Everyone has their favorite brownie recipe. This is a combination of many recipes I've tried, including those from the original Joy of Cooking and some from Cook's Illustrated. Brownies, of course, are an American favorite. I prepare butter-based brownies for milk meals, particularly to pack in school lunch boxes. I use vegetable shortening for meat meals. Cut into small squares and served in fluted foil cups, these are even elegant enough for a dessert buffet. Use the best quality baking chocolate you can find; it really does make a difference in the final flavor.


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Yield: 12 bars in an 8" pan, or doubled in a 13"x9" pan

Melt butter (or shortening) and chocolate together, set aside to cool. I melt chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. In the microwave, allow about 2 minutes at medium power for every 2 ounces of chocolate - for the combined chocolate and shortening, allow 3 minutes at medium power. In a double boiler, be sure that moisture does not accumulate on the melting chocolate and cause it to form lumps.

Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. Mix the brownies in a large mixing bowl, using a wire whisk and a rubber scraper. This way you'll produce moist, less cakey brownies than with a mixer. With a wire whisk, mix sugar into the cooled chocolate mixture. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Then with the rubber scraper, fold in the flour mixture, nuts, and chocolate morsels until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan, sprayed with vegetable oil. If you really like nuts, you can sprinkle extra pecans on the top. Bake about 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted halfway between center and edge of pan comes out with a few fudgy crumbs. Cool, cut, and serve.

Note: if you do not have access to high quality baking chocolate, substitute 3 T. Dutch processed cocoa powder and 1 T. butter or margarine for every ounce of unsweetened baking chocolate. Melt the cocoa and fat together just as you would melt the baking chocolate.
If you want to use high quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate instead of unsweetened, substitute a total of 3 1/3 ounces of bittersweet (Valrhona is my favorite) or semisweet chocolate, melted with the butter or shortening. Then you need to reduce the amount of sugar by 2 T. (for bittersweet) or 8 tsp. (for semisweet). In other words, as a general rule, one ounce of unsweetened chocolate plus 4 tsp. sugar is equivalent to 1 2/3 ounce semisweet chocolate. One ounce of unsweetened chocolate plus 3 tsp. sugar is equivalent to 1 2/3 ounce bittersweet chocolate.

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