On New Year’s, I made the resolution to take a month-long reset. It was complicated and painful for someone who likes to eat what she wants when she wants it, but long story short, I survived a month without sugar and cheese, and I’m pretty sure that I could do it again as long as there was peanut butter.
About halfway through the month, I had (a sad, lonely salad) lunch with one of my friends, who, as she was leaving, said that she really wanted a brownie, and was going to the local bakery to get one. From that day until the end of the month, I too really wanted a brownie, and became minorly obsessed with them. So minorly obsessed that I began compiling a list of the best-loved brownie recipes I could find. And then I made a spreadsheet. At the end of the month, I was ready with 12 recipes to test.
Because it would be hazardous to my health to make all 12 recipes at the same time, I decided to test out two at a time, arbitrarily starting with the two which called for 6 Tablespoons of butter each. These were David Lebovitz’s Best Brownies (from The Sweet Life in Paris) and the New York Times’ “Fat Dad” Brownies as relayed by Hummingbird High. When I looked through my ingredient spreadsheet, I noticed that they were practically the same recipe- the only difference was that one called for brown sugar and one for white!
Both brownies were pretty tasty, although neither was my ideal brownie. My family felt differently, however: Lebovitz’s brownies (the granulated sugar ones) were among my step-father’s favorite ever. In the end, I felt that the Lebovitz brownies were pretty good fresh, but that their flavor improved as they cooled, ending up at a decent 6/10 overall. They had the classic brownie crinkle top as well as a richly fudgy interior, and were best after having been refrigerated.
I personally preferred the “Fat Dad” brownies (the brown sugar ones), which were much better warm than refrigerated, with a 6.5/10 freshly out of the oven. The brown sugar content lent them a richly caramel flavor, and a crunch texture on the outside- although they lacked the crinkley top.
As I said, though, the ideal brownie is not the same for everyone, and both of these are solid, simple choices for anyone who needs a quick brownie fix. Enjoy!
David Lebovitz’s Best Brownies
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small squares
- 8 oz semisweet chocolate (about 2 2/3 bars of between 55-65%)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 cup toasted, chopped nuts (if desired)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9×9 pan with foil, then coat with cooking spray or a neutral oil and set aside.
- In a heat-proof bowl over (but not touching!) boiling water (or in 20 second interviews in the microwave), melt butter and chocolate together, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined, then beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Add flour and whisk vigorously until batter is smooth and glossy, and all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated (up to 1 minute by hand). Stir in nuts, if desired.
- Pour batter into a pan and spread, making sure that the top is even. Bake for 30 or so minutes, until brownies look almost set (check starting at 25 minutes so as to avoid overbaking!)
- Cool completely in the pan (for 1-2 hours) before lifting the foil out of the pan and cutting the brownies.
- One 9×9 pan will yield 16-25, depending on how large you cut the brownies.
- From start to finish, the brownies will take 2-3 hours, including cooling time.
The New York Times “Fat Dad” Brownies
- 8 oz bittersweet chocolate (about 2 2/3 bars of between 65-75%), finely chopped
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 beaten eggs, room temperature
- 1/4 cup flour
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×9 pan with butter.
- In a heat-proof bowl over (but not touching) boiling water, or in 20 second interviews in the microwave, stirring constantly until smooth to prevent the chocolate from burning.
- Once the chocolate has melted, add the butter, stirring until smooth and combined. Remove the mixture from heat and sift the brown sugar over the mixture (to prevent clumps) and stir it and the vanilla in until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, making sure to combine quickly to prevent them from scrambling in the warm bowl*.
- Gently fold the flour into the chocolate mixture, being careful not to overmix, so as to avoid tough brownies- there can be one or two streaks of flour left in the batter.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the brownies are set and just about firm in the middle. Cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes before removing.
- *If, unlike me, you’re more concerned by potentially scrambling your eggs than by the thought of having to clean two bowls, you can transfer the chocolate-butter mixture into a second heat-proof bowl after combining.
- The recipe yields 16 brownies, and takes an hour and a half from start to cool.