Walnut Brownies with Browned Butter
Photo: Brande Plotnick
Thanksgiving kicks off not just the holiday season, but winter itself. In our area, the last of the the outdoor farmers markets occur in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. This is when I stock up on whatever fresh produce I think we can eat before it goes bad in our refrigerator. I come home from that last market with kale, winter squashes, Brussels Sprouts, cauliflower, heirloom cranberries, pie pumpkins, and potatoes of all kinds.
A couple of weeks later, after I’ve grown weary of every dessert I can find using pumpkin, cranberries, apples, and pears, these walnut brownies really do it for me. They are bundles of joy disguised as dessert. The walnuts are heart healthy, but the brownies are good for the soul.
I really like walnuts, particularly in brownies. I buy walnut halves, instead of the smaller pieces available. Then, I barely break apart each half into only slightly smaller pieces. Having these big walnuts baked into the brownie makes it possible to really taste them. The look is also very dramatic, and I’m all for that.
They are easy to make, and you’ll get a little workout (very little) when you beat the batter vigorously by hand. This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, 2011. Be sure that you use natural cocoa, and not Dutch-process. I can find great cocoa at my local Penzey’s Spices, but Whole Foods usually has Valrhona cocoa available too.
Ingredients (Makes about one dozen walnut brownies):
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 10 Tbsp (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- ¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp (generous) kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- ⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup walnut pieces
Nonstick vegetable oil spray 10 Tbsp (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line 8x8 baking pan with foil, pressing the foil firmly against the sides of the pan and leaving a foil overhang on the sides. Coat the foil inside the pan lightly with the non-stick spray. Place the butter in a small saucepan and set aside.
1 ¼ cups sugar ¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder 1 tsp vanilla extract ¼ tsp (generous) Kosher salt
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa, vanilla extract, and salt. Also add 2 tsp water. Set bowl aside. Go back to the butter in the saucepan. Cook the butter over medium heat to melt. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until butter stops looking so foamy and you can see browned bits forming on the bottom of the pan. Add the butter to the bowl with the cocoa mixture, stir to blend, and let sit for 5 minutes to cool.
2 large eggs ⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour 1 cup walnut pieces
The mixture will still be a warm, but add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon after each. Mixture should start to look shiny. Now, add the flour and beat vigorously 60 strokes. Batter will be very thick. Stir in the walnuts. Using a rubber spatula, spread batter into prepared pan.
Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean. The original recipe says this should take about 25 minutes, but I find that it always takes quite a bit longer for me. I don’t know why, but I usually end up baking for almost twice as long. I just keep a close eye on them, use my toothpick to test, and take them out when the center looks almost done.
Cool brownies in the pan. Use the foil overhang on the pan to lift out of the pan and cut the brownies to your desired size.
These are wonderful paired with an ice-cold glass of milk. They’re also wonderful when you shamefully sneak a crumbly bite first thing in the morning when your husband isn’t watching.