Brownies, again. And again. And again.
A "Simply Genius" fudgy, flourless find from Food 52, Kristen Miglore + Genevieve Ko (it takes a village to make something great)
While today’s story has nothing to do with Paris (although here’s a link to one that does), I wanted to get it to you before I head back to America because you’re going to want to put FOOD52 SIMPLY GENIUS on your holiday gift list and Flourless Fudgy Brownies on the table. While you’re waiting for news from Paris, here are a few sweet pics —
Now That's Genius!
Have you ever merrily chugged through a recipe and been stopped in your tracks by a little technique? A new way of doing something? A tip? A trick? A flip of proportions? The addition of some ingredient that seems oddball until you realize that it’s magic. You don’t find them all that often unless you’re Kristen Miglore, or unless you’re cooking or baking from one of her Genius Recipes. Kristen’s job — her mission — is to hunt for recipes with a spark of genius and then share them with us. The way she gathers recipes, calls our attention to what’s brilliant about them, helps us to see how we can use the little gems forever and always, is its own kind of genius. I think of it as a public service for all of us who cook and bake.
Kristen Miglore Dreams of Her Fridge
Kristen Miglore, a founding editor of Food52, came to her work circuitously. She studied economics, writing and editing, got her first job as a researcher, loved the part where she got to figure out the way things ticked, didn’t love every other part and found herself thinking about food all the time. She told me: “I’d run reports, but in my mind, I’d be assembling the contents of my refrigerator into a meal.” When it all got too boring, she moved to NYC, enrolled in the Masters in Food Studies Program at NYU, went to culinary school, and knew she’d made the right decision.
The Birth of Genius Recipes
Kristen joined Food52 a few months after Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs launched it in 2009 and quickly became the voice behind so many of the early articles on the site. In those days, there was no big Food52 office, no test kitchens and no studios, almost everything happened in Amanda’s kitchen, which is where the idea for Genius Recipes was hatched.
“We’d be cooking and photographing and talking about the recipes. We’d talk about the recipes that stuck with us. And we talked about the iconic recipes — recipes like Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce — trying to figure out what made them iconic and certain that ‘the iconics’ had to be ones that fit into our lives.” As it is now, Food52 was always practical.
It turns out that what made a recipe “iconic” also made it “genius.” Kristen prowls for those recipes that have something special about them, that fit into our lives, that are genius. Applying all her skills as a researcher, she has made us all geniuses in the kitchen through her column, YouTube videos, podcasts and books (GENIUS RECIPES, GENIUS DESSERTS and now, SIMPLY GENIUS).
Simply Genius / Simply Marvelous / Simply a Must
Like all of Kristen’s books, this new one is informative, upbeat, encouraging and chockablock with great recipes. Like the others, there’s something cool to learn on every page and now there’s a “Roadmap” to point us in the direction of all the terrific tips, as well as gorgeous photographs and a million helpful sidebars, boxes and graphics. While all the GENIUS books are good for cooks of all levels, this one is particularly good for new cooks. Also busy cooks, cooks with kids and cooks who are short on time.
Here’s the origin story from Kristen:
I started the book in the office and then the pandemic struck and I was home. Since we had a baby, my husband and I would trade off childcare so that we could each work. I was cooking three meals a day and testing recipes — and doing dishes — and so I was laser-focused on practicality and the reality of home cooking. The recipes in the book are the ones that stuck, the ones I wanted to make again and again — and still do.
Genevieve Ko’s Brownies… to Make Again and Again
Genevieve Ko, now an editor at New York Times Food and NYT Cooking, is a terrific baker. (If you haven’t seen her stunning article on Thanksgiving Pies, you must!) Her genius idea for gluten-free brownies was to use more cocoa than usual: Because cocoa is flour-like, more cocoa provides needed structure and, at the same time, ups the chocolate flavor. Genius, indeed. As Kristen writes in the recipe’s introduction: “The recipe Genevieve came up with is pure, shiny-topped chocolate and is likely to convert anyone who thinks they’re Team Cakey or Team Chewy into a fudgy brownie person.”
As for making them again and again . . . I’ve already made them three times.
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GENEVIEVE KO’S FLOURLESS FUDGY BROWNIES
Adapted with permission from Food52 Simply Genius: Recipes for Beginners, Busy Cooks & Curious People by Kristen Miglore, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START
The cocoa: Genevieve specifies “natural” unsweetened cocoa powder, which means cocoa that isn’t Dutch processed (or alkalized). Mary Dodd tested the brownies with Hershey’s cocoa in America and loved her brownies. I couldn’t find “natural” cocoa in my local shops in Paris (and since this is a very practical book, it seemed wrong to have to search for ingredients), so I used Dutched cocoa, and the brownies were great. So great that, as I said, I made them three times.
The chocolate: In a surprise move, the chocolate in the recipe is chips! Use semisweet chocolate chips for the brownie batter. If you want to add more chips (an option), it’s baker’s choice.
Testing for doneness: Take a look at Kristen’s genius illustration below.
Makes one 8-inch square pan
Nonstick cooking spray or neutral oil, for the pan
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup (180 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup (139 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (48 grams) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (95 grams) chocolate chips (any type, optional)
3/4 cup (75 grams) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
Get prepped: Heat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch (20cm) square pan with foil and lightly coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray (or rub it all over with a little neutral oil).
Melt the chocolate: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula, until smooth. Turn off the heat, slide the saucepan onto a cool burner, and let cool to room temperature.
Make the batter: Meanwhile, in a large bowl nestled in a damp kitchen towel to steady it, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. If the cocoa is lumpy, sift the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing through any lumps, then dump any salt left in the sieve into the bowl, too.
Break the eggs into the bowl and whisk just until smooth (but not so long that they get frothy). While whisking, steadily pour in the cooled melted chocolate until smooth. If adding more chocolate chips or walnuts, stir them in now (or sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the batter once it’s smoothed in the pan). Pour the batter into the lined, oiled pan and smooth the top with the spatula.
Bake the brownies: Bake until a toothpick or long, dry noodle inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 30 to 35 minutes.
Cool in the pan on a wire rack or cool stove burner, then grab the edges of the foil and lift out onto a cutting board. Peel off the foil, cut, and serve immediately (or freeze for 30 minutes to 1 hour first to cut neater squares).
Make ahead and store: The brownies keep well in a sealed container at room temperature for 5 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
Variations: See the printable recipe.
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I really didn’t want to try another brownie recipe but this looks too good to pass up even though I prefer a cakie brownie. Thank you for including in the printable recipe notes that you used dutched cocoa as that is all I can find in Paris as well. The raspberry variation sounds wonderful!
I have the two earlier Food52 cookbooks and they truly are genius. Delicious things come from those books. -- I have never before seen the results from the toothpick test. So much more informative than 'test for doneness with a toothpick'.