The easiest brownies are mixed and baked in the same pan
By Melissa Clark
A still-warm brownie — chewy on the inside with a shiny, crackly top — and a glass of milk is the kind of after-school snack fantasy that never fades away.
But how many times have I acted this out? Not nearly enough, despite my adult baking skills and the freedom to whip up a pan of the fudgy treats anytime the craving strikes.
Maybe that’s because by the time I’ve measured and mixed the batter, poured it into a parchment-lined pan and baked it, that childhood longing has been tamped down by more sensible and mature inclinations.
This brownie recipe is the antidote to all that grown-up moderation. I created it for my new YouTube show, “Shortcut vs. Showstopper.” The goal was to come up with the best easy brownie recipe imaginable, and compare it with my very sophisticated recipe for olive oil brownies with sea salt.
And it is so easy. Mixed and baked in one skillet, you don’t have time for second thoughts. And leaving the brownie in that skillet for serving, instead of cooling and cutting it into neat bars, is an invitation to dig right in, preferably while its belly is warm, gooey and a little wobbly. And while you’re at it, adding a scoop of ice cream never hurts, especially since it melts into a custardy puddle, soaking into the fudgy confection.
The only potential sticking point in this recipe concerns exactly that — finding the right skillet to use so the batter doesn’t irretrievably glue itself to the pan after baking. I swear by my ceramic nonstick skillet, but other options will work, including a very well-seasoned cast-iron or carbon-steel pan, or a regular, oven-safe nonstick skillet. (Many nonstick skillets are oven-safe to 350 degrees, which is the temperature called for here.)
Word of warning: Don’t try this in your stainless-steel skillet. If you do, the underside of the brownie will adhere to the pan until you chisel or soak it off. I can tell you this from sad past experience.
If you lack the right skillet for this, don’t fret. Just mix the batter in a saucepan, pour it into a greased 9-inch square pan and bake as directed.
But don’t overbake. For this recipe, err on the side of under rather than overdone. As soon as the top of the brownie looks dry, press your finger lightly in the center; it should feel like Jell-O under the surface. Skip inserting a toothpick, which would emerge covered in chocolate and won’t help you anyway.
Then, find a spoon and a glass of milk. Snack time has arrived.
Easy skillet brownies
These simple brownies are mixed and baked in the same skillet. Chewy and fudgy, they’re everything you want in a brownie but faster and with less mess to clean up. If you don’t have an ovenproof nonstick skillet (preferably ceramic, or you could try this in a very well-seasoned cast-iron pan), pour the batter into a greased 9-inch square pan for baking. You can let the brownies cool and cut them into wedges or squares. Or, serve them warm from the oven and straight from the pan, preferably with a scoop of ice cream plopped on top.
Yield: 8 to 12 brownies
Total time: 40 minutes, plus cooling
3/4 cup/185 grams unsalted butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1 1/2 cups/300 grams sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup/95 grams all-purpose flour
3/4 cup/110 grams walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
Flaky sea salt (optional)
Ice cream, for serving (optional)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In an ovenproof 10- or 11-inch nonstick skillet (preferably ceramic nonstick) set over medium-low heat, combine the butter, chocolate and salt. Let butter and chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat.
2. Carefully whisk in sugar until smooth, then whisk in eggs and vanilla. Finally, whisk in flour until no streaks remain. Using a spatula, fold in the nuts, if using. Smooth top and sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt if you like.
3. Bake until the top is set, the center is soft and the edges are firm and start to pull away from the pan, 20 to 27 minutes. (A toothpick inserted into the center will come out gooey.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool. You can serve these still a little warm and straight from the pan, with ice cream on top if you like. Or, let cool completely before slicing into wedges or bars.