Ad Hoc Brownies

Ad Hoc Brownies
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ad hoc brownie
Mmm. Chocolate!

Yes, we did have a post awhile back on brownies, using our standard recipe, so why another recipe?

Well, we’ve wanted to try this particular recipe for over a year, and, for one reason or another, we didn’t get to it. Until today. (We actually made them yesterday, but who’s keeping track?) This particular recipe comes from Thomas Keller’s book, Ad Hoc at Home, which is full of great recipes based on dishes that he serves at his restaurant Ad Hoc in California. What’s not to like?

And, since we’ve tried, and loved, so many of Thomas Keller’s recipes, we knew that we’d try this one eventually. After all, it involves chocolate. So, let’s scratch out some brownies.

Ad Hoc Brownies

Yield: 12 brownies

Ad Hoc Brownies


  • 3/4 cup (105 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (90 g) dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces 61-64% cacao chocolate, chopped into pieces
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Abbreviated Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9x9-inch pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together cocoa and flour. Add salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Place half (12 tablespoons) of the butter in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt remaining half (12 tablespoons) of the butter. Pour melted butter over butter pieces and stir until melted, creamy, and room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar on medium until light and fluffy and pale, about 3 minutes.

With the mixer on low, add cocoa-flour mixture by thirds, alternating with thirds of the melted butter.

Add chocolate pieces and mix to combine.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached.

Cool on a rack until slightly above room temperature. Run a knife around the edge, invert onto parchment or waxed paper, and slice into 12 pieces.

Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Ingredient discussion:

It’s the chocolate. Use the best you can. We use Valrhona dutch-processed cocoa — wonderfully dark and rich. For the chips, we went with Callabaut chocolate chips — yes, only 53% cacao, but, next time, we go with the real deal. With all that butter, it had better be unsalted or you’re in for a salty surprise. And, there’s no substitute for real vanilla extract.

Procedure in detail:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Might as well center a rack, too.

buttered and flour pan
Don’t worry, your brownies won’t end up with white specks from the flour.

Butter and flour. Butter a 9×9 inch pan (we only had an 8×8, so our brownies will be thicker), then sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour, shake it all about so it coats the butter, and dump out the excess.

sifting cocoa and flour
Always break out the sifter for cocoa. It only takes a few minutes, but there’s no better way to break up the lumps.

Sift. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and the cocoa. It’s not critical for the flour, but the cocoa is liable to be clumpy, so sift that for sure. If you’re weighing the ingredients, you can easily measure the right amount directly into the sifter and sift away.

adding salt
Kosher salt, with its large crystals doesn’t sift well, so add it after sifting and stir it in.

Add salt. We have a hard time sifting kosher salt, so add it to the flour and cocoa after sifting and whisk it in. Set aside for now.

Half of the butter gets melted and then is used to melt the rest of the butter.

Divide butter. Put half of the butter pieces in a heat-proof bowl, and the other half in a small saucepan. We knew we were going to be pouring melted butter out of the bowl, so we used a large measuring cup with a pour spout.

melted butter
It’s okay if a few small lumps of butter are floating around along with the creamy melted butter.

Melt butter. Put the saucepan of butter over medium heat and let it melt, stirring occasionally. Pour the melted butter over the butter pieces and stir until everything is creamy and melted, with a few small butter pieces floating around.

whipped eggs and sugar
Eggs and sugar. Surprising how light and fluffy they can be with a bit of mixing.

Beat eggs and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium until the mixture is pale, light, and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add vanilla. Turn the mixer to low, and mix in the vanilla. (We forgot to add the vanilla, so we’ll probably have to make up another batch of brownies).

adding cocoa/flour
It’s difficult to take pictures while we add one ingredient or the next. Just remember to add the dry ingredients and butter by thirds, alternating between the two.

Add dry ingredients and butter. With the mixer still on low, add about 1/3 of the cocoa-flour mixture, followed by 1/3 of the melted butter. Continue adding the dry ingredients and butter by thirds until they’re mixed in and you have a nice-looking brownie batter.

adding chocolate chips
Finally, add those pieces of chocolate. No, that’s not Nestle’s; it’s better!

Add chocolate pieces. Add the chocolate pieces and mix them into the batter.

brownie batter
Use a spatula to smooth off the batter. Aww, some batter always sticks to the spatula, I guess someone will have to taste it.

Fill pan. Pour and scrape the batter — it will be thick — into the prepared pan; if you happen to taste some, no harm done, and smooth it off.

Bake. Bake the brownies 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. If it’s wet, try another spot in case you hit a piece of molten chocolate.

ad hoc brownines
We’re going to have a hard time waiting for these to cool. Wish us luck.

Cool. Place the pan on a rack and let cool until the brownies are just slightly above room temperature.

Remove and serve. Run a knife around the edge of the brownies and invert the pan over a piece of parchment or waxed paper to release them. Slice into 12 rectangles, plate, and sprinkle with a dusting of powdered sugar.

These are good brownies. Very good, in fact, with a nice moist interior and a crisp outer edge (the best part), but they’re really not all that much better than the standard brownies we usually make. Yes, they’re nice and chocolatey, and, yes, they bake up perfectly, and they’re somewhat richer than our normal brownies — after all, those three sticks of butter do help to increase the richness. But, they do have the downside of needing to use a saucepan, two or three bowls, a baking pan, and a mixer, as opposed to a baking pan and saucepan. We think we’ll be saving the Ad Hoc Brownies for special occasions. Four stars; after all, they’re made with chocolate, and lots of it.

Worth the trouble?

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