The. Best. Brownie. Ever.
I consider Maida Heatter a kitchen friend even though I never met the renowned cookbook author. Just like the friends and family we learn from when we’re together cooking or baking, she brings her joyful self into my kitchen every time.
“Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts” was her first, followed by “Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts,” then “Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies” with 10 others that followed until “Happiness Is Baking: Favorite Desserts From the Queen of Cake” was published in 2019, two months before she passed away at 102.
In 1998, when her first book was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame, she attended the awards ceremony at a Manhattan ballroom, where she pulled out one of her best-known creations, Palm Beach Brownies With Chocolate-Covered Mints, from a Versace purse and tossed them to the crowd. The culinary luminaries in the audience, including Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Martha Stewart and Daniel Boulud, went wild.
What makes the Palm Beach Brownie (the original that came before the mint version) the best brownie ever?
“These are the biggest, thickest, gooiest, chewiest, darkest, sweetest, mostest-of-the-most chocolate bars with an almost wet middle and a crisp-crunchy top,” Maida said.
Cheers to Maida and cheers to you finding joy baking her recipes, too!
Maida Heatter’s Palm Beach Brownies
Makes 16 huge or 24 or more large brownies. It’s best to bake them the day before as they can’t be cut while too fresh.
8 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 sticks (½ lb.) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ tablespoons dry instant espresso or other powdered (not granular) instant coffee
3 ¾ cups (742.5 grams) granulated sugar
1 ⅔ cups (237 grams) sifted all-purpose flour
8 oz. (2 generous cups) walnut halves (optional)
1. Adjust oven rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 425° F. Line a 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan with aluminum foil, shiny side down, carefully pressing into place. Generously butter the foil with softened or melted butter and set aside.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a large double boiler over hot water on moderate heat, or in a 4- to 6-quart heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat, set aside and cool to room temperature.
3. In a stand mixer or a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs with the vanilla, almond extract, salt, dry instant espresso and sugar at high speed for 10 minutes. On low speed, add the cooled chocolate mixture and beat only until mixed. Then add the flour and again beat only until mixed. If using, stir in the nuts.
4. Turn into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35 minutes, reversing the pan from front to back as necessary to ensure even baking. If getting too brown on top, cover loosely with foil. The cake will have a thick, crisp crust on the top, but if you insert a toothpick into the middle, it will come out wet and covered with chocolate. Nevertheless, it is done. Do not bake anymore.
5. Remove from the oven, place on a rack and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Then cover with a rack or cookie sheet and invert. Remove the pan and the foil. Cover with a cookie sheet and invert again, leaving the cake right side up. Let stand for 6 to 8 hours or preferably overnight, or refrigerate, before cutting into bars.
6. Using a serrated knife (since the top of the cake will be crusty and the middle will be wet), cut the cake into 16, 24 or 32 pieces, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after every cut. Since the edges will be too dark, cut them off as necessary.
7. Wrap individually in plastic. They also freeze well.
Photo credit of Palm Beach Brownies: The Pastry Chef’s Baking.