In less than one month, I’m heading off to college. I know it’s cliche to say so, but time really did fly by this past year…more like the past 18 years, for that matter! So much change is about to come my way, which is both exciting and scary. Not mildly exciting and mildly scary, mind you. More like some days I’m busting at the seams to enter college life, ready to make new friends, take new classes, and live it up during my last few years before real adulthood begins. Other days I wish I could stay a kid just a little bit longer and could magically back up a couple years. Like to when I was, say, five. Yep, there are many days when five years old sounds pretty darn good.
On those particular days, nostalgia sets in. While deciding what to bake today, the idea of a new, complicated, or fancy recipe just wasn’t appealing. I wanted a plain, simple, classic something-or-other that I had made a million times in the past. A tried-and-true treat. Chocolate chip cookies definitely fit the bill, but since I made those so recently I went for another oldie-but-goodie: brownies. The kind I used to make before I was even allowed to turn on the oven, when I would secretly try to sneak bites of the unsweetened chocolate squares even though my mom warned me again and again that this won’t taste like chocolate chips, honey. Every time I spit out my sneaky little taste in disgust. And then the next time we made brownies, I tried again. You could say I was a slower learner. I say I was a true optimist, thinking that the chocolate would magically taste good the next time around!
Not gonna lie, making simple chocolate brownies was a bit of an exercise in suppressing my tendency to make recipes more elaborate. Maybe add a little toasted coconut? A cupful of white chocolate chips? Some chopped pecans? No, no, no, I kept telling myself. I knew I had to resist my foodie urges and stick to the plan: classic, old-fashioned, good old brownies containing nothing more than rich, fudgey chocolate and a crackly crust. Sometimes simple is all you need.
This recipe from The Joy of Cooking was just what I had imagined. No fancy brands of chocolate, no complex cooking methods, just your standard brownie ingredients, a bowl, and a spoon. I chose to bake these in an 8″x8″ pan, meaning they were incredibly thick and rich rather than thin and chewy. To me, when it comes to thick, cakey brownies vs. dense and chewy it’s like apples and oranges. Today I opted for tall and thick but you can definitely use a 9″x13″ pan if you prefer your brownies chewier. I promise that regardless of pan size they will still be moist, fudgey, and spectacular.
I must say, this recipe also produced some killer brownie batter. Taking the time to beat the mixture thoroughly before adding in the melted butter/chocolate and flour produces an incredibly thick, silky-smooth batter. It was all I could do to scrape the brownie batter into the pan before it all disappeared into my mouth. I daresay I used up my entire supply of willpower for the day.
These brownies reminded me just how good an old classic can be. No frills, no tricky instructions. Just thick, chewy, chocolatey brownie perfection.
Classic Fudge Brownies
Yield: 16 large brownies or 24 smaller brownies, depending on pan size
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8″x8″ baking pan with foil and spray with baking spray.* Set aside.
Place the butter and chocolate into a shallow bowl. Microwave for 30-second intervals on 50% power, stirring between intervals, until melted and smooth. (Alternately, you could simply melt the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat.) Let the chocolate mixture cool.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat or whisk the eggs and salt together until light and foamy. Slowly beat in the sugar, followed by the vanilla, until the mixture is thick and smooth.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the cooled chocolate mixture. Stir in the flour just until no streaks remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for 40-50 minutes (decrease baking time to around 25 minutes if using a 9×13 pan) or until an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Cool the brownies in the pan on a cooling rack. When brownies are completely cool, grasp the foil, lift the brownies out of the pan, and cut into squares. Serve plain or with ice cream, whipped cream, etc.
*For thinner, chewier brownies, use a 9″x13″ pan.
(Recipe from The 75th Anniversary Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker)