Cocoa Brownies

This month’s brownie recipe was suggested to me by Shannon – and I’d like to thank her for taking the time to email me, because I was in a bit of quandary about which recipe to make next. So, thanks Shannon!

She recommended that I try Alton Brown’s Cocoa Brownies – and she did indicate that she was concerned about the amount of butter in the recipe, as 2 sticks of butter for an 8” pan seemed excessive.

I plunged ahead and made these a few nights ago, but as bad luck would have it, I ran out of regular cocoa powder and had to substitute dutch-process powder instead. After I took the first bite, though, the first thing that popped into my head was “butter”. Shannon’s fears were not unfounded – the brownies tasted more like a buttery cake than a brownie.

But not using the correct cocoa powder bothered me – because maybe they would taste different if I had used regular cocoa powder instead? So last night, I tried again, using Hershey’s regular unsweetened cocoa powder. I also added an extra bit of flour, in the hopes that the final product wouldn’t taste so “buttery”.

The conclusion to this story? While these are ok, they lack a chocolatey “punch” that I look for when I eat a brownie. The flavor is fine if you like super mild brownies, but for me, the taste lacked depth. Of course, adding chocolate chips probably wouldn’t be considered a bad idea, either.

If anyone else has made these with good results, I’d love to know!

Cocoa Brownies – adapted from Alton Brown

Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the pan. It should come out clean. When they’re done, remove the pan to a rack to cool.

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11 thoughts on “Cocoa Brownies

  1. Thanks for giving these a try! Sorry to see they disappointed though. Given your review, I’ll probably skip these and go for King Arthur’s recipe when I’m looking for a cocoa brownie.

  2. I actually just made these a few weeks ago, and thought that they were the best brownies that I’ve ever baked…..and I’m on a similar quest as you — constantly trying new brownies in search of the pen-ultimate. The only other brownies that stand close to this version (for me): Cooks’ Illustrated Triple Chocolate Brownies (from 2000) and David Leibovitz’ Dulce de Leche Brownies.

  3. Your review’s really interesting! Smitten Kitchen just made some cocoa brownies and described them a box mix-ish (but good). I think it is just a lighter chocolate flavor. I agree with your post today, I really like the unsweetened/bittersweet combo.

  4. Hey! I guess I agreed with you a year ago, too! Ha!
    The Alice Medrich ones only had one stick of butter and still it just tasted of butter and sugar to me. A little caramel in the background, but not chocolate or what I think of as a real brownie.

  5. I’ve just stumbled upon your site, and I have to say I am really surprised by your review of Alton’s brownies. I have been making these for a few years now, and I LOVE them. In fact they are so good, they have made me quite a reputation at the office. I think my co-workers believe I can’t/don’t make anything else, because I am always bringing these to every event – By Request!. I use the best cocoa I can find, I cut back on the sugar a little bit, which I think ups the chocolate flavour. I also add about a 1/2 teaspoon of espresso powder and a bag of chocolate chips. Looking at the recipe as printed above, I think part of the problem is that you don’t have the correct instructions. If you watch the good eats episode (its on youtube) you’ll note a few things are wrong with this version (which is how its posted on the Food Network site): 1) use the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, 2) combine the dry ingredients together (flour, cocoa, salt) and add that after the sugar 3) SLOWLY poor in the butter (sorta like making salad dressing) and stop as soon everything’s combined. That being said, I might actually be tempted to try one of your top 10 recipes… maybe. 😀

  6. I have EXCELLENT results with this recipe, and has made me the resident brownie maker at work…. no-one else will bring them in after trying these. I use Camino organic dutch cocoa, and will sometimes also add espresso powder as an “enhancer” (but I don’t think it needs any help). For those who think there’s a lot of butter, remember that it uses cocoa instead of chocolate, and so the extra butter is needed to replace the “missing” cocoa butter. I make these in a 9×9 pan. A few tips – make sure you use the paddle attachment on your stand mixer (not whisk – the food network version of the recipe gets this wrong). After adding sugar, mix in the dry ingredients, and then slowly add the butter (as if you were making salad dressing). Yesterday I made the “Supernatural Brownies” (#2 on this site’s Top 10 list), and when I took them to work today, everyone who tried those said they were okay, but not nearly as rich and chocolate-y as these (and these were all unprompted comments)

  7. I’ve also had nothing but good results with this recipe. In fact, I’m on the hunt for a recipe that uses less butter with similar results, so I’m browsing your site for inspiration. However, I have adapted it slightly. I use a good high-fat cocoa powder (usually Penzey’s or Trader Joe’s), increase the vanilla to a tablespoon, use sea salt instead of kosher salt, and add a healthy splash of Kahlua (which I add to any chocolate baked good to amp up the chocolate flavor). I’ve never found them lacking in chocolately punch, but I’m not sure if that’s due to my flavor enhancements or the type of cocoa powder used.

  8. I love these brownies, i also make them because they are moist, a little caky yet fudgey, and provide an intense cocoa flavor. the other ones that are amazing that i make are ghirardelli’s fudge brownies, which are deliciously rich dense and gooey yet amazingly simple. maybe your preferences for a brownie are different then others, but remember that there are actually several different types that can all be rich, chocolaty and delicious. certainly i generally trust any recipe of alton with the exception of perhaps a few!

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