Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Bittersweet

I’ve pretty much kept the recipe as is, because it’s perfect, but added cayenne and smoked paprika for a bit of a kick. I’m generous with flaky sea salt as well, and even when I think I’ve gone a little overboard with it, it always winds up tasting just great. This is to say that you should use a liberal hand with it should you like the salty and sweet combination in general. Some people like their brownies with nuts; I personally do not. If you do add nuts, a generous handful of chopped nuts of your choosing will work out perfectly proportion wise (no need to overthink and measure out here). Finally, a reader emailed me a question about cutting the brownies neatly. I like to chill the brownies first before cutting them. I also like to cut them with a serrated bread knife and wipe the knife in between the cuts. Because these brownies tend to be on the fudgier side, they tend to be a little messier to cut, which can be frustrating after you spent the time making them. The chilling + bread knife + wiping knife between cuts = neat little squares. I sort of eyeball mine and make 4 cuts one way and 4 cuts another way – to get 25 squarish pieces. Hope this helps.

10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (105 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (start with less to see if you like the amount of heat)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup (63 grams) all-purpose flour
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling

1. Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven; preheat the oven to 325°F (162°C/ Gas Mark 3). Line the bottom and sides of an (8×8-inch) square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

2.Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, paprika, cayenne, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pot with barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is uniform. The mixture should be hot enough that you will want to remove your finger fairly quickly  after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the pot and set it aside briefly until the mixture is only warm – not hot. The mixture will be thick and gritty.

3. 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. Beat the batter vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread evenly in the prepared pan and sprinkle the flaky sea salt on top.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, about 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely, preferably in the refrigerator, until cold. Lift up the ends of the parchment and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut brownies while cold, using a sharp knife, wiping it between cuts with a barely damp paper towel.

Makes 25 squares

© 2022 Olga Massov