Mark Bittman eased so many folks into the kitchen, getting them chopping, roasting and sautéing comfortably and with confidence. But the area where most timid cooks can use a little help happens on the sweeter side of things, baking. In his latest, How to Cook Everything The Basics, Bittman includes extended chapters covering bread baking and dessert making, all complete with Bittman's helpful tips and step by step photos.
Bittman's Brownie recipe is a gem, simple and tasty enough to give even the most apprehensive baker that much-needed boost of kitchen confidence. Bittman's straight talk advice: "Err on the side of underbaking: An overcooked brownie is dry and cakey, while an undercooked brownie is gooey and delicious" makes for some damned fine brownies.
What Worked: When making brownies is as easy as Mark Bittman makes them, there's never a reason to reach for the mix, ever again.
What Didn't: Easy, quick, and the most delicious, there's not a thing wrong with this recipe.
Suggested Tweaks: Here's what Mark Bittman has to say as far as tweaks go:
Nutty Brownies: In Step 3, substitute ¼ cup finely ground hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, or pecans (use the food processor or blender to grind them) for ¼ cup of the flour and add 1 cup lightly toasted, roughly chopped nuts to the batter.
Cocoa Brownies: After the brownies cool a bit but are still warm, put 2 tablespoons cocoa in a small strainer and shake it over the pan to dust the tops of the brownies.
- Yield:makes 9 to 12 brownies
- Active time: 10 minutes
- Total time:30 to 40 minutes
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus a little more for greasing the pan
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- Pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a square baking pan with butter or line it by overlapping 2 pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil crosswise and grease the lining.
Combine the stick of butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. (Or microwave them in a large microwave-safe bowl on medium for 10-second intervals, stirring after each.) When the chocolate is just about melted, remove the saucepan from the heat (or bowl from the microwave) and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl (or use the bowl you put in the microwave) and stir in the sugar. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Gently stir in the flour, salt, and the vanilla if you’re using it.
Pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until just barely set in the middle. Cool on a rack until set. If you used parchment, lift it out to remove the brownies. If not, cut them in squares right in the pan. Store, covered, at room temperature, for no more than a day.