Dense. Fudgy. Butter. Coffee. Salt.
This brownie does not contain any alcohol, tobacco, or controlled substances, so why call it the "Adult" Brownie? Why not "Our Signature" Brownie or "Chocolate Fudge" Brownie? One bite and you will understand the name. This brownie is not for the amateur brownie eater, not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for children. This thing is so sinfully decadent it stops just short of needing to be sold in a plain brown wrapper.
— From the Adult Brownie website
It's been years since I snarfed down five of them (hoarded from my last trip west) but I can still almost taste the crust mixed with my drool. Recreating the brownie for East Coast consumption has been my obsession for some time now. Most recipes yield a fluffy or crumbly brownie, but nothing like the chocolate-studded lead weight of the Adult Brownie.
I've managed to come up with a satisfying facsimile tweaking the bejesus out of a Scharffen Berger recipe. The keys to my success: coffee, salt, and letting the brownies "stale." It is during this resting period that the brownies collapse, becoming less mousse-like and more brick-like. The butter, coffee, and salt notes come to the fore as the treacly impact of the sugar recedes. Keeping flour to a minimum creates brownies that are chewy, crispy on the edges, and delightful crackly in crust. The longer you wait to eat these, the more compact they become.
(or Butter-Brick Brownies with Coffee and Salt)
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 stick or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 8 ounces Valrhona Lacté (41% cocoa) / milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 8 ounces Valrhona Grand Cru Noir Manjari (64% cocoa) / dark milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel or sea salt
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
- 3 ounces dark chocolate, cut into large chunks (optional)
- Softened butter, cocoa powder for dusting pan
Position a baking rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Cut a piece of parchment with handles for an 8" x 8" x 2" anodized pan. Butter the top side of the parchment and dust with cocoa powder.
Create a double boiler on very low heat: in a large metal bowl overlapping a small pot of gently simmering water, place the chocolate and cubed butter. Stir occasionally until just melted. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.
After the chocolate mixture has cooled to touch, use a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon and beat sugar and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. Next, beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Add the flour, salt, and coffee and mix vigorously by hand for 5 minutes. At this point, the batter will be glossy and pull away from the sides of the bowl.
If you prefer your brownies extra chunky, gently fold chocolate chunks into the batter.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and tap the pan on a counter top to even out the batter. Bake for 22 minutes, take out the pan, and tap the pan on the counter twice to further even out and condense the batter. Rotate and reinsert the pan to bake for another 22 minutes (or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out moist but free of uncooked batter).
Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove the brownies from the pan using the parchment handles and place the brownies on the rack. Cool completely before cutting.
Flour: A 1/2 cup of flour yields a fluffier brownie. Reducing the recipe to a 1/4 cup of flour results in a more compressed brownie that tastes slightly more bitter of dark chocolate. The brownies will also seem oilier coming out of the oven but the oil is reabsorbed by the brownie the longer it's allowed to rest.
Chocolate: Use the best you can get your paws on. Valrhona's great for its nice balance of the creamy and bitter—its flavors bloom in the mouth in a languid, pleasing way. El Rey is also a fine substitute for its fruitier notes. Callebaut is good and though bland, it has great mouthfeel. (Unfortunately, the taste of Scharffen Berger chocolate is strangely wooden and flat.)
Eggs: Using large eggs results in a denser brownie, while extra large eggs yield a puffier, fluffier brownie.
Mixing method: To create a crackly, durable brownie top, it is important to put aside the electric beater and mix the batter by hand. (I especially enjoy the contrast between my brownie-gut and my brownie-buff arms after this upper body work-out.)