Back to Basics: Simple Chocolate-Chippy Brownies

I was minding my own business this evening, working on editing pictures from Christmas, when my curly-headed 15 year old son plopped down beside me on the couch and said, “Mama, couldn’t you make me some warm brownies tonight?”  They can really be influentially sweet when they need to be, these kids. I love that.  One day I will long to re-live these moments.

Needless to say, even though I was a little burned-out from all the Christmas baking,  I got up from my picture editing and started working on brownies.  Happily, brownies are fast and easy. I have a basic recipe that I use, as it turns out perfectly every time.  I know perfect is a relative term, because we all like different kinds of brownies.  Some folks like them cake-y, some kind of hard (have you ever had the brownies at Books-a-Million, in their cafe’? I almost broke a tooth! My sis loves them, though, and I’m sure she’s not the only one) and some, like me and my family, like them chewy.  I like everything chewy, for some reason: brownies, cookies, candy, etc. Chewy makes me happy.

But I digress.  This recipe is so basic that I bet if you went to your kitchen right now you would have all the ingredients that you’d need to bake them: butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder.  Oh, and two tablespoons of water. (if you don’t have any water, I think you need to leave the brownies alone right now and go deal with that issue. First things first. 😉  )  You don’t even need to use a mixer; these are easily stirred up by hand.

I add other things to these brownies, too. Last time, it was peanut butter chips.  Tonight it was semi-sweet morsels left over from my sister’s fudge-making when she was here during Christmas week.  You could also add white chocolate chips, peppermint or Andes mint chips, pecans, etc.  Combinations of these additions are always interesting, too!
There are just a few easy steps to the recipe:

Melt a stick and a half of unsalted butter.  (Butter, not margarine, which has a weird taste & is worse for your heart than butter ever thought about being.)  Combine it with 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar and 2 TBS water.







(By the way, I learned from Martha Stewart that the reasons it’s best to use unsalted butter in baking are that the extra salt in salted butter can throw off the taste of the recipe that calls for unsalted, and also, salted butter uses the salt to lengthen shelf-life, so unsalted butter is fresher, in theory, than salted, which will stay in the store longer before you buy it. I am taking her word for it.)
Next, you will add two large eggs and two teaspoons of vanilla extract.  I’m now using my homemade vanilla extract that I made back in September.  I love it! Here’s how to do it, in case you missed it: How to make homemade vanilla extract.

Now, stir all of that up.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine 1 1/3 cups plain flour, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking powder,  and 1/4 tsp salt.  Just whisk it up to get out any lumps.  It takes a few minutes to combine this, as the cocoa powder is finer than the flour.



Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and stir until you have a beautiful, tempting brownie batter.  Lumps are ok; brownie batter is not perfectly smooth like cake batter.

Now you can add whatever you like:  I added about 3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. I went over to my secret hiding place where I keep all my chips and morsels and dried fruit and things like that; doesn’t everyone have  a secret stash of these things?  Mine is in a big antique English enamel bread box that my sister and I recently found in a little antique shop in Mineola.  I have been longing for  and looking for one of these for years!  I couldn’t believe it when we spotted it, sitting on the floor under a table!  Here, let me show you:




This bread box makes me VERY happy. Truly, every time I look at it when I walk into the kitchen, I smile.  I love how old it is,  how big it is,  how useful it is, and how cute it is!  🙂

Ok, back to the brownies.

Now you just spread the nice, thick, tempting batter into a greased 13×9 baking pan, and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.  Check for doneness with a toothpick.  When inserted into the center of the brownies, the toothpick should only have a little batter on it, it shouldn’t be covered with wet batter. I start checking at 18 minutes, and usually pull them out at about 25 minutes, but every oven is different, so keep checking.

The hardest part of the recipe is keeping the people who smell them baking out of them until they cool awhile. Brownies are notoriously slow coolers.  It drives my guys crazy.  🙂  They don’t have to be completely cool, but if you cut them TOO soon they will fall apart. This may not bother you.  That’s ok.

Here’s the recipe nice and neat, in case you want to copy and paste to keep it:

MamaSteph’s Favorite Chewy Brownies

  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 TBS water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts, chocolate chips, etc.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease (or use Pam or Baker’s Joy Spray) a 13×9 baking pan.

Combine sugar, butter, & water in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in eggs and vanilla extract.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Stir into sugar mixture.

Stir in chips or other additions.

Spread into baking pan.  Bake for 18-25 minutes  or until wooden toothpick comes out only slightly sticky.

Cool in pan on wire rack.

If you would like thicker brownies, use a smaller pan to bake them in, and adjust baking times accordingly.  You could put frosting on these, too; chocolate frosting, or perhaps cream cheese….the possibilities are almost endless. 😉  That’s why I love this basic recipe.  You can make it your own!

I hope you enjoy them, friends.  My boys wiped out over half the pan tonight.  Now I have to go divvy the remainder up equally so they all get a piece tomorrow.  Believe me, they’ll be asking for them at breakfast.  🙂


6 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Simple Chocolate-Chippy Brownies

  1. I love that little curly haired boy and I’m betting that he ate up these brownies w/o hesitation. 🙂 I bet they are delicious! I wish I were there. I’m missing you all like crazy tonight. Love you!

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