I'm not sure what I was looking for when I began my brownie baking adventures. I simply woke up one morning and thought it would be nice to add brownies to a hostess gift I was making. I had no idea when I started that I would be spending days trying to make the perfect brownie. If you had asked me at that time to describe the perfect brownie, I wouldn't have been able to. I had absolutely no idea. They became closer to perfection each time I made them.
I began by baking a brownie recipe from my favorite baker's cookbook. They were good, but not chocolatey enough. I made them again using chocolate with a higher percentage of cacao, but that made them a little too bitter. I then substituted half of the bittersweet chocolate with some that had a lower percentage of cacao. The combined chocolate taste was right on. Now I had to tackle the texture, because they were a little too soft to cut. One more try adding more flour. They were almost there, but I wanted a glossy top. I tried again, this time stirring the batter instead of mixing it in my Kitchen Aid. Finally, I had taste and texture I was searching for, but I wanted to make them even more unique. For my final try, I substituted peanut butter chips for the walnuts. Eureka! I finally had a brownie that I could call perfection. Glossy on top, rich, dense and packed with so much flavor they made my taste buds sing.
Now for my final test. I brought them to a party along with several of my other holiday cookies. People noticed them. They talked about them. They raved. Now I am convinced that they are so good I can pass the recipe on to you.
ULTIMATE FUDGY BROWNIES WITH PEANUT BUTTER CHIPS
For exceptional chocolate flavor, I use two different chocolates, one bittersweet with 60% to75% cacao and the other semisweet with 50% to 60%. Often a bar that has 50% to 60% cacao will not have a percentage on it; it will just be listed as semi-sweet. I made my brownies with Guittard and Trader Joe's chocolates.
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 oz. semisweet chocolate (50% to 60% cacao)
6 oz. dark chocolate (70% to 75% cacao), chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 package (10 oz.) peanut butter chips or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9x13-inch metal baking dish with heavy foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang for handles. Spray foil with non-stick coating.
2. Put butter and chocolate into a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 50% power for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar, salt and vanilla. One at a time, stir in eggs, mixing each until well blended before adding the next. Stir in flour. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture is thick and shiny. Stir in chips.
3. Pour batter into pan and spread top evenly.
4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until top is set when pressed with a finger and a toothpick comes out with a little melted chocolate on it. The less you bake the brownies, the fudgier they will be. Cool in pan on rack. Refrigerate until firm; they are easier to cut when chilled.
5. Using foil, lift brownies to work surface. Remove foil and cut brownies into 1 3/4-inch squares. A cleaver works great for cutting. You may want to cut off the crusty edges as a reward for you to eat. Serve at room temperature.
MAKE AHEAD: Brownies may be held at room temperature for several days, refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Makes about 42 brownies.