"Everyone loves brownies," write Joan Steuer and Rick Rodgers in their new cookbook, "Best-Ever Brownies" (Contemporary Books; $7.95 softcover).

"We define the `best-ever brownie' as moist and rich with pronounced deep chocolate flavor," they say. "It is dense and fudgy in the center, but never wet. The edges are chewy, but never dry. The brownie has a slightly shiny top with few, if any, cracks."The origin of the brownie is uncertain, the authors say. Most cookbooks favor the theory that the brownie was named for its characteristic deep-brown color. However, one of the earliest brownie recipes ever written appears in the original 1896 version of the "Fanny Farmer Cookbook" - and doesn't contain a trace of chocolate!

Steuer and Rodgers offer up 76 recipes, including Traditional Fudgy Brownies, Chocolate-Chocolate Brownie Chunk Cheesecake and Brownie Muffins, with tips on baking, decorating brownies and handling chocolate.

Holiday gift-giving ideas include Lemon White Brownie Diamonds, Hazelnut Praline Crunch and Cranberry Holiday Brownie Fudge.

Steuer is president of Chocolate Marketing. Rodgers is a food consultant. Their "The Best-Ever" Triple Chocolate Brownies are made wiittersweet for a refined, subtle chocolate flavor.

"Best-ever" Triple Chocolate Brownies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

11/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (one 6-ounce package) Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, tapping out excess flour.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Remove from heat, add unsweetened and bittersweet chocolates; let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Let stand until tepid, about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer set at high speed, beat eggs, brown sugar and corn syrup for 2 minutes until light in color. Add vanilla, then beat in chocolate mixture, just until blended. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour, baking soda and salt, just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake in a 350-degree F oven for 28 to 33 minutes, until a toothpick inserted 1 inch from the side of the pan comes out with a moist crumb. Cool completely on a wire cake rack. Makes 12 brownies.