Recipes are wily beings. Sometimes they capture you with an alluring photo, sometimes they flourish in front of your eyes an ingredient you are really nuts about and that you would use anywhere, even in your cappuccino. Other recipes are more reserved, and win you with just one right word, giving you the sensation that this is what you were unconsciously looking for. The first time I leafed through David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert looking for a chocolate recipe, I was caught by just one sentence: you must stir the mixture energetically for one full minute, not less, because that will be a life-changing minute.
From that moment on, that life-changing minute crept into me: I wanted to understand how these 60 seconds could be crucial in the balance of a recipe, I wanted to savour the brownies elaborated by Robert Steinberg, the man who changed the world of American chocolate. If even David Lebovitz agreed on defining them as the absolute best brownies, there should have been a reason.
This is a challenge you can’t give up, because in our life we all have had a first hand experience of how one minute can be crucial, because a minute can really change your life. Without considering the 60 seconds that make you jump out of breath on the train where you’ll finally meet your soul mate or lose the plane you were bound not to take, there are so many examples that come to my mind.
In one minute you can give life to a baby child who opens his eyes to the world, in one minute you decide to take that road, although steep, winding and slippery, that will take you right where you dream to go… even though you don’t get there, the trip will still be amazing anyhow! An extra minute can turn a pale chicken into one of the best roast chickens in history, or, conversely, your immaculate meringues into sticky and brownish pancakes. What about you? Which has been your life-changing minute?
If you’ll devote 1 full minute to stir energetically the batter, you will hold in your hand not a crumbly brownie but a deep dark chocolate brownie with a buttery texture that melts in your mouth, and you will enjoy it till the last bite, appreciating the dark chocolate drops and the juicy cranberries that add the perfect sour and fruity touch. If you do not believe me, give credit to David Lebovitz, a real expert, and devote 60 precious seconds to stir what will later become the best brownie ever.
ROBERT’S ABSOLUTE BEST BROWNIES
Ingredients (makes 9 – 12 brownies):
- 85 g unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
- 225 g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 150 g sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 35 g all-purpose flour
- (1 cup walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped) I used instead
- 120 g dark chocolate drops
- 100 g dried cranberries
- 5 cocoa beans, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Line the inside of a 9-inch square pan with 2 lengths of foil, positioning the sheets perpendicular to each other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan, or with a single large sheet of extra wide foil or parchment paper. Lightly butter the foil or parchment.
- In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the chocolate and stir until it is melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the flour and stir energetically for 1 full minute—time yourself—until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan. Stir in the chocolate drops and the dried cranberries.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with chopped cocoa beans and bake until the centre feels almost set, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake.
- Let the brownie cool completely in the pan—this is the difficult part—before lifting the foil or parchment and the block of brownie out of the pan. Cut the brownie into squares. (The brownies will keep well for up to 4 days and can be frozen for 1 month.)
★ The cocoa beans are not very easy to find. I I bought them in London near Borrough Market. Of course, you do not need to go so far to find cocoa beans! They are not essential in the balance of the recipe, they are not even comparable to the 60 seconds that I just mentioned, but they are just perfect to add a crunchy, dark and buttery side to the brownies! If you can’t find them, try with some chopped toasted hazelnuts: you won’t be disappointed!
A quick note. Surely in this time of the year you are wandering how to use Easter chocolate, aren’t you? If you don’t have leftover chocolate, you have a really sweet tooth! To make these brownies, you can use leftover chocolate and mix it even though of different quality: this will make slightly different brownies, but no less tasty. You can play with dried fruit and nuts as well. The original recipe calls only for different kinds of nuts, I opted instead for cranberries and chocolate drops, but you can add raisins, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, any dried fruit you have, from strawberries to papaya and, why not, the coconut flakes.