Evidently today, February 9, is National Chocolate Day. Who knew? Not I, so I guess it’s a good thing I had brownies on the brain regardless. I spent about a year tweaking this formula to get it just right: not cake-y, not fudge-y, intensely chocolate-y, and not too sweet. I call them by the imaginative name of Triple Chocolate Brownies because they contain three types of chocolate. It’s worth using a decent semi-sweet chocolate because it’s the main player here.
As for the cocoa powder, be sure to use a natural cocoa, not “Dutch” cocoa. The latter has been treated with an alkali to make it more blendable, which is great if you’re making hot cocoa. If you’re baking with it, you need to add baking soda to balance the alkalinity. These brownies contain no leavening at all, which is what gives them their great density.
Variations on the theme are many. Add toasted coconut, add toasted nuts, add a cup of white or dark chocolate chips. I’ve added the zest of an orange because I think the flavor will pair well with the way we’re going to finish these brownies. But I’m keeping that under wraps until tomorrow.
It is important to bake brownies a day before you plan to cut and serve them. As I’ve mentioned, they are dense. That means they’re going to take a while to both cool and settle. If you attempt to de-pan and cut them while they are still even remotely warm, they’re going to break and crumble. And once you see what we’re going to do with them, I hope you’ll have a greater appreciation for the 24-hour rule.
TRIPLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
5 large eggs
Zest of one orange
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- Set a saucepan with a couple of inches of water in it over medium heat. Break bittersweet chocolate into pieces with your hands and drop them into a stainless steel mixing bowl. Use a bench scraper to chop the pieces of unsweetened chocolate in half, and to divide the butter into 1″ pieces. Add the unsweetened chocolate and butter to the bowl, and set it over the warming water. Don’t bother trying to stir until everything is almost completely melted; you’ll just make a mess. Don’t let the water boil above an active simmer, so turn the heat down a bit if necessary.
- While the chocolate mixture is melting, measure the sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and whisk together. A fine microplane is by far the best tool for removing only the very surface of the orange’s zest. Zest it straight into the sugar and egg mixture, then whisk to blend. The lipids (an elegant word for fats) in the eggs will take up the oils in the zest, rendering them beautifully fragrant.
- Set a piece of parchment next to your mixing bowl. Set a sieve on it and measure the flour into the sieve. Sift the flour onto the parchment. Press any remaining lumps through with your fingers.
- The chocolates and butter should be almost melted by now, so it’s safe to give them a stir. Grab your sieve, hold it over the stainless bowl, and sift in the cocoa powder. Stir it in so that it can melt. The mixture should be completely smooth and lump free before you remove it from the heat.
- When completely melted, stir the chocolate mixture to thoroughly blend. Set your mixing bowl containing the sugar mixture on a kitchen towel so it won’t spin when you whisk in the chocolate. Pouring in a slow, steady stream, whisk the chocolate into the sugar and eggs. Grab a rubber spatula and scrape the chocolate bowl. Once the chocolate and sugar and eggs have been completely blended, tip the parchment holding the flour so that it pours into the mixing bowl. Use the rubber spatula to mix in the flour, being sure to scrape across the center bottom of the bowl. If anything is going to remain unmixed, that’s where it will be.
- Set your baking pan on the parchment that held the flour. Use a Sharpie to trace the outline of the pan. With scissors, cut along the inside of the lines so that the parchment will fit the inside bottom of the pan. Set the parchment in the bottom of the pan. Pan-spray or oil the sides of the pan.
- Use the rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the pan and then spread it into the corners and level it across the top. Set the pan in the oven, and set a timer for 25 minutes. The brownies will likely take longer than that to bake, but you can always bake them longer. It is very difficult to unbake something that is overbaked.
- I checked mine at 25 minutes by gently tapping the center of the surface with my fingers. It felt too soft, and looked almost wet, so I set the timer for 10 minutes more. At that point, they were perfect. Not too soft, and my fingers did not stick at all.
- When done, remove pan from oven and allow to cool at room temperature until the center bottom of the pan holds no residual heat when you pass your hand over it. When completely cool, wrap the pan securely with plastic and let sit at room temperature overnight.
- Tomorrow you’ll see how we’re going to gild this lily!