The Mailbox: Palm Beach brownies are super-rich

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Palm Beach brownies

Prep time: 50 minutes

Cook time: 35 minutes

Makes 16 huge brownies or 32 large brownies

T. Chavey of Fair Oaks was looking for a Southern California brownie recipe. It was decadent and included espresso powder. They were chilled overnight and cut the following day.

Karen B. Grosch of Placerville shares this recipe that sounds like a match for Chavey. They are described as the “biggest, thickest, gooey-ist, darkest, sweetest, mostest-of-the-most chocolate bars with an almost wet middle and a crisp-crunchy top. It is best to bake these a day before – they cannot be cut into bars when they are too fresh.”

Note: The prep time does not include the cool time after baked or the overnight chill time before being cut.

8 ounces (8 squares) unsweetened chocolate

8 ounces (2 sticks) sweet butter, plus butter for greasing the pan

5 eggs, graded large or extra large

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon salt, optional

2 1/2 tablespoons dry, instant espresso or other powdered instant coffee (not granular)

3  3/4 cups granulated sugar

1  2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

8 ounces (2 generous cups) walnut halves or large pieces

Adjust rack 1/3 up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan as follows: Invert the pan, cover it with a long piece of aluminum foil. With your hands, press down on the foil around the sides and the corners to shape it like the pan. Remove the foil. Turn the pan right side up and place the foil in the pan. Very carefully (without tearing it) press the foil into place in the pan. Now butter the foil with soft or melted butter. The easiest way is to place a piece of butter in the pan, place the pan in the oven while it is warming up, and when the butter is melted use a pastry brush to spread it all over the sides and bottom of the foil. Set the prepared pan aside.

Place the chocolate and the 2 sticks of butter in the top of a large double boiler over hot water on moderate heat, or in a 4 to 6 cup heavy saucepan over very low heat. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted. Stir to mix. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the vanilla, almond extract, salt, dry instant coffee and sugar at high speed for 10 minutes. On low speed add the chocolate mixture and beat only until mixed. Add the flour and again beat only until mixed. Remove from the mixer and stir in the nuts.

Turn into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35 minutes, reversing the pan front to back as necessary during baking to ensure even baking. Cover loosely with foil for about the last half of the baking time to prevent overbrowning. At the end of 35 minutes the cake will have a thick, crisp crust on the top, but if you insert a toothpick into the middle of it, it will come out wet and covered with chocolate. Nevertheless, it is done. Do not bake it anymore.

Remove the cake from the oven and let stand at room temperature until cool. Cover with a rack or cookie sheet and invert. Remove the pan and the foil lining. Cover with a cookie sheet and invert again, leaving the cake right side up.

It is best to refrigerate the cake overnight before cutting (at room temperature it is too sticky to cut). Use a serrated French bread knife. It will be necessary to wash and dry the blade several times while cutting. First cut the cake in half, cutting through the long sides. If the cake was baked correctly, the edges will be too dark and dry; trim about 1/4 inch or so as necessary from the edges.

The cake will be 1 ¼ inches thick. Cut into 24 huge brownies or 32 large ones. Either wrap the brownies individually or package in an airtight container. Refrigerate and serve cold.