Brownies—the ultimately rich, decadent, sweet comfort food that brings many of us a sense of nostalgia—either as treats when we finally got home from school or first attempts at baking after our Easy Bake ovens.
Making brownies is supposed to be so darn simple, but many of us who have been cooking for thirty years or more can tell you that the “simple things” can sometimes be the hardest foods to make perfectly.
All brownie recipes consist of the same basic ingredients—flour, fat, chocolate, sugar, and eggs.
Making brownies with a cakey texture differs from making fudgy brownie in both the ingredient list and baking time…which type of brownie you bake is a personal preference.
…let’s walk through each step of making the following fudgy brownie recipe and talk about the differences as we cook…or at least sit on the couch and think about cooking…(while also thinking about doing laundry, right?!)…
1. Prepare to make the brownies…
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Lightly grease a 9″ square pan. Line your baking dish with enough parchment paper so that there’s at least a 1″ overhang on both sides.
- Bring your eggs, milk, and butter all to room temperature before using them. This will result in a smoother, creamier batter.
Ceramic, metal, and enamel pans tend to bake unevenly; so I prefer glass baking pans. Three good options are…
2. Put 1/4 cup unsalted butter and 1/4 cup vegetable oil into a microwave-safe bowl.
Both oil and butter both help create a smoother batter. Butter is the more flavorful choice, but oil is neutral, meaning that it does not noticeably contribute to texture or taste.
Cake-like brownies are usually made with butter because the butter contains milk solids and lactic acid. These react whenever a chemical leavener, like baking powder, is added. this reaction “aerated” the batter, helping it rise.
Cake-like brownies most likely involve creaming butter and sugar together…and have a higher ratio of dry ingredients as compared to chocolate and butter.
Fudgy brownies usually contain oil.
Many brownie recipes call for a blend of the two—oil for tenderness, butter for flavor.
3. Chop 8 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate bar into big chunks.
Place in a medium, heat-safe bowl over a small pot of simmering water.
Heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is fully melted and combined. Let the chocolate melt slowly.
Let the melted chocolate cool slightly before adding the remaining ingredients. Adding just-melted, very hot chocolate to your batter will cook and scramble the eggs…and potentially burn the chocolate.
Use chocolate that you would actually enjoy eating on its own. Do not skimp for an inferior chocolate…or grab the first chocolate that you happen to see.
Cake-like brownies are made with cocoa powder. Using cocoa will make your brownies super chocolatey, but definitely drier. Cocoa powder acts similar to flour. In fact, most recipes that call for cocoa powder require less flour to prevent the brownies from being too dry.
Fudgy brownies are made with melted chocolate. Melted chocolate is liquid and provides moisture and gooeyness….obviously.
4. Add 2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar.
Cake-like brownies that contain cocoa powder need more sugar than brownies made with melted chocolate.
Fudgy brownies contain a higher sugar ratio as compared to the other ingredients. Brown sugar especially produces softer, chewier brownies.
5. Add 3 eggs. Lightly whisk eggs before adding. Add the eggs gradually, mixing fully to incorporate before adding the next egg.
A leavener is typically added to batter or dough to help lighten the texture and increase the volume of baked goods.
When mixed with a liquid, these leaveners form carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which cause the batter or dough to rise before and during the baking process.
Baking powder, baking soda and yeast are the most common leaveners used today. Eggs are actually a leavener also…(hey, I just learned something new)…
Cake-like brownies use additional “chemical leaveners,” such as baking soda, to produce a cakier crumb.
Fudgy brownies have the highest ratio of egg in the batter. The fudgier of Fudgy brownies use only egg yolks, or a higher ratio of egg yolks to whole eggs.
6. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and any other mix-ins.
Brownies can be flavored with just about anything—nuts, cocoa nibs, chocolate chunks, candy, jam, peanut butter, cream cheese, caramel.
But the best brownies are the simplest.
Mix-ins should enhance the chocolate flavor, not hide it.
That being said, plan for 1/2 to 3/4 cup of any mix-in per standard 9″ pan.
7. Add 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Beat well to ensure there are no flour pockets, but do not overmix.
Cake-like brownies contain more flour than fudgy brownies.
Fudgy brownies contain less flour than fudgy brownies.
8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
Begin checking your brownies, using the century old toothpick method, ten minutes before the earliest cooking time and then again five minutes later.
When you insert a toothpick into the center of the brownies to check for doneness, you are looking for moist, clumpy crumbs to stick to the toothpick.
If deliciously gooey batter sticks to the toothpick, your brownies are not ready. Lick the toothpick and let your brownies cook some more.
If you stick your toothpick into the center and nothing comes out, your brownies are over-baked.
Brownies will continue to cook quite a bit even after you take them out of the oven.
9. Cool brownies completely before slicing.
Benefits of letting the brownies cool completely before slicing…
- They will continue to set as they cool down.
- They will develop more flavor.
- They will be easier to slice.
- They will come out of the pan much easier.
(Never have made it through this last step for some reason)…