I’ve been making the same brownie recipe for about five years now. It never lets me down and always gets rave reviews. When people ask me for the recipe I usually say it is a secret which just builds the intrigue.
Truth be told it is Nigella Lawson’s recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. My only variation from her recipe is that I skip the nuts and add more chocolate. I don’t like anything getting in the way of my chocolate! This recipe is unbeatable. A sure winner every time.
So when my new issue of Cook’s Illustrated arrived last month and I saw a recipe for Chewy Chocolate Brownies I was intrigued. If you know, Cook’s Illustrated than you know that they test, test, test their recipes until they come up with the perfect combination of ingredients and techniques. Some of the best recipes I have ever made come from this magazine. Could this new brownie recipe displace my tried and true favorite? The battle was on!
From the start I could see that the recipes were quite different. Nigella uses equal amounts of butter and semi-sweet chocolate while Cook’s uses butter, vegetable oil, unsweetened chocolate and cocoa. Nigella uses 6 eggs , while Cook’s uses 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks. What combination would come out on top?
In the end there was no contest.
Nigella Lawson. Hands down. While the Cook’s brownie was chewy it just didn’t have the richness and intensity of the Nigella brownie. Try them both and see what you think.
Cook’s Illustrated Chewy Brownies
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso (optional)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 tsp table salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Make foil sling: Cut 18 inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8 inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9 inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up side of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14 inch length foil and fit into width of pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet (if using extra wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12 inch width). Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture make look curdled). Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogenous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30-35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1 1/2 hours.
4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely about 1 hour. Cut and serve.
Nigella Lawson’s Brownie
375g soft unsalted butter
375g best quality dark chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
500g caster sugar
225g all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
300g chopped walnuts (I replace with more chocolate)
Preheat oven to 350F. Line your brownie pan (approx. 33 x 23 x 5 cm) with foil or parchment.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large pan. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.
When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar, and then the nuts (or chocolate) and flour. Beat to combine smoothly and then scrape into the lined pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes. When it’s ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but with the middle still dark and dense and gooey. And even with such a big batch you do need to keep alert keep checking: the difference between gungy brownies and dry brownies is only a few minutes; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.