Cocoa Brownies With Brown Butter And Walnuts

Another big snowstorm is on its way this week, and Boston is basically already bursting at the seams with snow. We've run out of places to put it, getting around is treacherous -- both walking and driving -- and it no longer looks very pretty. The snow is slushy in some places, mixed with mud and salt, and piled up taller than me.

At least Gunner loves the snow piles!
(That fence is 6 feet high!)
When the outside world is not too inviting and the weather is downright menacing, I like to stay holed up inside and often wonder why humans can't hibernate too. We all seem to have this go-go-go mentality, and I know that working and making money and contributions to society are all important, but sometimes it would be nice to just take a breather. My office never closes, and that makes me especially bitter (it's not like we save lives or do anything that couldn't be put off for a day). At least I can work from home when the weather is bad, but that's not the same as having a day to just lounge around, watch movies, hang out with Jeff and Gunner, and enjoy life. Between the frightful weather and my depression at having to work in the midst of snowstorms that cause the whole rest of the city to shut down, I find myself craving good old comfort food.

When the February issue of Bon Appetit arrived in our mailbox, it was immediately clear to me what particular comfort food I needed: brownies. There on the cover was a stunning stack of shiny, fudgy brownies, studded with walnuts. The magazine touted them as the "best-ever brownies," and that and the picture convinced me I needed to make them. So last night, in preparation for this week's impending storm, I quickly whipped up a pan of them.

The recipe didn't call for the walnuts to be toasted, but I always like to toast nuts that will be incorporated into baked goods when I want a richer, "nuttier" flavor. Between that and the browned butter in these -- and my upgrade of the vanilla extract to Tahitian vanilla extract -- the brownies definitely get a deep, complex flavor. And if you follow the baking instructions and don't overbake these (very important), you'll get that nice, fudgy texture that every perfect brownie should have. I hope you get a chance to make and enjoy these brownies soon... especially if there's a snowstorm on its way to your area.

Cocoa Brownies With Browned Butter And Walnuts (adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2011)
(Print this recipe)


Nonstick baking spray
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon Tahitian vanilla extract
2 large eggs (straight from the fridge)
1/3 cup plus tablespoon flour
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8x8x2-inch metal pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang, and spray the pan with nonstick baking spray.

Combine the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and continue cooking and frequently swirling the pan until butter stops foaming and there are brown bits in the bottom of the pan, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, and immediately dump in the sugar-cocoa mixture. Add the water and vanilla, and stir to combine.

Let cool 5 minutes, and then add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously after each addition with a firm rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Add the flour, and stir until blended. Then beat vigorously for 60 strokes.

Stir in the nuts.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and smooth the top.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted in center comes out with only moist crumbs attached, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on rack.

Cut into squares, and serve.

While I wouldn't go so far as to say these are the best brownies, I thoroughly enjoyed them, and they even got a "very good" from Jeff. They are rich, soft, and fudgy, and I love how the walnuts add texture to these, even though I usually add chocolate chips and chunks to brownies as opposed to nuts.

What's your favorite brownie recipe? And are you sick of the snow?