If one is going to take the trouble to make chocolate brownies, one may as well make them right. Brownies from a box? No thank you.
Easy Chocolate Brownies from Scratch
I got this chocolate brownie recipe years ago from my dear friend Suzanne, who had adapted it from an Alice Medrich recipe from the book Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate she found on Epicurious.
Suzanne uses the same method and proportions, but instead of using vanilla, she flavors the brownies strongly with almond extract. So good! The almond extract gives these brownies a wonderful flavor, a perfect blend with the cocoa and pecans.
A Dense, Fudgy Brownie
They are the kind of brownie that can't make up their mind whether they would rather be cake or fudge. They're quite dense and fudge-like, but have just enough flour and eggs to keep them in the brownie camp.
How to Tell When the Brownies Are Done
With many brownies, you want a bamboo skewer or toothpick inserted into the center to come out clean to ensure they're done. Not so with these brownies, because they're dense and fudgy. If the skewer or toothpick comes out clean, these brownies will be overbaked.
To tell if these brownies are done, you want the end of the skewer or toothpick to come out a little moist, but not dripping with batter. When you take the pan out of the oven, make sure they cool completely before slicing. They need time to set up, or they'll fall apart when you cut them.
If you love extra-fudgy brownies, try this trick from chocolate maven Alice Medrich: pop the pan into the freezer right after it comes out of the oven. The freezer "shocks" the brownies so they stop cooking and stay fudgy. Remove them after about an hour. Bonus: this makes them a to easier to cut.
Best Mix-Ins for Chocolate Brownies
If you want to substitute something for the pecans, try one of these mix-ins.
- Milk, dark or white chocolate chips
- Butterscotch chips
- Peanut butter chips
- Plain M&Ms
- Mini marshmallows and chopped almonds (this will make them rocky road-like)
- Mini marshmallows and graham cracker pieces (s'mores-like)
- Dried cherries
- Pretzel pieces
Can These Brownies Be Made in Another Size Pan?
Yes! You can use an 8-inch round cake pan instead of an 8-inch square pan. You can also pour the batter into greased muffin tins, and start testing the brownie muffins at 20 minutes for doneness.
If you chose to double the recipe, the best size pan to use would be a 9 x 13-inch pan. You'll have to increase the baking time by about 20 minutes if you double the recipe.
How to Make Nut-Free Chocolate Brownies
These brownies are fine without the pecans, or any mix-ins at all, if you want nut-free chocolate brownies. If you're omitting the pecans because of nut allergies, make sure you also substitute 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract for the 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract.
Tips for Storing and Freezing Brownies
To store the brownies on the countertop, keep them in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days. If they aren't eaten by then you can store them in the refrigerator for another 3 to 4 days, or you can store them in the refrigerator immediately for up to one week.
To freeze the brownies, put cut brownies - unwrapped - on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer until just frozen through. Wrap the frozen brownies individually in plastic wrap and then store them together in an airtight zip top bag in the freezer for up to three months. Brownies can be defrosted one at a time in the refrigerator or the countertop.
More Brownie Recipes to Try
Best Chocolate Brownies
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 140 g) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (85 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cold large eggs
- 1/2 cup (65 g) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (80 g) pecan pieces
Preheat oven and line baking pan:
Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C), with a rack in the lower third of the oven.
Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper in such a way as there is an overhang on two opposite sides to make it easy to lift the brownies out when they're done.
Heat butter, cocoa, sugar, salt:
Place the butter, cocoa, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized metal bowl. Fill a large skillet halfway with water and bring to a bare simmer. Set the bowl of the butter cocoa mixture in skillet of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should be touching the bottom of the skillet.
Stir the butter cocoa mixture until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth and hot to touch.
Remove the bowl from the skillet and let it cool down a bit, from hot to warm.
Stir in remaining ingredients:
Stir in the almond extract. Then, stir in the eggs, one at a time, beating strongly after each addition.
Once the batter is well mixed, shiny, and thick, stir in the flour. Beat for 40 strokes with a wooden spoon.
Mix in the pecans until distributed throughout the batter.
Pour batter into lined pan:
Pour the batter into the prepared lined pan and smooth the surface evenly.
Bake 25 minutes (at a minimum) at 325°F (160°C), or until a bamboo skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out still a little moist with the brownie batter. Depending on your oven, baking time may take from 25 minutes to 40 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.
When the brownies have completely cooled, lift up the sides of the foil or parchment liner to remove them from the pan. Place the brownies on a cutting board and cut into squares or rectangles.