When I want to really pamper someone close to me, I like to prepare one of my chocolate specialties: decadent chocolate cake, my signature chocolate mousse, or chocolate babka that melts in your mouth.What my children love more than anything, though, are my brownies.These small squares that are bursting with chocolate can be made to order with a variety of additions, such as chocolate chips, nuts, white chocolate, marshmallow, crushed cookies, halva, raisins or even pistachios.Another option is to make two different brownie mixtures and then layer them in the pan. For example, you could add to the brownie a layer of white chocolate or cream cheese mixed with jam.And that’s not all – you could also add toppings, such as Nutella, halva, toasted coconut or peanuts. In other words, you can take a basic brownie recipe and jazz it up in a dozen different ways. You’ll find that after one bite, the rest of the batch will be gobbled up almost instantly.The one thing I insist on when making brownies, though, is using only the highest quality bittersweet chocolate that contains between 60 percent and 70% cocoa. You can really taste the difference when you use excellent chocolate in your baked goods.The most important principle to adhere to when preparing brownies is that they must be moist, and the easiest way to ensure this is to be careful to not overcook them. If you leave brownies in the oven too long, they will dry out and harden, and the chocolate will lose its flavor. Also, if you use a narrow pan, the brownies will be too tall and heavy. The mixture should be about 1 cm. high in the pan when you put it in the oven. Line the pan with baking paper, since this makes it easier to remove the brownies afterward. It’s also important to let the brownies cool completely before you cut them into squares. You can prepare a plate of brownies to give to a friend, or store them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.Translated by Hannah Hochner.CHOCOLATE BROWNIES Use a 27-cm. by 33-cm. pan.■ 250 gr. bittersweet chocolate (50-60% cocoa), broken up into squares ■ 250 gr. butter■ 1 cup sugar ■ ½ cup brown sugar■ 2-3 drops pure vanilla extract ■ 1 tsp. rum or brandy ■ 4 large eggs ■ 2½ cups flour, sifted■ ½ tsp. salt ■ ¾ cup walnuts or pecans (candied if desired), chopped coarsely ■ ½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips or pieces Topping:■ ½ cup powdered sugar ■ ¼ cup nuts, finely chopped Preparation: Melt the chocolate with the butter and the white and brown sugar in a bowl in the microwave or over a bain-marie (that is, put all the ingredients in a pot and then set the pot on top of another pot of hot water). Keep the flame on medium heat and stir until all the ingredients are completely dissolved. Remove pot from heat (or take bowl out of microwave) and continue stirring.While stirring rapidly, add vanilla, rum or brandy, and eggs. Stir quickly until the mixture is nice and smooth. Add the flour, nuts and chocolate chips. Mix until well blended.Pour mixture into a pan that is well greased or lined with baking paper, and spread so that it reaches the edges. Bake in a preheated oven at 180° for 30 minutes.When it’s completely cooled down, cut off the dry edges. Cut into 5-cm. by 5-cm. squares.Place in an airtight container or in cupcake holders.Sprinkle powdered sugar and crushed nuts on top and serve.LAYERED BROWNIES If you’d like to diversify a little, you can prepare blondies, which are brownies with an added layer of white chocolate. Use an especially large pan so that the brownies don’t come out too tall.For white chocolate layer: ■ 170 gr. butter or butter substitute, cut into cubes■ 200 gr. white chocolate, chopped ■ 1 cup golden brown sugar ■ 3 eggs ■ 1 cup self-rising flour ■ 1 tsp. vanilla extract or a package of vanilla sugar Preparation: Prepare the standard chocolate brownie recipe listed above. Pour into a pan lined with baking paper. To prepare the blondies mixture, melt the butter with the white chocolate over a low flame or in short spurts in the microwave, mixing in between each time, until the mixture is smooth. Add the sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour on top of the brownie layer that’s already in the pan and spread to the edges. Bake in a preheated oven at 180° for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely and then cut into 5-cm. by 5-cm. squares with a sharp knife.Store in an airtight container or place in cupcake holders. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.PEANUT-BUTTER BROWNIESThese can be made dairy or parve.Use a 27-cm. by 33-cm. pan.■ 200 gr. bittersweet chocolate■ 150 gr. butter or butter substitute or ½ cup oil ■ ½ cup brown sugar ■ ½ cup silan (date syrup)■ ¾ cup roasted peanuts, chopped ■ 4 eggs ■ 1 cup whole-wheat flour or spelt flour, sifted■ ½ cup milk or soy milk■ 1 tsp. grated orange peel ■ 2 Tbsp. orange juice ■ 1 tsp. baking powder■ ¾ cup peanut butter■ 2-3 small candy bars, chopped into pieces, or ½ cup chocolate chips Topping:■ ½ cup powdered sugar or ½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped Preparation: Melt the chocolate with the butter, brown sugar and silan in a bowl in the microwave, or put the ingredients in a pot over a bain-marie. Keep stirring until the mixture is fully dissolved. While you’re stirring quickly, add the peanuts and eggs.Add the flour, milk (or soy milk), orange peel, orange juice, baking powder and chocolate chips and stir until completely mixed.Pour into a pan that is greased or lined with baking paper and spread to the edges. Take spoonfuls of peanut butter, and with a second spoon, drop them onto the brownie mixture at intervals and push them down into the brownie.Bake in a preheated oven at 180° for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely.Sprinkle with powdered sugar or ground roasted peanuts.Cut into squares with a sharp knife and store in an airtight container or place in cupcake holders.SPELT BROWNIES WITH COCONUT Use a 27-cm. by 33-cm. pan.■ 200 gr. bittersweet chocolate, broken into squares ■ 150 gr. solid coconut oil ■ 1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped ■ ½ cup golden brown sugar■ ½ cup dark brown sugar■ 3 eggs■ 1 egg white■ 1 cup spelt flour, sifted■ 1 tsp. baking powder ■ 1 Tbsp. toasted coconut flakes ■ 1 tsp. vanilla extract■ ½ cup almond milk■ ½ cup chocolate chips, or chopped white chocolate, or 3-4 candy bars chopped up into pieces Topping: ■ ½ cup powdered sugar Preparation: Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil in a bowl in the microwave or in a pot over a bain-marie. Stir while the mixture is heating and remove from heat when smooth. While stirring quickly, add the pecan pieces, sugar, eggs and extra egg white.Next, add the spelt flour, baking powder, coconut flakes and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Add the almond milk while stirring. Pour into a pan that is greased or lined with baking paper and spread to the edges.Bake in a preheated oven at 180° for 25 minutes. Cool completely. Cut into 5-cm. by 5-cm. squares with a sharp knife and store in an airtight container or place in cupcake holders. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.