Ridiculously easy, ridiculously good.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus a little more for greasing the pan
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a square baking pan with butter or line it with 2 overlapping pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil and grease the lining.
2. Combine the stick of butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. (Or microwave them in a large microwave-safe bowl on medium for 10-second intervals, stirring after each.) When the chocolate is just about melted, remove the saucepan from the heat (or bowl from the microwave) and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.
3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl (or use the bowl you put in the microwave) and stir in the sugar. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Gently stir in the flour, salt, and the vanilla if you’re using it.
4. Pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until just barely set in the middle. Cool on a rack until set. If you used parchment, lift it out to remove the brownies. If not, cut them in squares right in the pan. Store, covered, at room temperature, for no more than a day.
If you use parchment paper (or foil) to line the pan, leave an extra inch or two overhanging each end. When the brownies are cool, grab each flap and lift them out of the pan.
Chocolate burns easily, even when you’re melting it with butter. So keep the heat really low, be patient, stir frequently, and keep an eye on it.
Err on the side of underbaking: An overcooked brownie is dry and cakey, while an undercooked brownie is gooey and delicious.
Nutty Brownies: In Step 3, substitute 1/4 cup finely ground hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, or pecans (use the food processor or blender to grind them) for 1/4 cup of the flour and add 1 cup lightly toasted, roughly chopped nuts to the batter.
Cocoa Brownies: After the brownies cool a bit but are still warm, put 2 tablespoons cocoa in a small strainer and shake it over the pan to dust the tops of the brownies.
GREASING THE PAN
Whether you line the pan or not, make sure to cover the bottom as well as the sides. And don’t be stingy or the brownies might stick.
MELTING BUTTER WITH CHOCOLATE
When there’s this much butter, the chocolate won’t burn easily; just stir them both together in a small pot over the lowest possible heat.
Stir the melted chocolate and butter until it’s completely smooth and thin, like this.
The batter should be relatively smooth and thick; some lumps are okay. If you work it too much, the brownies will be tough.
FAILING THE TOOTHPICK TEST
A clean toothpick might signal some cakes are ready, but it means brownies are overcooked.
Their signal: a crust on top with a slightly jiggly center underneath.