Beyond the Box Best Brownies

I never had an Easy-Bake oven but my friend Mackenzie did. We were friends in kindergarten. I would go over to her house to play and we’d bake little cupcakes and brownies, adding water to the Betty Crocker powder mix. I remember being underwhelmed with the oven because it didn’t get very hot – I was skeptical of the little light bulb that was supposed to do all the baking. I also remember the oven being smack in the middle of Mackenzie’s living room, which never felt quite right. I might have been 6-years old, but I wanted to bake a real brownies in a real oven. Thankyouverymuch.

Flash forward and a couple of decades have passed since I was Easy-Baking with Mackenzie and I have long since graduated to baking in real ovens that get (sometimes too) hot. I went through a rather intense cookie baking phase in middle school when I was making chocolate chip cookies a few times a week. I would give most of the cookies to friends, sometimes forgoing the baking step altogether and presenting them with a paper plate full of raw cookie dough. In those days, raw often took precedence over cooked. Then freshman year of high school rolled around, and I discovered that homemade brownies were equivalent to attendance points in gym class. Seriously. Mr. Metzger told me that if I baked him brownies, I didn’t have to come to class. So, what did I do? I baked Mr. Metzger brownies every week and I never went to gym class. I still can’t believe I got away with that.

I first read about these brownies on one of my very favorite food blogs called The Wednesday Chef. Luisa’s post does these brownies justice. She claims that “a small child could master” these brownies, and it’s probably true. I’m convinced that they are the grown-up version of the Easy-Bake brownie. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I promise you, they are richchewygooey and delicious. They just taste like box brownies only much much better because the ingredients are far superior to anything you could find in a box. And they are ridiculously simple.

The rich chocolate flavor is composed entirely from cocoa powder, so there is no chocolate to melt. The only wet ingredients are eggs, a dash of vanilla and butter. Heck, there are only seven ingredients total, eight if you add nuts or chocolate chips like I did. Might I also add that they are wonderful for breakfast? They truly are. On more than one occasion as of late, I’ve been lying in bed after the alarm has gone off, lacking the motivation to rise and face the day. Then, as if by decadentdivine intervention, I remember the brownies and my day suddenly can’t start one second later. These brownies and a cup of coffee are a match made in sinfullysweetheaven.

I made these brownies twice in less than a 24-hour period. I whipped up the first batch as a very belated birthday treat for my two friends who both celebrated their actual birthdays weeks ago. Better late than never! It’s safe to say that none of us were actually hungry for brownies after dinner, but we ate and enjoyed them anyway. I sprinkled them with powdered sugar at the last-minute for purely aesthetic purposes. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this because they’re sweet enough as is. Anyway, after my friends had gone home, I did the dishes and went to bed, then woke up the next morning, ate brownies for breakfast and proceeded to make another batch (this time with a few chocolate chips mixed in for good measure) to bring to a little party that night. Yes, I had myself a good old-fashioned brownie blowout bonanza. Now it’s your turn…

Best Cocoa Brownies
Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened, high-quality cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, cold

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup walnut pieces or chocolate chips (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 8×8-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 heat proof 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. It looks like gritty sludge at this point, but it will smooth out once the eggs and flour are added.

  • Stir in the vanilla. 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. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
  • Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. (The cooler the brownies, the easier to cut!)
  • Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into squares. Yum!


3 thoughts on “Beyond the Box Best Brownies

  1. Get out! Brownies without any real chocolate. Just cocoa powder? I don’t know… Any leftovers for the plane ride?

    I baked brownies (points) for my chemistry teacher, Mr. Duong. I’m so glad I went to Garfield High…

  2. Hey you two! That’s a lot of brownie points. Another terrific post, Anno. Hope you’ll write more about the Easy Bake Oven and its mighty little light. XOXOXO

  3. Pingback: Reflections «

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