It is my strong belief that one can never have too many brownie recipes under their belt. There are so many options at our digital fingertips that I could easily test one brownie recipe a day for a year and not run out of permutations. But I try hard to impose some restraint. And limit myself to one favourite brownie recipe per year that I make to death, until I find what I think is a more suitable alternative to the mood in the house (as everyone cries out for a change). I know this makes me fickle. And appear unfaithful to those baking gurus who I adore. But I do return to old classics time and again for comfort and moments of sentimentality. (They occur more often than you might imagine)
Alice Medrich entered my life a couple of years ago. I will freely admit that I was quite late in discovering her baking genius, but I would like to thank her for single handedly improving my baking prowess. She has taught me many things, including the fact that the dull side of tin foil is the non stick side. How on earth did I not know this before????? And how to line a square tin with foil without tearing it by turning the tin upside down, covering the outside with foil to get the shape and then dropping the foil shape it into the tin the right way round. I told you. Genius.
And this brownie recipe has officially been my go-to now for over a year. Which makes it a complete winner. There are others that I make occasionally, but these are complete old school, made with only cocoa (not melted chocolate) giving them a distinct fudginess, without the richness or density of melted dark chocolate, a shiny crust and they stay moist for days in a tin (if you ration them).
Another great advantage of these (and almost every other brownie recipe) is that they freeze beautifully. So I always make double. Today's recipe has my increased quantities, not with Alice's original amounts, so feel free to halve it if you are out of freezer space.
I have also added chocolate chips to the mixture, because that is what Ina does in her Outrageous Brownies, which are both outrageous and outstanding, but definitely reserved for special occasions. And I cook these on a crushed hazelnut base, just like Rose Carrarini (of Rose Bakery) does with her rich and oozing Hazelnut Brownies which are decadent beyond all belief and definitely on my classics list.
Feel free to make them without the hazelnuts (if you are in a mad rush) or the chocolate chips a la Alice, but I personally love the additions making this brownie recipe a keeper.
Alice Medrich Best Cocoa Brownies
Loosely adapted from Seriously Bitter Sweet
Note: I cook these in what the Americans call a quarter sheet pan, or what we call a Swiss Roll tin. Basically it is quite a shallow rectangular tin (40cm x 27cm x 3cm / 15.5 x 10.5 x 1 inch). If you halve the recipe, Alice makes hers in a 20cm (8 inch) square baking pan.
200g raw hazelnuts
280g (10oz) unsalted butter
500g (2 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
160g (1 1/2 scups) best cocoa powder (I use Green & Blacks or Vahlrona)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
130g (1 cup) all purpose flour
280g (10oz) semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 170C (325F).
Turn your baking tin upside down, and cover the base and all four sides with foil (dull/non stick side facing down). Lift off and turn over tin and drop in foil liner with dull side facing up.
Tip whole hazelnuts into your prepared tin and toast for 5-10 minutes until fragrant.
Once slightly cooled, rub as much of the skin off of the nuts and roughly chop. (I do this in a mortar and pestle as I like them to be quite chunky and not uniform in size).
Spread the nuts over the base of the prepared tin.
Melt the butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.
Once melted, add sugar, cocoa and salt and stir from time to time until the mixture is smooth and hot enough that if you test it with your finger you will want to remove it pretty quickly.
Remove bowl from the heat and allow to cool briefly until the mixture is only warm not hot.
Stir in the vanilla with a spatula / wooden spoon.
Add the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each one until the batter is shiny and well blended.
Fold in the flour until fully incorporated and then beat another 50-60 times.
Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into the tin over the chopped hazelnuts.
Bake for 20 minutes. You do not want to overbake these. If you test them with a toothpick, it should emerge slightly moist with batter.
Cool completely in the pan, lift up the ends of the foil liner and place on a cutting board.
Cut into squares or rectangles and devour.