On Sunday we awoke to warm rays of sunlight slanting through our windows, a rare site for February in Seattle. It was the kind of morning perfect for mulling over cookbooks and drinking long cups of coffee. It was also the type of morning that practically begs you to bake brownies.
Really it doesn't take much to get me to bake. And lately I've had brownies on the mind. The most recent issue of Bon Appétit features a cover promising the "best-ever brownies" and this, dear reader, is a statement that I do not, under any circumstance, take lightly.
So I quickly got to work in my unusually sunny kitchen, and I can assure you that these are some of the best brownies I have ever had. The delicately crackly top gives way to a moist crumb and spine tingling fudgy center. On top of that, the whiff of zesty orange spice nestles with the nutty tones of the browned butter to create a brownie that practically melts in your mouth.
But are they the “best-ever brownies”? Well I guess you’ll just have to make them to find out.
Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Orange Zest
Adapted from Bon Appétit February 2011
The cocoa in this recipe is important. Be sure you choose a higher quality brand and aim for one that is 100% Cacoa. Bon Appétit recommends not using a brand that has gone through the Dutch-process. It lacks the strong chocolaty flavor found in the real stuff.
The original recipe calls for walnuts rather than orange zest. If you would prefer this route stir in 1 cup just prior to pouring batter into prepared pan.
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder *See Note Above
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of two medium oranges (optional)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving a 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 (not black) form at the bottom of the pan, stirring often. This will happen quickly so keep your eyes on the saucepan. You know the butter is ready when it begins to take on a nutty scent.
Remove from heat quickly (the butter will continue to cook in the pan if left too long) and pour into a large mixing bowl. Immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons of water, orange zest, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to blend.
Let cool 5 minutes then add eggs to mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake brownies about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few moist crumbs are okay). Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overlay, lift brownies from pan. Cut as desired once brownies are completely cooled.