SERIOUS brownie points

Pizza. Spaghetti and meatballs. Cinnamon toast. Fried rice. Brownies.

What do these apparently random dishes all have in common?

They’re on my personal list of Foods I’ll Never Grow Tired Of.

I could eat any of these foods every day, any time of the day. Fried rice for breakfast? Done that. Cinnamon toast with the 11 p.m. news? Comfort, baby. Spaghetti and meatballs (pizza on the side) after church on Sunday? It doesn’t get any better.

And brownies. If I had to pick just one dessert to accompany me throughout eternity, it might just be brownies.

Not just any brownies, mind you. The brownies you’ll read about below. The ones I actually created myself, after years of fooling around with various recipes.

I’m under no illusion that these brownies are some momentous discovery, some miracle of culinary research akin to Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine. In fact, they’re exquisitely similar to many, MANY other brownie recipes.

But I’ve added a ”secret ingredient“ here, an amount tweak there, and a dab of technique to make what we here at King Arthur proudly call our Guaranteed Fudge Brownie, the ne plus ultra of brownie-dom—in our humble opinion.

Now, before you get all up in arms over this proclamation, notice that it comes with a disclaimer: These are the Best Brownies in the World IN OUR OPINION. Brownies are like wine, or cheese, or any other greatly beloved food. One man’s white Zinfandel is another man’s Chateau d’Yquem. To each his own Gorgonzola.

Brownies can be fudgy unto completely under-baked gooeyness, or they can masquerade as chocolate cake. They can be bitter enough to provoke a twinge behind the ears, or so sweet you wonder where the chocolate went. There’s the nuts/no nuts controversy. The fans of a pretty, shiny top vs. those who say, “Who cares, so long as it’s chocolate.” In short, to each his own.

But if you like a brownie that’s somewhere between bitter and sweet—call it semisweet; that’s midway between melted fudge and airy cake (we call it “on the fence”); and that, yes, has a GORGEOUS shiny top, a top that flakes off in tiny, delicate shards as you cut it—

Then this is your brownie.

Read our Guaranteed Fudge Brownie recipe as you follow along with these pictures.

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Let’s start with the chocolate. I use cocoa, rather than solid chocolate. I think it makes a richer, darker, tastier brownie. I especially like our Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa, a mixture of “black” cocoa (a super-dark cocoa); and Dutch-process cocoa, which is unsweetened baking cocoa that’s been treated to lower its acidity, letting its lovely flavor shine through.

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Next, the secret ingredient: espresso powder. Don’t tell me you don’t like coffee! You won’t taste any coffee in these brownies. Like vanilla, espresso simply heightens chocolate’s flavor.

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Now, for the lesson in technique. Put 2 sticks of butter and 2 1/4 cups of sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave till the butter melts.

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While the butter is melting, put 4 large eggs in a mixing bowl.

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Add the cocoa, baking powder, espresso powder, salt, and vanilla, mixing till smooth.

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Take the butter/sugar out of the microwave.

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Stir till well combined.

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Then, put it back into the microwave, and heat till the mixture BARELY comes to a bubble, maybe 90 seconds to 2 minutes. You don’t want it to boil, so keep your eye on it. Remove it from the microwave when you see it starting to foam.

Why this extra step of melting the butter with the sugar? Our King Arthur product development director, Sue Gray, taught me this trick. Melting the sugar and butter together allows some of the sugar to migrate to the top of the batter during baking, forming that signature shiny/crackly crust.

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Add the hot butter/sugar to the chocolate mixture in the bowl.

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Stir together, then add the flour.

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Stir to make a smooth batter.

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Decision time: Do you want chocolate chips that show, and add a bit of chunkiness to your brownies? Or do you want the chips to simply melt into a rich smoothness, perfectly amalgamated within the brownie?

For chips that retain their shape and add chunkiness, let the batter cool for about 20 minutes before adding the chips, stirring occasionally to hasten the process. This is a good time to preheat your oven to 350°F, if you haven’t already done so.

For brownies where the chips melt right into the brownie, add them to the hot batter immediately, stirring to combine.

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I prefer my chips to remain evident. This batter rested for 20 minutes before I quickly and gently stirred in the chips. If you beat or stir too long, the batter is still warm enough that the chips will dissolve, so take it easy.

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Line a 9” x 13” pan with parchment, and grease the parchment. Is this necessary, all of you without parchment ask? No. But it sure is nice to be able to remove brownies from the pan intact, without sticking and crumbling.

Scoop the batter into the pan.

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Shake the pan and/or use a spatula to smooth the batter into the corners.

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Bake for 30 minutes. Or 28 minutes. Or however long it takes your 350°F oven to bake the brownies PERFECTLY.

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Translation: A toothpick or cake tester, inserted into the center and poked around a bit, will reveal no unbaked batter—just very moist crumbs. Let me stress: VERY moist crumbs. In my 350°F oven here in the test kitchen, that’s a consistent 30 minutes.

Yes, this doneness test makes a divot in the center of your beautiful pan of brownies. But since you’ll cut them into squares anyway, so what? Save the divoted one for yourself.

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Loosen the edges of the brownies. A baker’s bench knife works well here, though a table knife would also do the job. Let them cool in the pan till they’re lukewarm. Then slice into 2” (more or less) squares, which is four rows lengthwise, and six crosswise: 2 dozen brownies.

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Now, take your bench knife (or a spatula) and insert it between the edge of the pan and the brownies. Lift up.

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The brownies should slide right out, so long as you’ve used parchment.

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See that gorgeous, shiny top? And note the lighter-colored chips evident on the left side of this brownie—that’s the look you’ll get when you wait for the batter to cool before adding the chips.

Serve with cold milk, or a cup of coffee. Heaven…

Carolyn commented below, “Will this recipe work in the Brownie Edge pan?”

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So far, so good.

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Will it overflow?

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Not at all. It’s PERFECT. Just bake about 5 minutes longer, as it makes a slightly thicker (1 1/2”) brownie, with edges on at least two sides. If you like brownie edges, or know someone who does—this pan’s for you. And as Janet (our Web designer and devoted brownie-edge fan) points out, “If you’re lucky you can have a piece with edges on THREE sides.”

Can’t beat that, huh?

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Guaranteed Fudge Brownies.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: The Night Kitchen Bakery, Philadelphia, PA: “Best of Philly” Fudge Brownie, $2.00

Bake at home: Fudge Brownie, 32¢

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Mary

    What type of chocolate chips work best? I have two bags of Guittard chips -extra dark(63% cacao) and semisweet(46% cacao). Thank you! Can’t wait to try these!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Either will work, Mary! It all depends on which chocolate tastes best to you. Of course, you could always do half and half if you love both. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  2. Grace

    Hi! If I melted the sugar and butter in a double boiler would it produce similar results? I don’t own a microwave.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re more than welcome to melt the butter and sugar together on the stovetop rather than in a microwave. The process of melting the butter and sugar together is what produces that lovely, shiny top crust. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  3. Yngellie

    Made this for the first time. Almost made the shiny top! Do i need ko dissolve the sugar with the butter?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Yngellie. The sugar should dissolve in the butter as it warms up, but if it starts to boil before the sugar has completely dissolved, don’t worry about it. Pull it from the heat and stir it for a minute and the remaining crystals should dissolve. Annabelle@KAF

  4. LW

    Hi, I just had the good fortune to visit the KAF cafe in Vermont and had a delicious brownie while I was there. Is this the recipe for the brownies sold in the cafe? Or is it another recipe on your site? Thankyou!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so glad to hear you enjoyed your brownies from our bakery and café! Unfortunately, all of the recipes are considered proprietary and we cannot share them. Like Col. Sanders, we all have to have our little secrets! However, we are happy to suggest the recipe on our website that’s closest to the rich, fudgy brownie you had at our store: Deep-Dark Fudgy Brownies. We hope that helps, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

  5. Tanja

    The last time I baked these, they were perfect. Today I baked them again but didn’t get the shiny top. Could you please tell me what I may have don’t wrong? Thank you in advance. It still tastes really yummy though.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Tanja, it may help to understand what the shiny top is from: dissolved sugar that moves to the top of the batter during the bake and is crystallized (that’s where the shine comes from). It’s all about the melting butter and sugar together; stirring that mixture well helps the sugar to dissolve a little sooner, making it a sure bet that the crust will form. I make these brownies in a large microwave-safe bowl and leave the mixer out of it. Melt the butter and sugar together, stir well, add the cocoa, and stir some more. When the mixture is lukewarm, you can add the eggs one at a time. When I mix the batter this way, I never have a dull top. Give it a try! Susan

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