- Published on August 14, 2014
- Written by Heather Haskell
Chocolate brownies are an iconic piece of Americana. The first written evidence of them refers to the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago where the proprietress, Mrs. Bertha Palmer, asked her chefs to prepare a special ladies’ dessert for their guests’ boxed lunches at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. That dessert is a super-rich fudgy bar topped with an apricot glaze which is still served today at the hotel.
It took some time for brownies to be codified into recipe form. Various not-chocolate-oriented cookie bars evolved at last into the first written chocolate brownie recipe in 1904 with the introduction of the “Bangor Brownie” in both the Service Club of Chicago’s cookbook, and Home Cookery, by Elinor Quimby, published in Laconia, NH. Brownies really began to hit their stride in the mid-1920’s as chocolate became more affordable and available in the US. America’s love affair with the brownie has continued unabated ever since.
So what happens when the “old American” brownie meets TCHO “New American” chocolate? We had an amazing experience trying to answer just that very question. We took a whole bunch of submissions from our fans on Facebook and ended up choosing six chocolate brownie recipes to test with TCHO. Some used cocoa powder, some chocolate chunks; all used butter, one also used oil(!). There was a very mysterious specification for cold eggs in a couple (to cool the chocolate, supposedly; the TCHO Baking Team was skeptical, but kept the faith). In the end, we found one that set the bar very high and left us confident that the most TCHO-riffic recipe had been found. It scored the highest on our taste test in each measured category like flavor, texture, and “it” factor, and it’s pretty darn simple to make, too.
Without further ado:
Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies
(adapted from Bittersweet by Genius Recipes for Food 52)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1-1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons TCHO Natural Fair Trade Organic Cocoa Powder (ok, we edited that part)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (unsifted, measured by stirring briefly, spooning into the measuring cup until it’s heaped above the rim, then leveling it with a straight-edged knife or spatula — it should weigh nearly 2.5 ounces)
2/3 cups walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square 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 wide skillet 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.
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, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.
We aim to make this recipe testing business a regular thing… So what should we test next? Head on over to our Facebook page or ping us on Twitter or Instagram and let us know what other definitive chocolate recipes you’d like to see us evaluate. Slog away over chocolate in a hot kitchen? Oh yes, we’d do that for you. Of course we would.