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story.lead_photo.caption Gooey, chocolate-y fudge brownies. (Dreamstime/TNS)

There's an important question all dessert lovers must answer at some point in their lives: Do you prefer cakey brownies or fudgy brownies?

For me, the answer is simple. I want the fudgiest, gooey-est, most chocolaty brownies I can get my hands on. In fact, if it were up to me, I'd just take a spoon and eat the batter as is. But the CDC tells me that's not exactly safe, so we'll go with the second-best option: Brownies that are fully baked, but still warm and gooey.

These brownies were the very first recipe I learned how to make. And for a while, they were the only thing I made. I've since ventured into making other desserts, but I always come back to my brownies.

I have two secrets for this recipe. The first is adding semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter. It makes the brownies fudgier and you get more chocolate, and when is more chocolate ever a bad thing? Spoiler alert: It's never a bad thing. The second is replacing half the amount of butter with unsweetened applesauce for a healthier twist. I promise you'll never even know it's there.

I'll say this: Baking these brownies is easy. Cutting them up into neat squares is the hard part. I recommend chilling them in the freezer for about two hours before cutting with a plastic knife (I know that sounds weird, but this trick has changed my life).

Whenever I make these brownies, I remember my cardinal rule of cooking: A recipe is only as good as the cleanup process. This recipe only requires a bowl for mixing and a baking dish. The end result is gooey brownies and minimal cleanup. Could you ask for anything better?

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a brownie sundae that's out of this world.

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CHOCOLATE FUDGE BROWNIES

Yield: about 16 brownies.

Adapted from Ghirardelli's Classic Chocolate Brownies

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate baking bar

1/4 cup unsalted butter cut into pieces

1/4 cup canola oil (for a healthier substitute, you can swap the oil for unsweetened applesauce)

1 cup brown sugar, dark or light, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-by-8-inch oven-safe baking dish. In a microwave-safe dish (a 2-cup glass measuring cup works great for this), add your chocolate and butter. Microwave, stirring often, for 1 to 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth. In a large bowl, mix together melted butter, chocolate, vanilla, salt, eggs, baking powder, applesauce, and sugar. Fold in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to baking dish, making sure to lick the spoon clean every now and then. Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes with just a few soft crumbs attached, about 25-30 minutes. Cool completely, then cut into 9 large squares or 16 small squares.

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