I grew up on cocoa-based chocolate treats. My favorite cookies while I was growing up were these cocoa drops that my mom made — chewy, puffy, soft, and really chocolatey but not rich. Someday I will definitely make and post them — they are a taste of home for me.
It wasn’t until I really started baking and experimenting a lot — maybe a year ago, now — that I started making a lot of recipes that use melted chocolate as a base for cakes, brownies, and even chocolate cookies. I knew how to temper chocolate, thanks to the number of chocolate-dipped candies that my mom and I make every year for Christmas (it’s an epic annual process, maybe this year we’ll document it), so for a while I happily melted and cooled and incorporated into batters for baked goods of all sorts.
Recently, though, I have been wondering what, exactly, is wrong with cocoa? I like the dusty, almost raw chocolate flavor it imparts. Buying a ton of chocolate (the higher the quality, the better, it seems) is expensive. And if I have gotten ahold of a high-quality chocolate bar, you know what I’m going to do? Eat it. That’s right. Not melt it, temper it, or coddle it until it’s totally lost its character and is ready to be incorporated into whatever chocolate creation is next on my list.
Ok, ok….. there are some times when using high-quality, tempered chocolate is a good thing (see the Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake, for example). But sometimes I like the ease and comfort of just using cocoa. And it tastes a whole lot like home!
All this to say, that when I saw cocoa brownies on smitten kitchen, I knew I’d have to try them. These are really low-maintenance, rich brownies — look at how dark they are in the pictures! With only a quarter-cup of flour, these babies are intensely fudgy, which is my favorite kind of brownie. I had some leftover Andes baking pieces that I added (you could use regular Andes mints and break them up). The mint was fantastic, and complimented the dark cocoa flavor perfectly. Speaking of cocoa, I used Hershey’s Special Dark. I read somewhere that it is half dutch-processed, half regular. It certainly is very dark, and gave the brownies an intense flavor and that beautiful black color. This recipe prove that cocoa-based treats can be just as chocolatey as chocolate-based ones — if not more than!
I made these for an info session I had for some students at work, and they loved them. I left the rest out for my colleagues the next morning, and by noon they were reduced to crumbs (who eats brownies at 10am? A lot of people I work with). Try them!
Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies (I went with the 25-count size)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Andes baking pieces or broken Andes mints (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t worry — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the Andes, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at few minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack.
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.