The Science Behind the Perfect Brownie
Kitchen Conundrums with Thomas Joseph
Conundrum – a confusing or difficult problem
Hey, everybody. Thomas Joseph here.
Now, everybody loves brownies. But, everybody also has a preference when it comes to brownies, whether they like them fudgy like this version here, or cakey like this one here. So, let me show you how to do that.
There are five basic ingredients in a brownie batter: chocolate, butter, flour, sugar and eggs. But, if you play with the ratio, you are going to end up with a different outcome. So, a fudgy brownie or a cakey brownie.
The ingredients that will change the overall texture are fats – so that is the chocolate and the butter – and also the flour ratio.
So, in a fudgy brownie, you’re going to have more chocolate and more butter than a cakey brownie. And you’re going to have less flour than you would in a cakey brownie. And, if you like cakey brownies, you’re going to need a little bit of baking powder for that as well. So, I personally like a fudgy brownie, so I’m going to start with that today.
Into a bowl set over some simmering water I have six ounces of bittersweet chocolate. If you’re making your cakey brownie, that would be four ounces of chocolate, so a little less. And I’m going to add a stick of unsalted butter, right into the bowl. Now, if you were doing your cakey brownie, you would only use a half a stick of butter here. So, this is going to melt together until it’s nicely combined. And then we are going to add the rest of the ingredients.
So, our chocolate and butter mixture is melted and combined. And I’m going to remove it from the heat. And you want to make sure that you wipe off any condensation that collects on the bottom of the bowl. You don’t want to incorporate that into your chocolate, because it will make your chocolate seize. And to this I’m going to add the sugar. If you wanted a chewy brownie – a lot of people like chewy brownies – you can add brown sugar, but today I’m adding granulated sugar. And this is one and-a-half cups. And this is one of the core ingredients that does not change.
So, I’m just going to gently stream (Note: stream is an odd word in this sentence.) this in while I’m whisking, so that it melts into the hot chocolate and butter mixture. It helps to cool the chocolate mixture down a little bit before we add the eggs. This is another ingredient that’s going to stay the same whether you’re making a fudgy or a cakey brownie. So, we’ll drop your eggs into the chocolate, one egg at a time. Make sure it’s nicely combined before you add the next.
This is one of my favorite brownie recipes, not only because I like fudgy brownies, but also because you make this in one bowl, and that’s it. You don’t need a stand mixer for this recipe. It’s really easy and light on the mess.
So there’s the third egg. So, now for extra chocolate flavor a quarter of a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder. And Dutch processed cocoa powder is really great here because it gives you that wonderful chocolatey flavor and a really dark, dark color. Now natural cocoa powders give you more of a red chocolatey color in your brownies. So, a little bit of salt here to bring out the flavor.
And now I’m going to switch to a rubber scraper here, and I’m going to fold in the last ingredient, and that is the flour. So, for a fudgy brownie, I’m using less flour. So, that’s a half a cup plus two tablespoons of all-purpose flour. But, if you wanted cakey brownies, you would use almost three times as much flour. So that’s one and-a-half cups of flour. So, gently fold this in. Make sure that you scrape down the sides here, because you want to make sure that you don’t have any flour pockets or streaking in your batter. And this now would be the point where you can add in mix-ins. So, if you want walnuts, if you want pecans, if you wanted some chocolate chunks, you can add that at this point as well. But, I’m just going to do straight up brownies today. I have an 8×8 inch square cake pan here. And I’ve done my little trick which I love. It is lining with parchment (paper), buttering in between, so that the parchment sticks to itself, and this makes it easy to pop the brownies right out of the pan.
So, make sure your oven is preheated to 350°. And for the fudgy brownie that I’m making today, it takes about 35-40 minutes. But, if you were making the cakey version, it only takes about 30 minutes. So, set your timer.
Our brownies are baked. Make sure that you cool them before cutting them. And now you should be able to lift it in one piece. And now for cutting. A little bit of hot water. Make sure you wipe off the hot water. And this brownie recipe gets cut into nine squares. And just wipe you knife off in between cuts. I like to use a very thin blade. A carving knife would be really great.
And this crackly surface, it’s all dependent on how much you beat the batter after you add the eggs, because you are creating some volume. And that volume translates into the baked good with this papery top. So there you have it, fudgy brownies or cakey brownies.
Kitchen conundrum solved. Enjoy!