Almost 10 years ago, when I was a child-free, single-chinned (bah) newlywed and this site was 6 weeks old, I passingly mentioned making the Belgian brownies they serve at Le Pain Quotidien. They were as delicious as should be expected from something that’s nothing but chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs and a smidge of flour. However, I never made them after that because, ever the pedant, to me they weren’t real brownies. Brownies are dense, fudgy and even a little chewy and these were featherlight and rich. I don’t know what’s wrong with me either.
These might have stayed in the substratum of the archives forever had my husband’s attempts to save me from hospital food after the arrival of this butterfly last summer included regular deliveries of Cobb salads and the aforementioned Belgian brownie at the LPQ by the hospital. I actually said “Oh, that brownie is never as good as it seems like it’s going to be” before taking a bite of what was the best thing I have ever eaten in my whole life, or at least in 40 weeks of everything tasting decidedly mediocre. Those brownies, which I’d keep in the fridge and cut little wedges from all hours of the day and night over the next couple days, were everything. I vowed to refresh them here and give them the adoration they were overdue.
Things got a little busy after that, as you can imagine, but these were worth every second of the wait. Shaken free from the narrow confines of a classic brownie, these are so much more — halfway to molten inside with a shattery lid. When they’re unmolded onto a plate or cooling rack, they sigh and dent a little, as if they had to shift their weight onto one hip after standing too long on too weak a foundation. Their shoulders appear cushiony. They look like humble little shrugs of chocolate and require no adornment, but taste like stars.
One year ago: Pecan Sticky Buns + News
Two years ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Three years ago: Salted Caramel Brownies
Four years ago: Lasagna Bolognese
Five years ago: White and Dark-Hearted Brownies
Six years ago: Ginger Fried Rice
Seven years ago: Whole Lemon Tart
Eight years ago: Seven-Yolk Pasta Dough
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And for the other side of the world:
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3.5 Years Ago: My Favorite Brownies
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Belgian Brownie Cakelets
Adapted and adjusted from Le Pain Quotidien, via the LA Times and Wednesday Chef
Yield: 12 in a standard-size (1/2 cup) cupcake mold. I poured some of the batter into these fluted mini-tartlet pans that I never use otherwise; they’re slightly smaller (despite looking bigger) so you’ll end up with 14. They look cute, but I prefer the cushiony texture that came from the cupcake-shaped ones, so don’t run out and buy them for this.
I made several small adjustments to the recipe. The original recipe yields a persnickety 14, calls for superfine sugar and pastry flour; my adjusted recipe makes an even dozen with the ingredients you already have around, plus some much-needed salt. It’s also all mixed by hand in one bowl in under 5 minutes. I made one round with cocoa powder instead of flour, because, you know, gluten. While I would never not eat them, I was sad to find that they lost their shiny lid, which was less crisp too. Do know that the swap works, but if flour isn’t an issue for you, please keep it in there. I also made a batch with 2 tablespoons less sugar and we found them more enjoyably bittersweet; feel free to do the same if that’s your preference. These contain an unconscionable amount of butter and we shouldn’t question it; this isn’t the time for it. Someone is going to ask me if they can frost these. You may not. These are such a perfect self-contained luxury, save the frosting for some arid sheet cake that needs it. If you serve it with anything, my suggestion would be a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream, a dusting of powdered sugar and/or some berries.
7 ounces (200 grams) bittersweet chocolate (70 or 72%), roughly chopped
7 ounces (200 grams or 14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (20 grams) all-purpose flour
Place chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl. Either over a saucepan of simmering water or in the microwave in 15- to 30-second bursts, stirring frequently, melt the two together. Off the heat, whisk in sugar, which should cool the mixture down significantly. Whisk in salt, then eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. The batter will thicken a bit as it stands.
Heat oven to 325°F (165°C).
Either coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray or line it with cupcake papers. Spoon batter halfway into each cup and bake for 25 to 30 minutes (20 minutes in the mini-tart pans I show), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cakelets comes out batter-free. (Fudgy crumbs are to be expected.)
Let cool on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding. Puffed tops will fall a little as they cool.