caramel pieces over brownie batter.

Soft Caramel Version: Melt caramels with the milk in a double boiler (or sauce pan – just watch the heat), stirring.  Drizzle on your brownie batter, and maybe run through it with a Pam-greased knife to give it a little swirl pattern.

Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.  Top with crushed pretzels.

Bake according to brownie recipe.

fudgy salty peanut butter brownies


let's break these down.  layer of brownie (with peanuts).  layer of thick, chunky peanut butter frosting.  layer of chocolate ganache.  sprinkle of salted, roasted peanuts.

i mean, things have been too healthy on the blog lately.  too much summer produce, not enough butter. 

although, is too much summer fruit and veg possible?!?! i'm certainly doing my best to see.  for example, my current experiment is determining just how many pounds of cherries can one safely consume without turning into violet beauregarde.  i'll keep eating and report back.

in the meantime, these brownies are heaven on a plate any time of year.  it's a dorie greenspan recipe by way of epicurious.  and i really didn't change much.  other than adding more peanuts on TOP of the brownies despite the many layers of peanuts within, but i'm a glutton for a salty crunch.

you're going to have to melt a lot of chocolate for these bad boys.


ok, i lied about not changing anything.  dorie says use a mix of unsweetened and semi-sweet chocolate.  i made these brownies as a part of a peanut butter & chocolate week of celebration (including a butterfinger layer cake.  to die for.) and i had two gorgeous blocks of callebaut milk and dark chocolate.  i used some of that.  and some ghirardelli and other assorted bits of chocolate around the kitchen i wanted to use up.  and i cut back on the sugar to compensate.  it worked out. 

there's also a lot of good peanut butter in this.  use jif.  always use jif.


choosy bakers who love chunks choose jif.  choosy somms also choose jif.  but can someone please explain to me why all the dc-area grocery stores stopped selling reduced-fat chunky jif?  is it a conspiracy to make me start using full fat?  to make me drop peanut butter toast cold turkey?  to make me start buying grocieries through amazon? 

i probably could have made it through this post without showing you how i cut a corner out of the brownies before ganaching and frosting them.


but, i am doing this as a public service announcement.  don't be like me.  don't eat these brownies without the toppings.  don't get me wrong, they are fine brownies.  especially warm.  but there is something about the package deal that is so much better.  the brownie stops being so cakey and and really does get moist and fudgy.  it's almost like candy – super rich. 

i thought the peanuts on top were a good add.  had these brownies lasted longer than a day, they might have gotten a bit soft, but the day-of they were a nice crunchy, salty contrast to the everything else.

you won't be able to have just one.



Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts

Use this recipe, but add more nuts on top.  Do it.