Friday, September 30th, 2011

Crack Brownies

It all started with one of those women who won’t give out her recipes. You know the sort. I suppose if I were a tougher lady, more Joan Collins-esque, I would have told her to stop being a ridiculous Greedy Gerty over her stupid brownie recipe and then thrown my drink in her face for good measure but the reality is that I’m the type of sucker who says, and really means, things like “I totally get it, no no, I completely understand—don’t give it another thought, you’re so sweet to even apologize.”


While I may be a simpering twit, I’m also a touch competitive. So as this recipe unsharer went on and on and on about how she makes the BEST brownies and they’re like CRACK and everybody who has ever had them just RAVES about how GREAT they are, I sat on my barstool working myself into a silent rage.

And when I got home, several glasses of wine-with-ice deep, I hit Google like I’ve never hit Google before looking for a base recipe I could tinker with. I resolved to make replicating these brownies my mission in life.

I thought it would take years. I was willing to make that commitment if it meant that I could snatch the BAKER OF THE BEST EVER BROWNIES crown off her head and wear it atop my locks until the end of time.

I further resolved, in what will henceforth be known as the Royal Decree of HRH Jolie of The Most Glorious Empire of The Best Ever Brownie Bakers, that once the recipe was perfected I would share it with the world so everyone can make The Best Ever Brownies for their people. I just… do you think it would maybe be okay if I keep the crown?

Well, I won. And I'm keeping my vow. So here it goes.

Turn your oven to 350 degrees.

In a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, melt a stick-and-a-half of butter with 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. Since these are The Best Ever Brownies you should use the highest-quality chocolate (and butter!) that you can find, though I’ll whisper to you behind my hand that a batch I made using Baker’s, which is basically the Alpo of the unsweetened chocolate world, was met with oohs and aahs and a whole lot of paws surreptitiously darting toward the plate for just one more, I swear this is my last one OH MY GOD I CAN’T STOP WHAT IS IN THESE THINGS?!?

Once those two things are melted, turn the heat off and move the pot to a cold burner to let it cool down for a spell.

Now stir in the following things:

A heaping ¼ cup of cocoa powder
2 cups of sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour

When that’s all nicely mixed, pour the batter into a 8”x8” square pan that you’ve lined with greased foil such that the foil drapes over the edges of the pan.

That’s pretty much it, except for the secret part. The crack part. Have you guessed yet what it is?

It is salt.

But not just any salt. Maldon salt. Himalayan pink salt also works, as does Sel Gris. Kosher salt does not work; neither does table salt. You need rocks, Jenny from the block. About a teaspoon of ‘em, but kind of eyeball it, giving the top of the brownie batter a pretty good coating with the stuff. Once you’ve done that, put the pan in the oven, let everything bake for 30-35 minutes before cooling for one hour at room temperature, followed by one hour in the refrigerator. Cut them into 16ths.

Have you ever wondered what your friends look and sound like when they orgasm? Because fair warning: you’ll find out, and you should know that before you trot these babies out because it’s actually a really disturbing thing to know. (The silent ones freak me out the most.)

Jolie Kerr bakes the best-ever brownies and has the crown to prove it.

Photo by various brennemans.

52 Comments / Post A Comment

jolie (#16)


KenWheaton (#401)

@jolie Word on the street is that you do have a pretty dirty pan. Greasy, too!

KenWheaton (#401)

@KenWheaton Now I feel dirty for having typed that.

jolie (#16)

@KenWheaton Them's fightin' words, Ken. Bleach-solution at dawn.


Tyler Coates (#451)

Well now I have something to do this afternoon!

Wait, where are the nuts?

Dave Bry (#422)

Which nuts do you mean?

(And, man, these brownies do sound like crack!)

@Clarence Rosario You're right here, honey.

SeanP (#4,058)

@Clarence Rosario Shhh… last time I suggested putting nuts in something I thought the crazy lady was going to stab me…

s. (#775)

I haven't tried this recipe (though it sounds great), but it's worth repeating Jolie's instruction to use the best butter you can. Spending an extra buck or two on premium, cultured butter makes all the difference in the world. I can't stress this enough. (This, and putting a slug of Maker's Mark in pretty much anything that you bake. It's like vanilla extract, but a million times better.)


melis (#1,854)

@Choire Sicha I support this movement and respectfully submit this as our standard.

MythReindeer (#5,553)

@s. Color me intrigued. I already had butter on the shopping list, so I maybe I will step out on the Native American lady.

I normally assume that recipes call for unsalted butter, but the fact that salt is important in this recipe has me thinking all sorts of things. Help, Jolie?

@MythReindeer SHe will tell you unsalted, I'm pretty sure, so you can control the amount of salt. Please look for LURPAK!! :)

Aatom (#74)

@Choire Sicha Can we get a Butter Appreciated post from Balk, please?

liznieve (#7,691)

@s. OMG LURPAK. orrr that irish butter. orrrr that icelandic butter. BUTTER.

Jolie's brownies are the real deal. A few months ago I took a batch into the backseat of a red Renault and steamed up the windows.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

Is that sign actually made from a paint swatch card? I bet a Farrow and Ball paint card would make the brownies richer.

hedgehog (#15,866)

wait, why the foil? is the foil crucial?

SeanP (#4,058)

@hedgehog It's absolutely crucial. And nothing but the finest Jamaican virgin aluminum will do – none of this Reynolds crap.

boysplz (#9,812)

@hedgehog All the brownies I've ever made from scratch stick like glue to the pan so it's for that probably.If you don't have or care to use your virginal Jamaican foil you can get away with greased parchment paper. Be warned, it's about impossible to line a pan with it so it doesn't eliminate some of the delicious corner real estate.

purefog (#999)

@hedgehog Free tip: Take pan. Turn upside down. Press liner over OUTSIDE of pan, creasing it so that it takes on shape of pan. Remove liner. Turn pan back over. Plop perfectly-shaped liner into pan, thereby saving the corner real estate as well as it can be saved.

No charge for this fabulous tip.

liznieve (#7,691)

@purefog MIND. BLOWN.

SuperMargie (#1,263)

I want to make these, but it is going to require me to set foot in Whole Foods to get the proper salt. That makes me anxious and sad.

Sarah Coe@twitter (#237,830)

@SuperMargie Me too, Margie. Meeee toooo. Le sigh…

iantenna (#5,160)

oh man, salt and chcolate, i am getting all worked up. trader joe's had these sea salt dark chocolate almond thingees that were on a hardcore knock-your-dick-into-your-watch-pocket level of awesomeness and now they never have them anymore. i am like a crazy person stopping into every tj's i come across asking if they have these things, all sweaty with hope and withdrawl. "oh, yeah, i remember those, haven't seen them in a while." WHAT THE FUCK, TRADER JOE'S? WHY DO YOU DANGLE JOY IN OUR FACE FOR A MINUTE AND THEN TAKE IT AWAY? what about the dried dragon fruit, do you have that shit?

purefog (#999)

@iantenna Don't know where you are, but try "Almonds & Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate" by a company called Chocolove. It be yumzville.

@iantenna I've been craving the sea salt and dark chocolate caramels that Trader Joe's has also seen fit to take away. (Seriously, why must they do that.) I'm attempting to make my own today. The caramel's cooling in the fridge. I hoping that they'll make a decent substitute.

Mmmmmmmmm orgasms.

ejcsanfran (#489)

Can I substitute actual crack for the salt?

Brunhilde (#1,225)

@ejcsanfran It adds a "gasoline-like" quality which is attractive if you're serving these to actual crack-heads.

JDoh (#122,657)

I do understand not giving out recipes. I gave the recipe I use for brownies to a gal at work. She used margarine, not butter. She used eggbeaters, not eggs. She used some sugar replacement in place of sugar. She skipped the vanilla and the salt. She bitched at me that they didn't taste like mine and I must have given her the wrong recipe.

riotnrrd (#840)

Still with the ice in the wine! This has become like a piece of dental floss between my front teeth and you keep yanking it higher and higher, cutting deeper and deeper into my gums until I am bleeding. I am bleeding over here, Jolie.

Calluna (#128,889)

@riotnrrd My mother does this too! Back in college a food/wine reviewer came in to talk to my class and I asked him about it. He basically said that 1) red wine can be served chilled to begin with and b) instead of putting ice cubes in the glass, you can put in frozen grapes to the same effect. Now I tell everyone this, especially strangers on the internet!

paperbuttons (#122,671)

What is up with the not sharing recipes? That it the weirdest/worst. I'm mad at that girl, but I'm also mad at you, Jolie, because now I am freaking out about how much I want to eat these RIGHT THIS SECOND and I even have some fancy Irish butter on hand but there's no way the Ralph's down the street has that special salt and my god I couldn't possibly drive all the way to the Gelson's cause that would be crazy.
(But I'm also not mad at you cause I cleaned by bathroom with Scrubbling Bubbles today and it was awesome.)

pepper (#676)

Shouldn't you credit Food & Wine's Kate Krader with this recipe? Because it kind of is the best brownie recipe ever, but it's hers – she published it in 2008, and she's been bringing it along to dinner parties for years. The post is great, but if Melissa Clark and half the food bloggers in the world can acknowledge the provenance of the recipe, you can too.

jolie (#16)

@pepper I've never even seen that recipe! I really just googled a whole bunch of salted brownie recipes and then tinkered (my big thing is always upping the vanilla) and if what I came up with is the same as someone else's EEP but also that's sort of life? I'll mention it to the editors and if they feel there should be a note they can add it in, thanks!

@pepper Yeah, we tend to give credit where credit is due.

(There are only so many ways to make a brownie. This recipe is pretty close to mine, except ew, three eggs?)

Wow, here is Kate Krader's recipe, which is really similar! There are some differences; the vanilla and salt, for starters. Funny world! No bigs.

pepper (#676)

The differences are really, really trivial: a half-teaspoonful of vanilla; a smidge of cocoa – too small, really to merit even an "adapted from." But I'm not blaming Jolie – if you google salted brownies, Kate's recipe, both credited and not, is what is going to come up. There are few recipes that are actually original, but Kate's, which anticipated the salt-and-chocolate thing by ages, is one of them. (Pardon the geekiness. Occupational hazard.)

It, of course, doesn't rise nearly to the level of plagiarism – recipes aren't copyrightable, although the language of recipes is, and Jolie's language is definitely her own – but it is the sort of thing that sets food writers to grumbling at the end of the day.

Well, you can either call someone a thief or not; not sure "it doesn't rise nearly to the level of plagiarism" quite cuts it, with respect.

Listen: I would be the first person in the world to kick a writer to the curb for stealing. This is not that case. I totally understand the "occupational hazard" thing (I have plenty of my own); that none of us have ever heard of Kate is probably shocking to people who are in that world. And I'm sure that some of us actually cook and recipe-test on our own, even though we're not food bloggers, sounds crazy. (There are three dishes that I've been leisurely working on for a year; and when I'm done, I bet my recipe is very similar to a Nigel Slater recipe, because we have similar interests.)

pepper (#676)

No disrespect meant to food bloggers, but we are not they: we are the dwindling group of people who do this for a living; for whom recipes are meat and milk, or rent and the occasional night out at the Dutch, as it were. And it's fine that you don't know who Kate is – for the record, I barely know her myself, although as the longtime restaurant editor of Food + Wine she's pretty established – but that isn't relevant. If a picture from a magazine had been posted on somebody's Flickr feed without the photographer's knowledge, and you loved it enough to run it after fiddling with the color registration a bit, it still doesn't make that photograph yours.

dreamonster (#126,866)

Just made this recipe! Just happened to have some fancy pink salt on hand so I had to try it ASAP. Results are AMAZING. I found that the salt creates a crunchy layer on top, which is pleasant texturally but means that the rest of the (thick!) brownie is lacking in salty goodness. Maybe I didn't use big enough rocks (they were a little ground down)? I was thinking next time I might put a layer of salt on the greased foil before I put the brownie batter into the pan, as well as the top layer.

I'll have to move (and upgrade the quality of) the salt in my go-to recipe to the top of the batter.

Bittersweet (#765)

@Rainier Wolfcastle@twitter: I made this recipe last night and used kosher salt, as my local food emporium is sadly lacking in gourmet salt. The brownies are still freaking ridiculous.

Now I feel like Jolie is going to find out where I live and come kill me for committing the crime of First-Degree Unacceptable Ingredient Substitution.

Argh, a stick and a half of butter? WHAT IS THE WEIGHT IN GRAMS???

shudder (#5,913)

That second waiting period in the fridge? Almost KILLED me.


I tried these with the 8×8 pan, and after 35 minutes they were still raw at the bottom. Should I have used a 9×13 pan maybe???

Bobby Womack (#4,074)

After enjoying these at the NYC bawl I decided to make themselves. If you're interested, the ingredients run about $50. I think a larger pan is in order for my oven- with a 9×9 they were thick and less moist than expected. Still delicious!

teh_gecko (#235,267)

@Ellen Villanova I have made this recipe twice now and am having exactly the same problem. I have to bake mine for an hour to get them to come out anything close to done.

If you check out the other recipe that Choire posted the link to, you'll see that it says that the brownies should be a little soft in the middle, but mine were more than slightly underdone at the end of the 35 minutes.

swampette (#19,696)

@teh_gecko The first time I made these, I had a terrible time. But yesterday, they were a success! A couple suggestions: my oven is gas, and gas ovens are notoriously low temperature. A couple months ago, I started adding 25 degrees to every oven temp called for – everything comes out in the correct amount of time now. The other thing is, these brownies are supposed to be fudge-y, not cake-y. So they might seem a little…not set…when you take them out. They will be fine! They will keep cooking a little while they cool, and then the fridge time will help them set like fudge.

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