A Tale of Two Brownies

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, I've been dreaming about brownies.
A perfectly crusty-on-the-top, chewy-on-the-inside, dark chocolate brownie. With nuts. Plenty of crunchy walnuts. I'll take one right now.

A few years ago when a friend stopped eating carbs, I whipped up a batch of gluten-free brownies that blew everyone's mind. These were an unbelievably rich, dark chocolate brownie and no one ever missed the flour. They just wanted more! I've been making that recipe to critical acclaim ever since.

I thought my gluten-free brownies were some of the best brownies I had ever had until I came across two new recipes that claim to be "the absolute best brownies" and "best-ever brownies." 

What? How could that be?

Under closer inspection of the first recipe, I discover that it comes from one of my go-to-dessert-gurus David Lebovitz and his Ready for Desserts cookbook and I then I have no doubt that this could actually produce "the absolute best brownie."

I figure there's only one way to find out. Make them. So I did. However, I wanted to make a gluten-free version and one with a little less sugar so I used brown rice flour and a little Ideal. And while they were good, in our opinion, they did not live up to their name.

Obviously not being thrilled with the results and knowing it was most likely an error on my end, I decided to make the "best-ever brownies" recipe that also caught my attentionthe one that graced the cover of the February issue of Bon Appetit!

The recipe is almost identical to Lebovitz's though instead of chocolate it calls for cocoa and requires a bit more butter and sugar. So here we go again...and this time, I made it exactly as the recipe states. No substitutions, not even for the sake of our health.

And they are as billed. These are amazing brownies. Crisp-on-the-outside, fudgey-on-the-inside. But they are not gluten-free.

So for all of your gluten eaters, enjoy! And I'm going to cheat a little.

Buen provecho!

Cocoa Brownie with Browned Butter and Walnuts
The Cowgirl Gourmet (http://www.thecowgirlgourmet.blogspot.com/) got this recipe from the February 2011 issue of Bon Appetit

Print recipe

This brownie graced the cover of Bon Appetit magazine, so you can imagine my delight when it arrived in the mail. I knew I had to make these decadant little bundles of chocolate. Especially since they were dubbed "best-ever brownies." The browned butter gives these a distinctively nutty flavor that is utterly divine. Plus they are crispy-on-the-outside and fudgey-and-chewy-on-the-inside.

Makes 16 brownies

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, heaping
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup walnut pieces

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes.

Bubbling butter
Browned butter

Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot).

Adding dry ingredients
Thick concoction of fudgey goodness
after adding the dry ingredients
Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition.

Nice and creamy after adding the eggs, but still thick

When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. (Your arm will be screaming, but keep beating!!) Stir in the nuts. Transfer batter (it will be thick) to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes (though I ended up cooking mine for 30 minutes).

Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies. These brownies can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

A dollop of ice cream adds just the
right contrast to these "best-ever brownies."

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