Brownies are my go-to shipping dessert because the taste and texture seem to actually improve after a day or two, and also because the sturdy little bars hold up well in the mail. I have historically been a box brownie girl since none of the scratch brownies I've tried have measured up to my beloved Ghirardelli double chocolate brownie mix. Not that that stops me from trying new recipes, of course.
When I was putting together my aunt's birthday package, I was on a tight schedule and it turned out that I didn't have the mix I thought I had. So, I looked up a few brownie recipes and settled on the one below, for which I happened to have all the ingredients. And - much to my surprise - these brownies surpassed the Ghirardelli ones in taste, and they were almost as easy to make.
Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet by Smitten Kitchen, and adapted further by me
Update August 24, 2012: I have changed the recipe since I originally posted it, so this is a revised version.
15 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (be generous)
heaping 1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, cold
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9"x13" baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a large saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter. This should be between 20 and 25 minutes, but mine took a little longer. Let cool completely on a rack. I put mine in the freezer for a while before cutting them.
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into squares.