You guys, I have been trying for a long time now to come up with the best brownies. I have tested all of the celebrated brownie recipes my little heart could handle, and I found promise in some, but not perfection. I have compared to box mixes. I have compared to bakery brownies. I have talked to my friends to get their recipes. I have become full-on brownie obsessed for months.
While my chocolate consumption skyrocketed (yay, chocolate!), batch after batch of not-quite-there brownies got me a little bummed. That is, until the day I had enough– I would spend the whole day (it wound up being 20 hours) coming up with brownie recipes and testing every tweak humanly possible until I reached the best brownies to ever exist. And while that’s a bold claim and perhaps a pompous one, I am going to stick to it. I think I did it, and I’m going to tell you how.
You might be thinking, “People have different tastes. I might not like the same brownies you do.” Fair enough. I feel that the perfect brownies must meet all of these criteria:
- The perfect brownie must taste strongly of chocolate, above all else
- … be rich, dense, and fudgy, but still have structure and chewiness
- … be moist without being underbaked (underbaked brownies does not a great brownie recipe make!)
- … take an hour or less to prepare (or else I’m going to revert to boxed mixes, let’s be honest)
If you agree, then welcome, my friend. If not, then that’s fine too. More for me.
Let’s talk about this “taste strongly of chocolate” thing. You might be saying, “Duh, Morgan, all brownies taste like chocolate!” but I’m talking real, rich, quality chocolate. Guess what you need to add to your brownies to get them to taste like that? Real, rich, quality chocolate.
Technically speaking, cocoa powder has a stronger chocolate flavor than bar chocolate, but it lacks cocoa butter, which gives richness, creaminess, and silkiness to the chocolate. When using just cocoa powder, more butter or oil must be used in the recipe to make up for the lack of fat, but these get gooey at room temperature. This means that either the brownies completely fall apart into a gooey mess when served at room temp, or they use less fat to prevent it and are therefore less rich. Cocoa butter, on the other hand, is solid at room temperature but liquid at human body temperature, meaning that it allows the brownies to have fudge-like structure but literally melt in your mouth.
I experimented with types of chocolate (dark, semi-sweet, milk, and white), and I found that a combination of dark and semi-sweet chocolates resulted in the best flavor– not overly bitter, but not cloyingly sweet. I tried a variety of baking chocolates and found that Ghirardelli worked the best, with Lindt following closely behind. Baker’s was not too far off, but Hershey’s was not impressive at all. The quality of the chocolate made a big difference, so don’t skimp!
Also, chocolate chips have stabilizers to prevent them from getting overly gooey. For this reason, they’re great to fold in at the end to get some studded chocolate in the final brownies, but not to use for creating the batter.
Now despite all that I just said, cocoa powder does have its merits. In small quantities, it boosts the chocolate flavor without taking away from the texture of the brownies. I add a bit of Dutch process cocoa to my brownies for extra depth. I also enhance the chocolate flavor even more with non-chocolate ingredients! (Say what?!) Vanilla extract, salt, and coffee granules, believe it or not, make the chocolate taste even more deeply chocolatey. They all are known amplify the naturally occurring flavors in chocolate to make them shine through even more in the finished product. Just a tiny bit makes a big difference.
Since we’ve got the chocolate flavor figured out, let’s go back to the texture. Richness and moistness are two important characteristics of brownies, so our ingredients need to reflect that. While most brownie recipes call for white sugar, I found that replacing half of the white sugar with brown sugar made the brownies more moist. An extra egg yolk also helps lock in moisture, add stability, create a creamier final product due to its emulsifying quality, and allows us to use less flour which reduces the cakiness of the final product.
But how do we get it all to come together? A lot of people would tell you to use a double broiler to melt the chocolate and separate bowls for the dry and wet ingredients, but it’s not necessary at all. It’s really just a pain in the butt that requires more cleaning and more time. Instead, I melt the chocolate in the microwave with the butter, which results in just as smooth of a batter base and is leagues easier! Then, the remaining ingredients get mixed and folded in, and then it’s all ready to be baked. No fuss required. You won’t ever want to go back to boxed mixes again!
My family has happily proclaimed these to be the best brownies we’ve ever had, and I have to agree. Try them for yourself and see! Make sure to take a photo of your brownies and tag #hostthetoast on Instagram and/or Twitter so I can check them out, while you’re at it!
- 4 oz 70% dark chocolate, chopped
- 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ¾ tsp coffee granules
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 whole large eggs + 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon dutch process cocoa
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8" baking dish with parchment paper
- In a large, microwave safe bowl, combine the dark and semi-sweet chocolate, the butter, and the coffee granules. Cover loosely and microwave 30 seconds, then stir, and then microwave from 15 more seconds to melt the butter and chocolate entirely. Stir in the sugars until completely dissolved and then let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- Once cooled, mix in the eggs. Then fold in the flour, dutch process cocoa, salt, and vanilla extract. fold in until just incorporated. There should be no white chunks or streaks left, but be sure not to overmix. Fold in ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, about 28-30 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan. Remove the brownies from the pan by lifting out the parchment paper and cut into squares before serving.
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