How to Make Better Brownies

How to Make Better Brownies

Mar 10, 2023Dennis Weaver
This is an article to help you make your brownies mixes better.  Often the key is adding more cocoa. But if you do, you may need to balance your ingredients. This article will tell you have to do so. We'll also tell you how to morph your brownies into more scrumptious desserts.

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How much chocolate is too much chocolate?


There are two keys to better brownies and chocolate cakes. The first is straightforward. The second, is not so much.

First, use better cocoa.  I mean better than the cocoa you'll find in the grocery stores. Grocery stores compete on price. You're not likely to find really good cocoa in your grocery store.

The second key is use more cocoa. People love chocolate. Most recipes don't call for enough. But you can't just add cocoa. You have to maintain a balance.
Once upon a time, we tried to answer that. We went to big name sites, like Martha Stewart, and Better Homes and Gardens and analyzed their recipes: how much chocolate are they using? 

They were all over the map. Some had 20%; some had nearly 50%. There was no "right answer."

So, we tried to find our own answer.

Our Search for Just the Right Amount of Chocolate

In preparation for a baking class one evening, we made batch after batch of brownies, each with more cocoa than the one before. That evening, we cut them into bite-sized brownies and passed them around, a batch at a time.

After each batch, we asked the class who thought they were chocolatey enough who thought they needed more.  Initially, nearly everyone thought that they needed more chocolate.

As the brownies became more chocolatey with more cocoa, the majority dwindled. But it was really hard to satiate that class. They liked a ridiculous amount of chocolate. But we were using very good, imported European cocoa.

This is the final recipe that we used in that class:

brownie

The Ultimate Chocolate Brownies

We recommend Ramstadt Breda Rich Dark Cocoa or Belcolade Dark Cocoa. Be sure that your cocoa has a high cocoa butter content.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Ramstadt Breda Rich Dark Cocoa with 22/24 cocoa butter cocoa or equal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups walnut pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. You will need a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, two mixing bowls—one of them medium or large, and a whisk. The larger bowl should be microwave safe to save you a step. We recommend using parchment paper.
  2. Grease the pan with a little shortening and line it with parchment paper. The shortening will hold the paper in place. Set aside.
  3. In the smaller of the two bowls, whisk the cocoa and flour together to break up any clumps and disperse the cocoa. Set aside.
  4. In the larger of the two bowls, melt the butter in the microwave. Add the sugar and the salt and stir. Add the eggs and the vanilla and stir until mixed.
  5. Add the cocoa and flour mixture to the liquid mixture. Stir until combined. Add the chopped nuts and stir.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan with a spatula and spread the batter evenly. Bake for 25 minutes in a dark pan or until the toothpick comes out fairly clean but with some batter on it.
  7. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool for five minutes then, grasping the edge of parchment paper and tipping the pan up over a wire rack, pull the cake onto the wire rack. Let cool for at least another five minutes and then slip the cake onto a cutting board for slicing.

How to Customize your Chocolate Recipes

Merri Ann and I are both chocoholics but our tastes in chocolate vary. I like deep chocolate but it needs to be sweet chocolate. She can handle bitter chocolate. And I like chocolate —but it has to be sweet enough.
You can customize our chocolate recipes, changing chocolate or adding more chocolate or adjusting the sweetness. Here's how you do it:

1. Choose your cocoa.

There is really good cocoa and then there is just cocoa. The difference is amazing. We have never found really good cocoa that didn't have at least twice the cocoa butter found in the store.

Store cocoa has 8-10% cocoa butter. Our milk chocolate (medium) has 16-18%. Our dark cocoas have 22-24% cocoa butter!

Check the reviews. It makes a dramatic difference in everything you bake.




Both dark cocoas are rich and dark. The medium dark is more like milk chocolate but it’s still richer than most milk chocolates.

2. If it needs more chocolate, add more.

Add more chocolate. Most recipes can handle more chocolate if your cocoa is good enough. We did a survey of reputable recipes and found them to have from 11% cocoa to 38% cocoa.

Because cocoa contains starch, it absorbs moisture. Consequently, when you add cocoa to a recipe, you must reduce the flour. Reduce the amount of flour by 1/3 cup for each 1/2 cup of cocoa.

3. Adjust the sugar

Sugar is a powerful ingredient. It doesn't take much to alter the taste of your dessert whether you choose to use more or less. And it disperses well. The liquid in your batter melts the sugar and it doesn't take much stirring to disperse the melted sugar through the batter.

You can add more sugar but you can't take it out. If you think you're going to want the brownie or other dessert to be less sweet, short the sugar in the recipe before starting.  

Taste the batter.  If it tastes about right, go ahead and bake it.  If it's not sweet enough, add more sugar.

Sugar acts as a liquid in your recipe. Liquid dissolves it. Heat melts it.  Usually the change in liquid in your recipe is slight enough that the change in the final product is not consequential.  If the difference in sugar is substantial, you may need to add more dry ingredient, cocoa or flour, or liquid.  But again, the change in the amount of sugar is usually not consequential.

Cheesecake Brownies

What else can you make with brownies?

 A brownie is not always just a brownie. You can morph your mix or recipe into something more. In the image above, we morphed a brownie mix into scrumptious cheesecake brownies.

In this article, we brownies into seven different delightful desserts: Seven Fabulous Desserts You Can Make with Your Brownie Mix or Recipe. 

 

cocoa

Favorite Chocolate Goodies

Legendary Flourless Chocolate Cake

This is the same as the fabulous desserts served in fine restaurants! And it really doesn’t have any flour. But it’s made a in a facility that uses flour and so there is little flour dust in the air but with no flour added. Merri Ann is gluten free and she can eat this cake.

Double Chocolate Fudgy Cookies

These are moist and chewy, almost like a brownie. They’re deep chocolate with lots of dark cocoa but sweet enough that they are rich and smooth and loaded with plenty of chocolate chips.

Cranberry Fudge Healthy Cookies

It's made with whole-grain flour, a mixture of rolled grains (including rolled oats), and our best cocoa. It's loaded with cranberries so there's less sugar. Much of the sweetness comes from the cranberries, not from sugar. And he combination of cranberries and chocolate tastes great.

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