I’m not a particular fan of brownies. A brownie, I think, is one of those food items that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. There are fudgy brownies and cake-like brownies, some are soft, and some are chewy. So what are they? Cake? Fudge? What?? If I want cake, by God, I’ll make cake. Same thing with fudge, if that’s what I want. To me a proper brownie should, first of all, be chocolate, so chocolaty that you’re knee deep in it. Secondly, it should be dense, rich, crispy at the edges, deep, dark, and deliciously chewy on the inside, and it must, oh yes, MUST have icing, or rather, a chocolate ganache as rich and delicious as it is. Finding a brownie like this seemed an impossible task, and then I opened up what has become my favorite cookbook, The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl and Griff Day. When I saw the picture of the Creole Brownies staring up at me from page 192 I knew this was the recipe for me. It was. These are, without a doubt, the best brownies EVER.
I made a couple of alterations. I wanted them thicker, so made them in a 9” square pan and, as such, baked them for about 26 minutes (test for doneness if you do the same). I also used Medaglia D'Oro Instant Espresso because it was late and I didn’t want to make up a pot of strong coffee.
Here’s the recipe, but do me a favor, and just buy this book. You’ll thank me later.
For the brownies
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
¼ cup cocoa nibs (I left these out)
For the ganache
1 cup heavy cream
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup hot freshly brewed New Orleans-style chicory coffee or strong regular coffee
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fleur de sel for sprinkling (optional)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9x13x2-inch baking pan and line with parchment, allowing the ends of the paper to hang over two opposite sides of the pan.
To make the brownies: Set a large heatproof bowl* over a saucepan of barely simmering water (do not let bottom of the bowl touch the water), add the butter and chocolate, and stir frequently until melted and smooth.
Remove the bowl from the heat, add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and stir until completely combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour and stir until the batter is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cocoa nibs (if you use them, I did not.)
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. When the brownies are done, a slight crack will have formed around the edge. Remove the pan from the oven and let the brownies cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the ganache: Combine the cream, butter, sugar, and salt in a large heatproof bowl*, set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water), and stir until the butter is melted. Add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is completely smooth.
Remove the bowl from the heat, add the coffee and vanilla, and stir until smooth. The ganache will thicken as it cools.
To finish the brownies: Invert the brownies onto a baking sheet and remove the parchment. Pour the thickened ganache over the brownies, spreading it evenly with a spatula or butter knife into a thick layer on top. Let the brownies stand until the ganache is completely set and sprinkle with fleur de sel if desired.
Cut into squares. The brownies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
*If you don’t have a set of Duralex Bowls, get some. These are invaluable in situations like this.
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