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Mocha Cocoa Brownies

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There are many wonderful recipes for this American classic, and the truth is, chocolate doesn't ever get better than in the form of a brownie. Everyone has a favorite brownie recipe; in fact, I have several. But this one really is tops. It is chewy yet slightly spongy and cakey - a miracle of textures. My friend Brigitte Weil, who created and ran Dean & Deluca's bakery department for years, commented that what makes these brownies particularly unusual is that they don't even need milk to wash them down.

I make these brownies with cocoa for its deeper, duskier flavor. Since cocoa contains a lot less cocoa butter than does chocolate, butter is added to this recipe to replace it. At room temperature butter is soft, while cocoa butter is very hard. This means that the texture of the cocoa brownies is less chewy than that of chocolate brownies. If you like your bronies intensely chocolately and bery chewy, there's a simple solution: Store these cocoa brownies in the refrigerator and eat them cold. That's something like having your brownie and eating it too!

pecan pieces or coarsely chopped pecans 1-1/2 cups 6 ounces 213 grams
unsalted butter 14 tablespoons 7 ounces 200 grams

unsweetened cocoa
(preferably Dutch-processed)

1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons
(lightly spooned into the cup)
1.75 ounces 50 grams
sugar 1 cup + 3 tablespoons 8.25 ounces 238 grams
3 large eggs 4.5 fluid ounces 5.25 ounces 150 grams
pure vanilla extract 2 teaspoons * 8 grams
bleached all-purpose flour 1/2 cup 2.5 ounces 71 grams
salt pinch * *
2 tablespoons coffee extract or 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder * *

Equipment: 8-inch by 8-inch by 2-inch baking pan, perferably metal (if using a glass pan, lower the over temprature 25 degrees Farenheit.), bottom lined with parchment or wax paper, sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray or buttered (if buttering, butter the bottom of the pan too so the liner won't slip).

Place 1 over rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the pecans on a cookie sheet and toast them, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.

In a medium saucepan or microwave-proof bowl, melt the butter. Remove from the heat source and whisk the cocoa. Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the flour, salt, and nuts and stir into the mixture using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. A wooden toothpick inserted into the center should come out with moist crumbs still clinging to it. Do not overbake.

Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely. Use a small metal spatula to loosen the brownie from the sides of the pan and invert onto the back of a cookie sheet. Peel off the liner and reinvert the brownie onto a cutting surface. Use a serrated knife to cut 2-inch squares.

Store: Wrap each brownie in plastic wrap and store in an air-tight container at room temperature, or in the refrigerator or freezer.

Keeps: 1 week at room temperature, 1 month refrigerated, or several months frozen.

  • A nonalkalized cocoa (not Dutch-processed) can be used, but Dutch-processed gives a darker, richer color and a smoother cocoa taste.
  • It's fine to replace the pecans with walnuts. I prefer the softer texture and flavor of the pecans.
  • Combining the cocoa with the hot butter brings out more cocoa flavor.
  • A serrated knife works best to cut the brownies because it cuts well through the nuts.
  • If you a fanantic for perfection, you may want to do as they do at Walt Disney World: Cut the drier edges from the outside of the brownie before cutting it into squares, and serve only the perfect moist inner section. Their pastry chef, George Geary, tells me that they grind up the drier edges and use them as a delicious crumb coating for the buttercream on the sides of their cakes. Actually, these brownies are so high in butter content that even the edges go down easily.
  • Brownies stay the moistest and frestest when wrapped airtight. Saran Wrap is the least "breathable" of current plastic wraps and therefore the best choice.