My dad makes the best brownies in the world.
That may sound like a grand statement, but in my humble opinion, it’s the truth. He was the only person who ever baked in my house growing up, and his specialty was brownies. Whenever he got a craving for chocolate, he’d whip up a batch and we’d all spend the following days evening out edges and making brownie sundaes with Blue Bell Ice Cream and chocolate syrup. They were soft and fudgy (but never too gooey), and the crackly top of each batch always had something spelled out in pecan halves. Often it was “E1,” “E2,” or “E3,” his nicknames for my sisters and myself. On our beloved housekeeper’s birthday, you would see a pecan mosaic spelling out “Eula.” It was always an occasion. When I was applying to colleges in 2002, my first three acceptances came from schools in Oklahoma. I came home from school to find a huge pan-full with “OK” spelled out in pecans. I didn’t end up going to any of those schools, but I still remember those brownies.
Before I get to the recipe, you should know something. My dad’s brownies came from a box. Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, generic–whatever was in the pantry. I would love to say that the best brownies in the world come from an old family recipe, but that would be a lie. Sometimes the best doesn’t mean the finest ingredients or the most complicated. My dad’s brownies are the best because he made them with us in mind. They’re the best because he took the time to tile out our names in pecans because he loved us and was proud of us. They’re the best because my dad is the best. It’s only appropriate that I would write my first blog post with him in mind.
On the chance my dad doesn’t frequent your kitchen, here are what I consider the second best brownies in the world. They are fudgy and rich, gooey but not over the top. They’re made with brown sugar in addition to granulated to give a little extra chew and complexity from the molasses. What really makes them the best is their simplicity: there’s no melting of chocolate over a double boiler, no need for a mixer, and only marginally more work than stirring together boxed brownie mix. Just ten minutes to mix them up, thirty in the oven, and a few more to cool before you can dive face-first into a brownie sundae. Once they’ve cooled completely, they slice like a dream and are perfect for tucking into lunches.
Make these for someone you love and are proud of, even if it’s just yourself. And don’t forget to write something in pecans. It’s what my dad would do.
adapted from Alice Medrich’s Cocoa Brownies
makes one 8×8″ pan*
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder*
2 large eggs, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
pecan halves for decorating, optional
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the inside of an 8×8″ square pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter again. Set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan or the microwave. Stir butter, sugars, and cocoa together in a large mixing bowl. Let mixture cool for a couple of minutes. Add the eggs one-by-one, mixing until they are completely incorporated. Stir in vanilla extract. Fold in flour and salt just until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap the full pan on the counter a couple of times to release any air bubbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack. Slide a knife around the edges of the pan before inverting to release. Slice into 16 or 25 squares. Enjoy.
- A 9×9″ pan may be substituted, but the baking time may be slightly shorter.
- I often use a mixture of natural and Dutch-processed cocoa powders, but using all of one or the other is fine. Use whatever you have on hand.