One summer during college, I worked as an editorial intern at Travel & Leisure magazine, and at the time Stephen Drucker was the book’s executive editor. I never had a chance to speak with him — I was kept busy fact checking stories on travel to Kamchatka and Wisconsin’s apple orchards. But I certainly knew who he was: editors that high up on the masthead were enough to tongue tie me at that point in my life! I finished up my internship, finished college, and never thought about Stephen Drucker again. That is, until I saw him on Food Network many years later.
J. and I have enjoyed watching “Barefoot Contessa” with Ina Garten since its early days. I have never had one of her recipes fail me, and she’s the cook I credit with introducing me to roasted Brussels sprouts. We love Ina in this house. An early episode of the show had her cooking for her dear friend Stephen — no last name given — and in the brief shot of him with Ina at the end of the episode, I sat up straight and shrieked to J., “I KNOW HIM!” But there was no credit to Stephen Drucker, and I couldn’t find anything online about the episode. I wrote an email to Ina Garten through her website, asking if indeed her friend was the former T&L honcho. I really just needed to satisfy my curiosity (J. couldn’t have cared less), but I got more than confirmation. I received an email back from Ina herself, explaining that yes, Stephen Drucker was her dear friend. He’s appeared in more “Barefoot Contessa” episodes since then, and I have to grin when I think about getting that quick note from a cook I admire.
Needless to say, I knew Ina’s Outrageous Brownies would be a winning recipe. I made them at Thanksgiving, and we loved them. These brownies have the same magic ingredient as my favorite chocolate chip cookies: instant espresso powder. They are dark, fudgy, and pleasantly bitter, thanks to the unsweetened chocolate and coffee. J. thinks they are fantastic because you can tell they’re made with real, melted chocolate and not just cocoa powder.
I cut the the brownie sheet into 48 pieces (as opposed to the recipe’s recommended 20 servings) and I still wouldn’t call the squares skimpy. True, you can halve the recipe. But the brownies freeze well and with the amount of work involved, it makes sense to bake a huge batch, give some to friends, and throw any extras in the freezer for another day.
Ina’s Outrageous Brownies
Adapted slightly from her original recipe
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp (or close)
1 lb., plus 12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
7 large eggs
2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2¼ c. sugar
1¼ c. all-purpose flour, divided (+ more to flour the pan)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking pan (this about the size of a half sheet baking pan, which is larger than your average cookie sheet).
In a double boiler, or in a large bowl set over a pot with about an inch of simmering water, melt the butter, 1 lb. of chocolate chips, and the 6 oz. of unsweetedned chocolate. Stir occasionally with a flexible spatula. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
While those ingredients are melting, combine eggs, espresso powder, vanilla, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir to combine thoroughly, making sure the eggs are fully incorporated. (I like to do this with a fork to help break up the yolks.)
Once the chocolate mixture has cooled slightly, temper the egg mixture by pouring in the chocolate about a half cup at a time, stirring well. (You don’t want the eggs to cook from the residual heat of the chocolate.) Finish incorporating the chocolate into the egg mixture.
Toss the remaining chocolate chips with 1/4 c. of flour to coat. Add 1 c. flour, baking powder, salt, and coated chocolate chips to the batter, and stir gently until well-combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan and even it out with a spatula.
Bake for 20 minutes, then (using potholders!) pick up the baking sheet and knock it down evenly against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. (You’ll see the brownies deflate as you do this.) Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Do not over-bake! Allow to cool thoroughly on the counter, refrigerate, and cut into 48 squares.