Cocoa Brownies

Cocoa Brownies

Cocoa brownies with ice cream

I have odd cravings. I normally pine for smelly cheeses, ice cream or certain fruits, especially those that aren’t in season at the time, just to make things more interesting.  Once or twice a year, though, my whole body aches for chocolate.  On days like that I turn into a  scary, frantic, bewildered version of myself. It’s not a very pretty sight.

Because life works in all sorts of mysterious ways and tends to be quite ironic at times, it has been known to happen that I run out of chocolate on that exact day. This actually did happen not so long ago. I almost cried. To make things even more ridiculous and extremely irritating, I happened to have raw cocoa beans and cocoa butter, which are, of course, the main ingredients used in chocolate production. I must have been a really bad person in one of my past lives and this is how the Universe decided to pay me back.  I have no other explanation for such cruelty.

Cocoa beans

I actually pondered making chocolate from scratch for a brief moment, but decided I was too desperate to go through such an ordeal. I needed something rich and chocolatey ASAP. I then remembered a brownie recipe I’ve had for a long time. I have it scribbled on a stained piece of paper and I can’t even remember where I got it from. Anyway, the recipe requires no chocolate at all and produces a ridiculously moist and fudgy chocolatey goodness. It’s brilliant, really.

Cocoa brownies with ice cream

I’ve never worked with cocoa butter before, but decided to give it try since I already had it on hand. Cocoa butter has this lovely cream color and  firm, crumbly texture, but smells like the purest chocolate heaven. Something inside me just knew it was the right thing to do. I replaced half of the regular butter with cocoa butter and made a few adjustments in the recipe. For a bit of crunch I added some cocoa nibs as well. They gave the brownies not only a great texture, but  rich and intense chocolate flavor as well. You can skip all of that fancy cocoa butter stuff and just use regular butter. The brownies will still taste terrific.

Cocoa brownies

If you’re ever in need of a quick chocolate fix, this brownie is your saving grace. You could serve it with vanilla ice cream or a glass of milk, but I suggest you open a nice bottle of sweet red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, put your feet up on a comfortable couch and enjoy the moment. The strong bittersweet brownie paired with a fruity aroma of  a nice red wine will blow you away.

Cocoa brownies

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Cocoa Brownies

Yields 20-25 squares
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Difficulty: Basic

Category: Bars & squares
If you don’t have cocoa butter, use regular butter instead. In that case, you will need 140g of butter for this recipe.  Cocoa nibs are optional, but if you like a bit of crunch add about 60g of chopped nuts of your choice. Toasted hazelnuts would work  great in these brownies.
Ingredients
70g butter
70g cocoa butter
280g sugar
100g cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
55g all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs or 60g chopped nuts (optional)
Directions
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 160°C. Line the bottom and sides of a 20x20cm baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butters, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a pot of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the pot and set aside briefly until the mixture cools down a bit.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the cocoa nibs or nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges slightly moist. Let cool completely on a rack.
Lift up the ends of the parchment liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into squares and serve with vanilla ice cream or a glass of milk.

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