MAKES: About a dozen squares

TIME: 40 minutes

Somewhere between a brownie, a cookie, and fudge.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus a little for the greasing pan

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

Pinch salt

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped white, milk, or semisweet chocolate

3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350В°F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan or line it with aluminum foil and grease the foil.

Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat. Transfer to a bowl and use an electric mixer to beat in the sugar until very smooth, then beat in the egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl every now and then if necessary.

Add the salt, then gently stir in the flour, chocolate chunks, and nuts if you’re using them. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until just barely set in the middle (if it looks like they’re baking unevenly, rotate the pan about halfway through the baking). It’s better to underbake the bars than to overbake them. Cool on a rack before cutting. Store, covered and at room temperature, for no more than 1 day.

Variations

Chocolate Peppermint Bars. Great for the holidays: Add 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract and/or 3/4 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes; stir into the batter along with the salt in Step 3. Proceed with the recipe.

Chocolate Cranberry or Cherry Bars. Bits of sweet-tart dried fruit contrast with the rich chocolate: Substitute dried cranberries or cherries for the nuts.

Chocolate Swirl Bars. Cream cheese is swirled into the batter: Add 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup additional sugar, and another egg; beat them together until soft and well combined. Proceed with the recipe, putting the chocolate batter in the pan, then adding the cream cheese mixture in dollops; use a knife tip to swirl it into the batter. Bake as directed.