Oh Alice, you've outdone yourself. Alice, as in Alice Medrich, the first lady of chocolate, whose out-of-print cookbook Cocolat is worth a hefty sum ($150+).
These brownies come from another Alice Medrich cookbook, which I shockingly, GASP!, don't own, called Cookies and Brownies. It was a Food & Wine Magazine Best of the Best Award Winner, named one of the best 25 cookbooks of 1999. But fortunately, my mom owns the cookbook! And she made these brownies and called me up, quite possibly with a bite of brownie in her mouth as she called, exclaiming between chewing that she had discovered a serious contender for best brownie.
What? But I thought I had already found the single best brownie in Tartine Bakery's brownie. And that was after searching high and low, testing out brownie recipes from my various cookbooks for several years. This is going to mess everything up! I'll have to test my mom's discovery out for myself and see how it compares to Tartine's. Oh darn, a baking project. :)
So my mom sent me the recipe and as she concluded the email, she wrote:
Don't eat too many!!Ha! I knew I was in for a treat. I baked them up, and sure enough, they were amazing. I think I ate two whole rows of brownie in about an hour. Oops. Won't happen again, Mom; I promise!
Interestingly, when the brownies come out of the oven, they are placed in an ice bath immediately to cool. Don't shy away from making these brownies because of that extra step. But don't skip the step! I think it's one of the defining characteristics of this brownie. The ice bath is easy. It's extremely convenient that the brownies are baked in an 8x8 pan (I suggest metal, not glass), because you can simply use a standard 9x13 pan for the ice bath and the 8x8 pan will fit perfectly inside the larger pan.
As far as how they size up to Tartine's? I think I'm going to have to say TIE because both are incredible, leaving me wanting more. And both are extremely fudgy. I could not be happier with the results!! My mom was right! The only reason I'd say not to make these is if you fall under the camp of cakey brownie lovers. I hands down belong to the fudgy, not cakey, brownie lover society. So they are my dream realized. Go after your dreams.
Ice Bath Brownies
Adapted from a recipe by Alice Medrich in Cookies and Brownies
Makes 16 brownies
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces, toasted (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line an 8x8 metal pan with foil and drape extra foil over the edges so you can lift the brownies out later for cutting on a cutting board.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth. Be very careful not to burn the mixture. If you think you're not the careful type, use a double boiler or heatproof bowl set on top of a pan of gently simmering water. It's a lot harder to burn chocolate and butter when using a double boiler.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring in each until it is well incorporated. Beat in the flour until the mixture comes away from the sides and looks smooth and glossy, about 1 minute. Stir in nuts, if using. Pour the brownie batter into the foil-lined pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until brownies just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. The surface of the brownies will look dry but a toothpick inserted in the center will still be quite gooey. That's a good thing!
While the brownies are baking, prepare the ice bath. Fill a roasting pan or large baking pan (a standard 9 x 13" pan works perfectly) with ice cubes and water about 3/4-inch deep.
When brownies are ready, take the pan out of the oven and immediately place in the ice bath. Careful not to splash water from the ice bath onto the brownies! Cool the brownies completely in the ice bath.
When cool, remove the pan from the ice bath and lift the foil edges up and out of the pan and place the foil on the cutting board. Cut the brownies into squares to serve.
Store in an airtight container. Because these are fudgy, they will taste delicious for at least 3 days, and if you're lucky, up to 5 days!
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Melt the chocolate and butter together, then add sugar, vanilla, and salt...
Add the eggs, one at a time...
Add the flour and gently combine...
Spread the batter into the foil-lined pan. Notice I added half the batter first, then stirred toasted walnuts into the remaining half and then poured the nut batter into the other half of the pan. Then bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes...
When done baking, immediately transfer the pan from the oven to an ice bath until the brownies are cool...