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Genius Cocoa Brownies

A genius brownie has been tricky to pin down -- until now.
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Every week on, we're digging up Genius Recipes -- the ones that make us rethink cooking myths, get us talking, and change the way we cook.

Today: The secret to the chocolate brownie of your dreams? Take the chocolate out.

- Kristen Miglore, Senior Editor,

A genius brownie has been tricky to pin down -- until now. What I've found is that most brownie recipes out there are remarkably consistent: chocolate is melted with butter, then mixed with sugar, eggs, then flour. They come together fast, and you are a happy clam. Still, I figured something even better had to be out there.

Finally, pastry chef Shuna Lydon told me about a recipe that was different from the herd. It did not surprise me at all that it came from Alice Medrich.

"Alice knows chocolate. It speaks to her. We're lucky to have her as a translator," Lydon wrote to me. "Alice's cocoa brownies changed my life."

As it turns out, the best brownie happens to be the one you can make when you've eaten all the 70% bars you bought for baking, and only a forgotten tin of cocoa powder remains on the shelf.

By taking out the chocolate, with its inevitable fat and almost-inevitable sugar, Medrich was able to control and fine-tune the proportions of both. When she added back in the fat (via butter), the middles stayed softer. When she added back in granulated sugar, the crusts were shinier and more candy-like.

What kind of cocoa, you ask? Anything you've got will work. Oh, and that sprinkle of flaky salt on top? That's not Alice, that's us. But I don't think she'd mind.

Photos by James Ransom

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