Julia Child’s Brownies are among my favorite recipes, but with 4 oz of unsweetened chocolate and a cup of butter, they’re expensive to make on a regular basis. So I don’t make them often enough, and when I do I find things I could have done differently or changed. In addition to that, the brownie recipe calls for a 9-inch square pan. It’s an awkward size because it doesn’t really make enough for a big crowd, yet it’s too many brownies for two people. So I rarely use my 9-inch pan.Jump to Recipe
Anyway, one day after making these brownies and being frustrated because I’d tried to scale them down to fit a smaller pan, I headed over to a thrift store for some retail therapy. Literally an hour after complaining about 9-inch square pans, what should appear on that shelf but a Pampered Chef Stoneware 9-inch pan in perfect condition for $4.99. It was a sign from Juila to get my act together and make her brownies right.
So here’s the recipe rewritten for clarity. And it does need some clarity because the recipe can be kind of confusing because it calls for two mixing bowls. Here’s the process.
- Melt butter and chocolate together in a saucepan, then add just 1 cup of the sugar to the hot mixture. Pour that mixture into the first mixing bowl. Add the vanilla.
- Lightly mix eggs and another cup of sugar in a second large mixing bowl.
- You then pour only HALF of the egg mixture that’s in the second bowl into the first mixing bowl with the melted chocolate.
- Whip the remaining egg mixture in the second bowl into a big billowy fluff, then fold it in with chocolate mixture.
- Lastly, you fold in the flour and salt
The question I asked myself the last time I made these brownies was why can’t I just melt the chocolate and butter together in a 3 or 4 quart saucepan and skip the first mixing bowl. So I tested that and everything was going along fine until it was time to fold in the billowy egg mixture. The saucepan, even a big one, is awkward to fold things into, whereas a big mixing bowl makes it easier. But if the saucepan is wide and you are good at folding, you certainly can skip the second mixing bowl.
So here’s the recipe again!
Now this is where I go off the rails and start talking about halving this. Honestly, I can't help but halve the recipe because I want to eat the brownies, but don't want to use a full cup of butter etc. etc. So here's some info on halving. Just be prepared to deal with thicker brownies and different baking times. In the 9-inch square pan the brownies should be done in an even 30 minutes. In any other size pan, even halved, you'll have to adjust. They are done when the brownies are 205 degrees F.
Halving Brownie Recipes and Pan Size
When halving brownie recipes, it's helpful to consider not only the volume of the pan, but the surface area. Alice Medrich wrote an article on pan sizes over on Food52. Here, the Julia Child recipe calls for a 9-inch square pan so the surface area is 81 square inches. A standard 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf pan will give you a half batch of slightly thicker brownies while a 9x5 inch pan will give you thinner brownies. So you can halve the Julia Child Brownies, but you may have to adjust the bake time.
Julia's Best Ever Brownies Half Batch Version
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (2.5 oz/72 grams) -- only sift if you don't have a scale or if your flour is lumpy. And some flours are lumpy.
½ teaspoon salt
4 ounces (114 grams) unsalted butter
2 ounces (56 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 ounce (28 grams) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (Ghirardelli chips okay)
1 cup (195 grams) sugar (divided use)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Directions for Half Batch Version
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Line an 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf pan with regular foil. Nonstick foil is also okay. This is going to give you thick brownies. You can also use an 8-inch square pan, but brownies will be thinner.
Stir the flour and salt together in a small bowl; set aside.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan set over medium-low heat. When butter has almost completely melted, reduce heat to low and add chopped chocolate, stirring often until it melts. Add ½ cup of the sugar to the mixture and stir for about half a minute. Remove pan from heat and pour into a mixing bowl (or just keep it in the saucepan and let it cool a little since this is a small batch). Stir in the vanilla.
Whisk the remaining ½ cup sugar and the eggs in a second mixing bowl. You can use a regular mixing bowl or a stand mixer bowl. Whisk only until combined – don’t over-beat. Gradually pour half of the sugar/egg mixture into the chocolate mixture. Stir gently so that eggs don’t set from the heat of the chocolate mixture.
Using an electric mixer (or the whisk attachment of your stand mixer), beat the remaining sugar/egg mixture on high speed until it becomes pale and thick (it should double in volume).
Carefully fold the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture. When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the flour/salt mixture.
Scrape the batter into the lined loaf pan and bake for 28-30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads around 205 F. or slightly over. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut. Note: These are thick brownies with gooey centers. If using the 8-inch square pan, check the temperature at 25 minutes.
Some sources say brownies are done at 180 F, but I've never had brownies ready at that temperature. These brownies are ready when the temperature tops out around 204 degrees F. The thermometer may read 170 or 180F at first, but hold it in there long enough to get the true reading. Also, when baked in a loaf pan, the the sides cook quicker than the middles so you want to put your thermometer right in the center of the pan.
Julia Child's Best Ever Brownies
- 1 ¼ cups sifted or weighed all-purpose flour 5 oz/145 grams -- measure after sifting
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces unsalted butter (228 grams)
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (114 grams)
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (56 grams)
- 2 cups sugar (divided use) (385 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Line a 9-inch square pan with or parchment paper. If using stoneware, line with parchment.
- Stir the flour and salt together in a small bowl; set aside. You can totally skip this step and just add the salt at any point, but it's good to have the flour measured and the salt mixed in so you don't forget it.
- Melt the butter in a 3 or 4-quart saucepan set over medium-low heat. When partially melted, reduce heat to low and add both kinds of the chopped chocolate, stirring often over low heat until melted and smooth. Add only 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture and stir for about half a minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla. At this point you can leave the chocolate mixture in the big saucepan or pour it into a mixing bowl for easier folding.
- Lightly mix the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs in a mixing bowl. just until combined. Pour half of this egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, leaving behind the other half which you are going to whip.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining sugar/egg mixture on high speed until it becomes pale and thick and doubles in volume.
- Carefully fold the whipped egg mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the dry ingredients (flour/salt).
- Scrape the batter into the 9-inch square pan and bake on center rack for 28 to 30 minutes. Note: This is for a 9-inch square pan, stoneware. Top out temperature was about 205 degrees F.
- Let the brownies cool completely, then chill for an hour or so. Lift from the pan and cut.