Among many baking superpowers, Alice Medrich can claim seeing into the brownie’s soul. Her thorough, ongoing investigation has yielded numerous recipes, none so famous as her New Classic Chocolate Brownies. The trick to these is to take perfectly undercooked brownies out of the oven and place the aluminum pan in an ice bath to stop them from cooking a second longer. But cast iron isn’t made for bathing. Plus, it holds more heat, and it holds it longer than an aluminum pan; once you pull it out of the oven, your batter is going to continue to cook, and at a higher temperature. To avoid depressingly dry, stiff, sad blocks, you need to calibrate baking time and wetness accordingly.
I keep the skillet in the oven for the least possible amount of time required to yield actual brownies as opposed to hot, soupy batter. If you’re struggling with the question of whether or not it’s ready and wondering if just maybe you should put the skillet back in for a minute or two, you’ve nailed it. Stop, walk away from the pan, and leave your brownies to cool. When they do, they’ll be perfect.
Note: These fudgy brownies are dark, skating dangerously close to bitter. If you’re at all gun-shy about the bitter factor, you can use fewer nibs (1/3 cup, or less), but I like to push it to the maximum, and I appreciate the crunch.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F with a 10-inch cast-iron skillet placed on a rack in the lower third of the oven.
- In a medium heatproof bowl set over a wide pan of gently simmering water (or using a double boiler), melt 10 tablespoons of the butter. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, and salt and cook, stirring from time to time, for about 7 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and almost hot enough to scald your finger. Remove the bowl from the heat. Let the mixture cool from hot to warm.
- Add the espresso solution to the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Stir in the vanilla, then add the eggs one by one, whisking each one vigorously into the batter to aerate it before adding the next. Once the mixture is thoroughly blended, thick, and glossy, add the flour and stir until it completely disappears into the batter. Switch to a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and aggressively beat the batter for up to 60 strokes. Stir the cocoa nibs in, using more or less according to your preference and making sure they’re evenly distributed.
- Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place the remaining 1 teaspoon butter in it. As it melts, brush the butter over the bottom and sides of the pan to coat. Pour the batter into the skillet and bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges of the brownie have begun to pull away from the pan and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out wet with the sludge of batter. The interior should be gooey and almost seem underdone, the surface dry and shiny.
- Let the brownies cool completely in the skillet, then cut them into wedges and serve them out of the pan.
Excerpted from “Stir, Sizzle, Bake: Recipes for Your Cast-Iron Skillet” by Charlotte Druckman, copyright © 2016, published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography copyright © 2016 by Aubrie Pick.