Brown Butter Brownies


I grew up making and eating Ghirardelli brownies... you know, the Costco-sized family-pack box? They were so easy - you just dumped the powdery stuff and chocolate chips from the bag into a big bowl, mixed in a ton of oil and an egg or two, and you were good to go. They baked in less than half an hour, and they came out of the oven looking like a quintessential brownie should - crackly thin skin on top that led way to a ridiculously fudgey interior. I was a hungry kid with a chocolate craving, and they were the perfect fix.

Years have passed since then, and I've made many different batches of brownies in probably dozens of kitchens, but my heart and my eyes have always come back to those brownies in that big brown box with the blue, gold, and white scripted writing across the top. That box is a marker of my childhood; just thinking about it now brings me back to our kitchen with the fake marbled counters framed with wood, and the awkward sink that jutted out at the end of the peninsula. That peninsula has seen two decades worth of floury messes, buttered toasts, and potato peels.

My skills have since much improved and I haven't made brownies from a box in, well, it's been so damn long I honestly can't remember. I haven't needed to, because I have this recipe. It's a bit more involved than stirring oil and eggs into a powdery mix, but the concept is the same and the flavor is ten times better than boxed brownie mix, even the kind that tastes like childhood. Cause, you know, we're adults now. Taking the time to brown the butter adds depth and nuttiness while the espresso really brings out the richness of the cocoa. Sure, you could add chocolate chips to the batter, but you don't need to. Trust me, these are plenty delicious on their own.

Brown Butter Brownies

  • 10 tablespoons (142 grams) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup (75 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1¼ cups (280 grams) white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fresh espresso or strong coffee
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup (40 grams) all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
Prepare an 8x8" square pan by lining it with foil.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, stirring on occasion. The butter will begin to boil- once this happens keep an eye on it and stir more frequently. The bubbles will get very big and then start to shrink back down and you'll start to see brown specks making their way up to the top. Once the brown specks appear start to scrape the bottom of the pan. When the butter is a light golden brown color and you smell a nutty aroma, (this shouldn't take more than a minute or two) take the saucepan off the heat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cocoa powder, sugar, and salt with a whisk.
Stir in the browned butter, making sure to scrape all the brown speckled goodness out from the bottom of the pan as well.
Stir in the the vanilla extract and espresso.
Add in the eggs and stir well to combine.
Stir the flour in until fully incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top starts to crack slightly.
Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting them into squares.
Brownies will keep for a few days in an airtight container; they'll keep even longer in the refrigerator.
What food brings back childhood memories for you?

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