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Perfect Fudgy Brownies

Too cakey, too dry, too dense, too wet, too greasy, too many nuts, not enough nuts.

What is the perfect brownie? I sincerely thing that everyone has a different mindset when it comes to brownies. Some people like them to be like a moist, dense, chocolate cake, while others prefer them to be a sort of lightened fudge. There are some who won’t eat them if they don’t have nuts or frosting, while others turn up their noses at anything but a plain brownie. For something so simple, there are nearly as many different recipes as there are tastes. Unfortunately, I have found it very difficult to come up with a basic brownie recipe I actually like. I have tried so many brownies, I can no longer even identify the traits that I thought I liked, though I now know exactly what I dislike in a brownie (hence the list at the top of this post).

I am so picky about brownies that I will nearly always refuse them. But I was flipping through my new copy of Alice Medrich’s Cookies and Brownies and saw her recipe for New Classic Brownies. Not only do I trust Alice’s recipes, but I noted that these involved a “different and rather magical” technique. Alice said that this brownie recipe, coupled with the magical technique, “won hands down against the same recipe baked in a conventional matter. Not only was the crust crustier and the center creamier, but the flavor was livelier and more chocolatey as well!”

The magical method involves baking the brownies at a hight temperature for about 20 minutes, then dunking the pan in an ice bath, which arrests the cooking from the outside in, and very quickly at that. You can, alternatively, shove the pan into your freezer immediately upon removing them from the oven. If your freezer looks anything like mine, you’re probably better off with the ice bath. This method means that you must use a metal baking pan, since a glass one could shatter when you take it from a hot oven and plunge it into freezing water.

This works. The brownies are the best brownies I have ever had, hands down. They are smooth and creamy in the center, without seeming raw or underbaked. They are crisp on the top and firm rather than gooey on the bottom, making them easy to handle. They are rich but neither greasy nor overly dense and fudge-like. I think that they are quite possibly the perfect brownies. These will be my basic brownie recipe from now on. You can add up to 2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter, if you like.

New Classic Brownies
(from Cookies and Brownies)
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F and line and 8-inch square metal baking pan with foil.
Melt the butter and the chocolate together, on top of a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring often until smooth. Stir in sugar, vanilla and salt. Add eggs one at a time, followed by flour. Stir until very smooth, about 1 minute. Add nuts, if using.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake at 400F for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a water bath. Fill a large roasting pan with water and ice about 1 inch deep.
When the brownies are done – and they will look a bit dry on top – take them immediately from the oven and place in the water bath. Add more ice to the water if necessary. Allow to cool completely in the bath before removing the pan and cutting the brownies.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Makes 16.

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  • The Cookbook Junkie
    January 19, 2006

    I hate you! It’s 9:40am and all I can think about now is brownies! How am I going to get any work done?

    I’m not so picky when it comes to brownies. Depending on my mood, I like just about all types. I like to add a little espresso powder to brownie recipes.

  • Sandy
    January 19, 2006

    I wonder if this baking method would work for any brownie recipe or just this one? I’ll have to compare the ingrediant list to another recipe and see how different they are.

  • Nic
    January 19, 2006

    Cookbook junkie – Sorry about that! I guess you’ll just have to make a batch.

    Sandy – The recipe itself isn’t unusual, just the method. It will work with other recipes, but the result will not be precisely the same and perhaps not quite as good. I cannot say for certain.

  • mari
    January 19, 2006

    I’ll definitely give this one a try. It sounds like the perfect balance of all the things I want in a brownie…yum!

  • dksbook
    January 19, 2006

    Nic, you mentioned in passing “nuts”. I love nuts, but I have not much liked them in brownies – I suppose because they are sort of lost in the chocolate, and sort of “wet” themselves, even when toasted first. So I simply sprinkle some evenly chopped (about 1/8″ square) nuts on the top of the batter. They get toasted as the batter bakes, I get my nuts, and people who don’t like nuts can either pass on them altogether, or easily brush the nuts off the brownies.

    I’ll have to try this new method next time I bake brownies. But I have to admit, I’ll even eat box brownies (ducking for cover!)

  • Joe
    January 19, 2006

    That’s a pretty interesting and cool technique!

  • Mika
    January 19, 2006

    Medrich comes with cool ideas like this one. I would like to try this with any brownie recipe that I am testing out. Thanks for the recipe, Nic.

  • Diane
    January 19, 2006

    I clearly have my baking task for today ahead of me!

    Why on earth is this book out of print and $89.00? The price on Abebooks was even worse.

  • bea at La Tartine Gourmande
    January 19, 2006

    This looks goods. I got to your blog through Gluten Free Girl (thank you!) and discovered… chocolate!!! Happy me! I made beet/chocolate brownies yesterday, so it must be the season!!


  • Anonymous
    January 19, 2006

    I’ve been making these brownies for a number of years and they are simply the best brownies I’ve ever had. I’ve tried at least half a dozen other recipes, all good, some very good but none match these.

    They are even better with great chocolate, Scharffen Berger being my current favorite, expensive I know, but worth it in my opinion.

  • Rorie
    January 19, 2006

    Oh, they sound delicious and now I REALLY want a brownie! Great photo as well.

  • Natalia
    January 19, 2006

    If they taste as good as they look in that picture, then they must be great. Although I like brownies best right out of the oven, still warm and gooey.

  • rae
    January 19, 2006

    yes. yes. yes. they do look perfect. must. bake. brownies. now.

  • Anonymous
    January 20, 2006

    I’ve been reading your site for the longest time and always trusted and loved the recipes you put up, and this is no exception! I just made these brownies and they were absolutely perfect, as you said 🙂

  • Barbara (Biscuit Girl)
    January 20, 2006

    Must make brownies……
    That’s the thought that’s been running through my head ever since I read your post.

  • valentinA ®
    January 21, 2006

    Hi Nic,
    I tried your recipe yesterday for a dinner party and I must say it worked wonders! I put mine in the sink filled with cold water 🙂
    They all loved it, thanks!:)
    Can’t wait to make more..

  • Nic
    January 21, 2006

    Diane – I’ve had the book for some time, but I just linked to it so people could see what it looked like. The recipes are fantastic, but $89, well, you might try looking at a used bookstore first

    CHL – I’m glad you liked them!

    Valentina – Using the sink was a great idea, not to mention more convenient than fixing another pan.

  • Ana
    January 21, 2006

    Wow, these brownies look great Nic! I am going to try this recipe next time I make brownies!

  • Audrey
    January 21, 2006

    Just tried them ! I used the fridge-technique (worked really well) and put pecans into the batter, delicious ! A great recipe 😀

  • Diane
    January 21, 2006

    I wasn’t blaming you for the price! I’m just surprised that a popular author like Medrich has such an in-demand book and no one has reprinted it. I certainly wish I’d been cooking four or five years ago, when the book was out… It sounds fantastic. (I haven’t made these brownies yet, but I clearly need to.)

  • Anna
    January 24, 2006

    Alice is a genius.

  • Lori
    January 24, 2006

    I’d read about this cold water technique in the same book. I think Alice attributed it to her secretary’s husband, Steve, or somebody like that.

    Anyway, I have yet to try this method, but I’m glad that it worked for you, Nic. 🙂 I liked what you wrote in the post about how you’ve tried so many brownie recipes that you don’t know anymore what it is that you like/don’t like. How true!

  • Niki
    January 29, 2006

    Oh my gawd! What an incredible (and yet so simple) idea! I must try. I must try!

  • Niki
    January 29, 2006

    Actually, what would you recommend for people who live in countries where unsweetened chocolate is not available? Using dark chocolate, obviously, but how much sugar would you reduce?

  • Nic
    January 29, 2006

    Interesting question, Niki. I believe that the sugar should be reduced by 1 tablespoon for each ounce of dark chocolate you use instead of unsweetened.

  • brownielover
    February 14, 2006

    hi nic, do u think i could use oil instead of butter? would e proportion be the same? thanks!

  • Nic
    February 14, 2006

    brownielover – No, using oil will not give you the same results in this recipe, so I would not recommend using it.

  • Anonymous
    April 9, 2006

    Where did you get your copy of this book? I borrowed it from the library. I was debating about what to make until I saw your post…I’m always in search of a new and better brownie. When I checked Amazon and ebay to purchase this book…it was … are you ready?…$188!!!! WOW!

    This is my first post to you…but I have your christmas marshmallows cooling on my counter and I’m getting out my yeast to make the soft pretzels you made your gramma. I LOVE your blog. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Wendy zeroslipped@hotmail.com
    aka faithful reader and wanna be baker but current teacher.

  • gilly
    June 27, 2006

    Hi Nic,
    I tried these out last week, and they turned out absolutely fantastic. Hands down, the best brownies I’ve ever made! Thanks!

    PS. I’m in the same boat as Wendy – it seems as though a copy of Alice Medrich’s book is a collector’s item! I cannot find a copy anywhere for less than $180US.

  • Rob Gorczyca
    September 17, 2006

    AMAZING. My wife yelled at me for making these because obviously they aren’t full of nutrition, but what the heck – ya gotta live a little sometimes!
    By far the best brownies I’ve ever made. I used to think the box mix was good, this ‘from scratch’ recipe has those beat hands down.. these are amazing. Thanks!!

  • JBD
    September 26, 2006

    Nic, these are in the oven right now — and I’m 6 minutes away from my first time using the “Steve Ritual” technique. So excited! I’ll let you know how they turn out.

  • Lynn
    April 27, 2007

    Hi, this is an interesting method of baking and cooling brownies! A definite must try!
    However, I have a problem with the exact measurements of the ingredients, could u help me with that? Is there any way you could help me translate the measurements of the butter, sugar and flour into grams?

    July 1, 2007

    Hi the only Brownies I have made were with Nigel Slater’s recipe. These were delicious. What do others think?
    I have the same problem as Lynn I still cook in imperial measures lbs and ozs, in fact my scales are in imperial measures. Can you give a guide . I know 25grams is 1 oz.

  • Caviemom
    August 30, 2007

    Has anyone doubled these and used a 13 x 9 pan? How long would you bake them??? I made them 8 x 8 and they were spectacular. Just not enough for a BIG family.

  • Anonymous
    May 28, 2008

    OMG I made these for a potluck we had in the office and it was a big hit! Thanks for the recipe, they were delicious!!

  • Amellia
    July 21, 2008

    i was wondering, what’s the difference if you use cocoa powder and whisking it with the butter(the more ‘traditional’ method i suppose), as opposed to melting the chocolate? is it because the chocolate is richer?

  • Jillian
    August 6, 2008

    Uhhh….yeah. These are THE best brownies ever! I made these this afternoon and I have already emailed a whole list of folk the link to this page for the recipe. I had seen this recipe on your blog quite some time ago and just got around to making them. (kicks self in butt) Thank you for your contributions to my phat fund!

  • Ann Smith
    September 5, 2008

    Thanks for this recipe! I just made some this afternoon to take to a low country shrimp boil in my condo building. I followed the directions exactly but have a couple of questions.

    When you recommend to line the pan with foil, you are talking about the inside of the pan, right?

    And, I baked mine for 20 minutes exactly on 400 degrees, but they are a bit gooey in the middle. Actually, they are very gooey. Do you think I perhaps should bake them a couple of minutes longer, or is this how they are supposed to be?

    Thanks again!

  • deb
    November 18, 2008

    these brownies were awesome! they were especially good straight from the freezer. niki, i couldnt get hold of unsweetened chocolate so i used semi-sweetened chocolate and reduced the sugar by 1 tablespoonful and they were great. caviemom, i doubled the recipe and used a 9 x 13 and i wouldnt do it again – it was too deep so the outside was done while the middle was still somewhat raw. but i agree with you that one batch isnt enough!

  • jehuty
    January 8, 2009


    i just tried this recipe and i think its good..this is the first time i saw a method like this, i did the put-on-freezer one! hehehe!…i have several questions…hope anyone could answer.

    1. i baked this on a 8×8 inch metal square pan..i didnt put any foil on it..i baked it directly..is this ok or should i put foil on it next time? Also, is there any way i could cut the brownies without making so much mess..i mean…the sides of the squares were crumbly or some of the sides crack as i pull it off the pan. Any tips on cutting it much more “nice-ly” and not that messy? hehehe!

    2. the taste is great but its kinda bitter for me…how can i cut down the bitter taste? should i cut back on the chocolate? or add more sugar maybe? or use another kind of chocolate like semi sweet??

    3. as i said earlier, i did the freezer method. Can u explain in a more detailed manner how to properly do this method (putting in freezer) like how many minutes should it stay on the freezer as you put it in, etc.

    Thanks! I love the site! very informative! more power! 🙂

  • Memoria
    May 6, 2009

    Jehuty, I’m not a pro in the kitchen, but I’d thought I’d try to answer some of your questions based on MY experiences:

    1. The foil trick is more for if you want to take all the brownies out of the pan easily after cooking them, especially to transfer them to some holding container. Since I live alone, I tend to leave my brownies in the pan, so the foil trick is not necessary for me. However, when I want to make brownies for my students or other people, I use the foil and then transport the brownies to a tupperware container or decorative box.

    1b. To cut the brownies nicely :), you need to chill the brownies. Just put them in the refrigerator for at least an hour so that everything will solidify. Then cut the brownies with a knife that has been dipped/soaked in hot water. Keep dipping the knife in the hot water with every new long slice. This same rule applies for cutting cheesecake. If you like your brownies to be warm, just microwave them for a few seconds and serve perfectly-cut brownies!

    2. If you used bittersweet chocolate, it will taste bitter. If you want it to be less bitter, I suggest using a combination of bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate. I personally do not like bittersweet chocolate, so I use all semi-sweet in my brownie and chocolate-based recipes.

    3. I think the results that come from the ice water bath with brownies are similar to the results that come from blanching vegetables. You are shocking the hot food to cool much faster than normal. Since the temperature changes so quickly, the ice water stops the cooking process almost immediately.

    That is all I know. I hope this helps!

  • Catherine
    July 2, 2009

    I just made these brownies and while the taste was sensational, I was not crazy about the texture…the bottomes and edges were almost chewy and the centers almost still like batter despite the 22 minutes baking time. I cooled in an ice bath completely (almost until they were really hard) and cut into one and while the edges were fine, the middle was like goop.

  • Lily
    August 24, 2009

    Baked a batch yesterday with reduced sugar, it still taste great and brought it to office the next day. It was a hit, even with the warning of High Sugar Content! Everyone loves it! Definitely in my to bake again list.

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