I think every baker needs to have a set of classic recipes in their arsenal. You, those recipes for basic things that always turn out perfect and delicious. You might not make them all the time, you bake other stuff, but they are always there, right in your pocket, like a reassuring little lucky charm when you need it.
Another way to think of it: if you had a bakery, what would be your everyday staples? Things you make every single day because they are just classic.
Like a reassuring lucky charm, these brownies reassured me. I'd been having a streak of baking fails. Not so much fails as just baking that lacked in luster. I had grandiose plans for an amazing cupcake recipe that had a frosting that didn't end up working so we substituted for a frosting that made them taste good, but not as awesome as I expected. I made some scones that I'd already had before (they were downright amazing, but still, I'd had them before.) I made some cupcakes that didn't ombré exactly how I planned. Nothing seemed to be working out exactly how I wanted it to, nothing was flooring me or making me stop and say "Wow!" But then I made these. And now I'm back on track. My baking muse is back and singing plenty of muse-ful songs (not to be confused with songs by the band Muse, rather songs that inspire my tastebuds).
I'm just going to say right out that these brownies are the best brownies in the world.
Not just good brownies. The best. (Read that "the" as "thee" for emphasis). They are the perfect fudginess level. AKA, they are I'm-not-entirely-sure-these-are-baked-all-the-way-through-they're-so-fudgy level of fudgy. But brownie fudginess is somewhat different than actual fudge fudginess (just roll with me here). Fudgy brownies are super gooey and just oozing with chocolate. Normal fudge is denser and melts in your mouth. There's a difference, a fine one.
Another great thing about these brownies? They are downright, jaw-dropping-all-the-way-to-the-floor, shut-the-front-door, call-the-press, don't-mind-me-I'll-just-eat-this-whole-pan good, aaaand they don't have anything super special in them. They are incredibly easy to make. No super secret ingredient. No special step that involves some obscure tool only he most elite pastry chefs know how to operate. Just a lot of chocolate. And butter. And eggs. And a little bit of sugar. :P
And this cornflake crunch is whole 'nother story. Molly recently went to New York City and went to the Momofuku Milk Bar and brought home a bunch of cookies for the family to try. They were all ah-mazing, but we were all especially wow-ed by the cornflake crunch marshmallow chocolate chip one (who wouldn't be?). So Molly made some for us using their cookbook, and they turned out great. Especially the cornflake crunch part. I kind of wanted to eat it with a spoon. But I didn't. I promise. But it got me thinking of another great combo- Ritter Sport Knusperflakes bars. If you haven't had Ritter Sport, go buy some. It's easily one of my favorite chocolate companies/brands/bars ever. (which is saying something, because I don't often have just straight up chocolate.) One of their best flavors is the Knusperflakes, which is German for cornflakes. So I thought, hey, why not put cornflake crunch in the baked brownie and it'll be like a knusperflakes bar? (This could easily be done with just box mix, but I was feeling particularly extravagant.)
Best. Idea. Ever.
I thought these were so awesome they needed a little super-macro action. And I was right. So much foodporn.
There are only so many ways you can say how amazing something is before it gets old, and I'm running out of words to describe these and I don't want to cheat and use a thesaurus. So you'll jsut have to make them yourselves to find out.
At the very least, I think you should add this brownie recipe to your repertoire. Next time your kid has a bake sale and you need to make brownies but you want to impress all the other moms who just make box mix, make these. Next time you get new neighbors, show you're the best neighbors by making these. Next time you have a job interview, make these and start out by giving them some (not actually sure if this would be socially appropriate, but I'm about 98% sure it would work). Next time you go to a new school, bring these and make instant friends with everyone. Next time you really want chocolate, make these. And next time you are having a streak of baking bad-luck, make these :).
The Baked Brownie
yield: 9x13 pan brownies
prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 30 minutes
total time: 1 hour
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9x13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.
3. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
6. Also fold in 1/2 recipe (recipe below) of the cornflake crunch.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle 1- 2 cups of the remaining cornflake crunch (all of it, or save some for sprinkling on other things, or just eating plain.) Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.
7. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days.
Yields about four cups
5 c. cornflakes
½ c. milk powder
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
9 tbsp. butter, melted
1. Heat oven to 275°.
2. In a medium bowl, with your hands, crush cornflakes to ¼ of their original size. Add milk powder, sugar, and salt; toss to mix. Add butter; toss to coat. (As you toss, the butter will act as glue, binding the dry ingredients to the cereal, creating small clusters.)
3. On a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan, spread clusters and bake for 20 minutes, at which point they should look toasted, smell buttery, and crunch gently when cooled slightly and chewed.
4. Cool completely before storing or using in a recipe. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the crunch will keep fresh for one week; in the fridge or freezer, it will keep with one month.