Back in the dark ages before internet shopping gave expats access to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Nestlé Chocolate Chips and (name your favorite brand) Brownie Mixes, a rich, sweet, dense “real” brownie in France was rarer than a good pain au chocolat stateside. What’s more, without the Internet, no brownie recipe searching could be done except for what I could find in the American cookbooks I had in my possession. I had quite a few, mind you, but they all called for unsweetened chocolate —another impossible item to find in France. So, for years, I did without. Better to forego a brownie urge than be eternally disappointed by the dull, dry flat things that pass for “les brownie’s” in France (I do not know how or where that apostrophe came into play in France, but you see it all the time.)

It took moving back to the US and a stint in a high-end Brooklyn bakery to get to THESE brownies. They are nigh on perfect with a dense, delicious, buttery, almost-too-sweet quality of that, to me, epitomizes a real brownie. I’ve fiddled with the original recipe to increase the chocolate factor (with unsweetened cocoa) and decrease the yield (the original version made something like 80 browniesI like my brownies small and thin—just a little bit larger than bite-size—so I bake them in a 9- x 12-inch quarter sheet pan rather than a square baking pan. The recipe will also work with thicker brownies baked in a square pan, though you will need to increase the baking time 5 to 10 minutes.

One final note: I am a brownie purist. I dislike nuts in them myself, and I disapprove of adding chocolate chips, marshmallows, frostings, glazes, etc. They are cheating. If a brownie recipe needs extras, then the recipe itself is probably not good enough to start with.

(While I may be a purist, I’m not a tyrant. Feel free to add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of nuts, chocolate chips or whatever else, and frost, drizzle, or adorn to your heart’s content. After all, I’m not eating the brownies. You are.)

melted butter, for greasing pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) butter, cut into pieces
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into chunks
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 12-inch quarter sheet pan, a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, or a 9 x 9-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper as well. Set aside.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Melt butter and chocolate in large bowl (over a double boiler or in a microwave set to medium power). Stir until smooth with a rubber spatula. Stir in sugar, then flour mixture. Finally, fold in beaten eggs.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick or the tip of a knife inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean. Cool in pan.

Loosen sides of brownies, then invert onto cutting board, and remove parchment. Cut into squares. Makes 16 large brownies or 32 bite-size brownies