I was a little bit miffed with my students this week. They were waxing nostalgic about some brownies I had made for them once, asking when I would make them again. Now, I know that they meant well. They were saying that my brownies were the best brownies they had ever had. And normally, that would make me very happy. But the brownies they were talking about? I made them from a mix.
I have nothing against boxed brownie mix. I actually think that in terms of batter to eat directly from the bowl, boxed brownie mix is hands-down the best. And when you are making brownies for 120 students, boxed mix is really the most economical way to do so. Plus, when you slightly underbake them, they are fudgy goodness by anyone’s standard.
However, I think that I can make a brownie better than boxed mix from scratch. And I think it’s important that my students understand that while there is a time and a place for brownies from a box, the brownies I make from scratch will really be the best they have ever had.
The question then became what would be the best brownie to make? In the past, I’ve made a variety of brownies with different spices and add ins, but for this week I wanted to go with brownies in their purest form. I have had the Milk & Cookies cookbook sitting on my bookshelf for years now, and have always found that brownies made in a bakery (whether this particular bakery or others) have a significant edge on anything I’ve made on my own. They are cakey without being dry, but also fudgy without sticking to your teeth. Going with my gut, I decided to give their recipe a try.
Full disclosure: I’ve also always wanted to buy chocolate in the big chunks you sometimes see in the grocery store near the fine ingredients and cheeses. This recipe, calling for 1 1/2 pounds of chocolate, allowed me to do that. And gave me an excuse to walk to Whole Foods under the guise of looking for “high quality” chocolate.
First, chop up the chocolate into chunks and combine it with the butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. I still don’t have a double boiler, so use the pyrex-bowl-over-a-saucepan method, which works perfectly fine. Make sure you stir the whole time until the chocolate is smooth. Set the chocolate aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat together the eggs on low speed until you break the yolks, and then increase to high speed for about a minute.
While the mixer is still on, pour in the sugar slowly. Continue to beat until removing the whisk creates smooth ribbons in the batter. It will about double in size before this is possible.
Side note: I also haven’t used this book very often because the recipes are largely by weight. Fortunately, I now have my handy-dandy kitchen scale to make this easy. But if you don’t, I’ve also included the volumetric equivalents.
Anyways, turn the mixer speed to medium and pour in the chocolate mixture and vanilla extract.
Add the flour and mix until just combined. You’ll notice I left a little ring of flour around the outside – my theory is that I can mix that in with a spatula and avoid overbeating.
Pour the batter into a 17×12 inch jelly roll pan sprayed with cooking spray and lined with parchment paper. Spread evenly throughout the pan. Don’t skip that step assuming that the batter will spread while it’s in the oven – it won’t. I made that mistake for you and had one fairly burnt corner.Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until edges pull away and a toothpick comes out clean. I recommend taking a look at the brownies while they’re in the oven – mine made these cool bubble mountains that were at least a little entertaining to watch.
Hopefully they live up to the expectations of my students – sometimes high schoolers can be impossible to reason with.
- 1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
- 1 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 5 eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (3 1/4 ounces) flour
- Combine chocolate and butter in a double boiler over a simmer. Stir until smooth. Set aside.
- Beat eggs in a stand mixer fit with the whisk on low speed to combine. Increase speed to high to beat for one minute.
- Add the sugar while the mixer is running and beat until lifting the whisk creates a soft ribbon.
- Reduce the speed to medium and add the chocolate mixture and vanilla extract, beating to combine.
- Add the flour and beat until just combined.
- Spray with cooking spray and line a 17×12 inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly to edges.
- Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until edges pull away and toothpick comes out clean. Remove to wire rack and cool completely before cutting into squares.