I’ve made, and eaten, a lot of brownies in my day.
I’ve tried countless recipes, and most of them were pretty good, but none have really made enough of an impression to make it into my recipe collection. I mean, they were brownies, sure, so naturally they were delicious and chocolatey and decadent, but none of them have felt special enough for me to make them a second time. Every time I’ve gotten the itch to make a pan of brownies I’ve searched my cookbooks (or google) and found a new recipe to try.
Some have been cake-y, some have been fudgy, some have been light and milky, some deep and dark. Some have been thick and dry, others thin and gooey, some have had nuts, some have had icing, some have had crackled sugary tops.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not a much of a fan of cakey brownies, and I definitely don’t like brownies with icing. (If I wanted chocolate cake, that’s what I’d be making.) Nuts I can take or leave, but the one thing I always look for in a brownie is the fudgy factor.
When you search recipes for “fudgy brownies”, most of the recipes you’ll find call for melted unsweetened baking chocolate. I’ve always thought that melted chocolate was essential to make a really rich fudgy brownie, but I don’t usually keep it in the house. If I do have it, it’s probably left over from the last time I made brownies, but the leftovers never seems to be in the right amount to make them again.
I’ve also seen quite a few recipes out there that go out of their way to try to recreate the look, texture, and flavor of boxed brownies. Deeply chocolatey with a fudgy (but not-too-gooey) texture and a craggy crackly sugary top. I’ve seen recipes with combinations of oil and butter, brown sugar and white, cocoa and melted chocolate, all in the name of recreating that nostalgic iconic boxed brownie flavor.
The one thing I’ve always found odd though, is that there’s no melted chocolate in boxed brownies. There’s no boxed mix that calls for a combination of butter and oil either. So why must it be so difficult and complicated to recreate something so easy and simple? Why?
Last week I came down with the flu and was out of work for a few days. I’m really bad at being sick, and find it nearly impossible to just sleep and nap and lay around all day even though I know full well that I should be resting and recovering. I ended up spending most of my time laying on the couch watching old movies and eating chicken soup, but one day I got a powerful craving for brownies, so I started looking for a recipe that wouldn’t require too much effort and could be made with ingredients I already had in the house. While I was fidgety enough to want to get up and make brownies, I was decidedly not well enough for a trip to the grocery store just for a bar of unsweetened chocolate.
I typed “easy cocoa brownies” into the googler, and when a recipe from Bon Appetit came up I figured it was worth a shot. The only real changes I made were to use dutch process cocoa (I didn’t have any natural cocoa), and to bake the brownies in the same skillet used to melt the butter (because I was feeling too lazy to wash a skillet and a baking pan).
Well, guess what. This recipe has definitely made it into my recipe collection. If I must be honest, I’ve already made it again too. Maybe twice more…
These brownies are deeply, darkly & decadently chocolatey thanks to the dutch process cocoa, and every bit as fudgy as I hoped they’d be. They’re crazy delicious, super buttery, and have a perfect hint of pleasant saltiness. They’re a little dense and gooey, but I’m totally into that! They even have that iconic crackled crusty sugar top, as well as a really wonderful chewy edge thanks to the heavy cast iron they’re baked in. Since they’re baked in a round skillet you can cut them into wedges, and that way every slice has a little bit of gooey center and chewy edge.
My favorite part of this recipe though, might have to be how crazy easy they are to make!
easy fudgy cocoa skillet brownies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons confectioners (powdered) sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Over medium heat, melt butter in an 8 or 9 inch cast iron skillet. Let cool slightly.
Whisk sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Pour butter in a steady stream into dry ingredients, leaving a light coating of butter in the skillet. Whisk to combine, then whisk in vanilla and eggs, one at a time. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, add flour and stir until just combined (do not over-mix). Scrape batter into buttered skillet and smooth the top. (If you don’t have a skillet, you can substitute a parchment lined and buttered 8×8 square baking dish)
Bake until edges look craggy, center rises but doesn’t wobble much, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30-35 minutes.
Transfer skillet to a wire rack to cool completely. If desired, dust lightly with confectioners sugar. Cut into 8 to 16 wedges depending on how much you want. They’re so rich you probably should cut them into 16 wedges, but they’re so good you’ll want to cut them into 8.