The last school I worked at as a teacher moved three times in the four years I was there, almost shut down once, and started out with a principal who would literally hide or leave campus when he wanted to avoid certain people. It was a small school with giant problems. I did, though, make some lifelong friends there (hey guys!), and as part of the leadership team, I got to eat more than my fair share of Erika brownies. Once I left, every teacher I ever coached got the gift of Erika brownies at one time or another. A 2×2 sweet to help take a little of the edge off, because you can’t (and shouldn’t) drink liquor in your classroom. Or get a massage there (as a teacher you may not be able to afford that). So let’s face it, emotional eating is the way to go for stress relief if your life is ruled by the bell, or even if you’ve just heard about bells. That’s enough. You’re in. Have one.Erika was our principal’s coach and she would often join the leadership team for our weekly after school meeting. She was a voice of reason and always brought us something to eat. On many of these Mondays, she brought us the title brownies. The snack calmed us. We were better listeners, more open to reason. I asked Erika for the recipe and wasn’t sure I’d ever get it. I thought these brownies were great enough that they might be a secret family recipe that she wouldn’t want to share. I would have respected that. She did end up sharing it, though. She gave me a color photocopy of a page out of an Alice Medrich cookbook. I haven’t found the cookbook this came out of yet, so if you know, let me know too!
This recipe makes an 8×8 square of crisp-topped, chewy, moist brownies. They are only about 3/4″ thick, and that is perfect for the sweet chewiness of each little square. The beginning of the recipe calls for a double boiler in order to melt your chocolate and butter. If, like me, you do not own a double boiler, you can always just use a bowl or second pot in another pot of simmering water .
There’s not a lot of batter, so I was able to use that little pot for the whole batter-making process. Once you’re done mixing everything together, you end up with a very glossy, easy to spread around batter. It’s pretty neat. The salt is my own addition. I love salt and chocolate together. Some nice flaky flakes of sea salt…perfect.
This lovely square is supposed to make 16 brownies. That means 2×2 inch squares. I think it’s a perfect size. It makes it easy to eat one, then another, and then forget how many you’ve had. So then it’s easy to have one more.
One last note…use a metal baking pan. After you pull the brownies out of the oven you put them in an ice bath. Hot glass and ice water don’t mix!
Enjoy with or without the salt!
Erika Brownies, a.k.a. New Classic Brownies from Alice Medrich
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used salted. I always do.)
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (that’s usually one bar.)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt.
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Optional: 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces
1/2-1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt for sprinkling on top
Place an oven rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 400°. Line an 8-inch square metal baking pan with parchment paper or foil.
Melt the chocolate and butter in your double boiler or in a bowl placed in a pan of lightly simmering water. Stir frequently as it’s melting. Once melted, remove your double boiler or bowl from heat and mix in the sugar, vanilla and salt.
Add the eggs one at a time. Make sure the first egg is fully incorporated before adding the second.
Mix in the flour until it is completely combined and the batter is glossy, easily coming away from the sides of your bowl. Add nuts if you plan to use any.
Pour and scrape all the batter into your prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the kosher or sea salt over the top if you’d like.
Bake for 20 minutes. When the brownies are about 5 minutes away from being done, prepare an ice bath in your sink or in a deep baking dish. The water only needs to be about 3/4″ deep. Once the brownies are done, carefully place the baking pan into the ice bath. Let them cool completely in the ice bath.
Once cool, use the parchment paper or foil to lift the brownies out of the pan, and set them on a cutting board. Cut into 16 2×2 squares or cut as you eat them. I like the latter method so they don’t dry at the edges.
So, let’s raise our milk glasses – cheers!