Saturday, 21 February 2009

Brownies Rediscovery

My boys don't see eye to eye on most things. Brownies are just about the few things that they share a common view. It is also the only thing that both would crave for, constantly. They will be very happy if I were to make brownies for them every other day. Both like their brownies dense, fudgy and most importantly, without any nuts!

I like brownies too...both making and eating them :) My first ever bake that I did on my own was a tray of brownies, out of a box of premix (without nuts). He was only 2 and half years old when my elder son tried my first homemade brownies, and it has since been his favourite treat of all time.

Although brownies come in a variety of forms and flavours, they usually come in two textures: fudgy or cake-like. The fudgy type of brownie has got moist and dense interior, and depending on the recipes, can be chewy or gooey. Cake-like brownies are lighter, airy and slightly fluffy.

So how do you know whether a recipe will give a fudgy or cakey brownie? What I have learned so far is that when a recipe calls for a relatively small amount of flour, chances are it will yield fudgy brownies. The other thing that I have noticed is that fudgy brownies are usually made with liquid fat...either oil or melted butter. Most of the time the chocolates are melted with the butter before the rest of the ingredients are added in. The larger amount of sugar vs flour also contributes to the fudgy-ness of the brownies. Due to the high sugar content, a thin crust would form on the surface. I find fudge brownies so easy to make as I would only require a wooden spoon or a spatula and everything can be done with a saucepan.

To get chewy brownies, it will require slightly more flour and usually cocoa powder is used in place of melted chocolates. The proteins in the flour and cocoa powder will give the chewy texture and make the brownies less gooey.

If a brownie recipe calls for creaming the butter with sugar, you will likely get a batch of cake-like brownies. Always use room temperature butter for creaming, that is it has to be soft, but still firm. I read from a cookbook that you can test by pressing your fingertip onto the butter. It should be able to leave an indentation and yet feels firm. You can also gauge by leaving the butter on your counter for 15 - 30mins (depending on the weather) before using it. If the butter is too soft (it will appear very greasy), it will melt even further when beaten, resulting a chewier textured brownie. Chemical leaveners such as baking powder is always used in cake-like brownies to give it a fluffier texture. It is especially important not to over-bake this type of brownies(in fact it applies to all brownies!) otherwise it will dry out and you will end up with a chocolate cake instead. Even after removing from the oven, the brownies will continue to cook for a few minutes from the residual heat. I always under-bake my the toothpick should still have a few moist crumbs cling onto it when you do the doneness test.

I have always been making fudgy brownies. It was only recently that I first attempted a cake-like brownie. I put it right on top of my to-do list the moment I first saw this Chocolate Walnut Brownies recipe from Grace's Kitchen Corner. The recipe uses much less fat and sugar as compared to my usual brownie recipe, and I wasted no time to make a batch for my kids who have been deprived from brownies for months.

I followed the recipe quite closely except that I used brown sugar, and after constant reminders, I omitted the nuts. My kind offer to use pistachios was also turned down flatly. I don't have 100% cocoa powder, all I have is a can of Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa. I guess that's the reason why my brownies were not as dark as Grace's?

I was a little alarmed after I added in the coffee mixture...the batter started to look almost curdled. But there was really no cause for concern, once the flour and cocoa powder is added in, the batter became smooth and thick.

It's always a joy to detect the intense flavor and aroma being released into the air when you are baking a tray of brownies. Although lighter in texture, these cake-like brownies are really delicious. I like the tiny bits of chopped chocolates which did not melt away after baking. My kids were happy to have their cravings satisfied, although the younger fellow requested that the next time I should make him 'those brownies with hard crust' which he is more familiar with.

I prefer fudgy brownies but I would not be able to resist a square of cake-like brownie. So which kind of brownie is your favorite?


Waniliowa Chmurka said...

Oh! It's really delicius cake!:)

Anonymous said...

Dear HHB,
I couldn't help but laugh and grin while I read through today's blog, your kids are so amusing. Being single, I like to bake but do it once in a to watch my weight or else I could eat all in 2-3 days. Anyways I wanted to say thank you for making me smile and to for pointing out the difference between fluffy and fudgy brownies. Infact, I noticed once I modified Bakingbite's version of her zebra cake by using chocolate instead of cocoa that the cake was denser and took longer to bake. By the way, it was while readying her blog that I stumbled unto yours, I think she mentioned your banana chocolate jam recipe.

asieja said...

i love chocolate :-)

Anonymous said...

i really love your stuff and how you always take pics of the entire process! =)

anw it's coz of you that i decided to go hunt down tigger cookie cutters from tokyu hands >_<

and i really wanted to bake cookies with them except i'm wondering if you know how i can bake with self-raising flour instead of normal/all-purpose flour?

coz i'd really wanna bake choc chip cookies or almond cookies with self-raising flour using the cookie cutters, except i dunno how!

help please =)

Cookie said...


I love fudgy brownie without nuts too! Those sold outside are always with nuts... so bo-bian, gotta bake my own.

I enjoy your blog very much!


Angie Chan said...

A very interesting article! I hadnt realised there were different types of brownies before (me = baking novice). I think I've only ever made fudgy ones - though I may well try the cake-like version in future :)

CY said...

My fav brownie would be a triple chocolate brownie, and I actually add in or double the nuts into the recipe! We must be a nutty family!

Happy Homebaker said...

dear all, thank you for all your kind words and encouragements. It always make me happy to start my day reading your comments :D

Hi Ashanti, thanks for finding my kids amusing ;) Yes, chocolate will make a cake desner, and cocoa powder has got most of the 'chocolate fat' content removed, so it is always used in place of chocolate for Low-Fat versions of chocolate cakes or brownies. So if you are want less fat, look for recipes that call for cocoa powder instead of chocolates.

Hi Val, I'm afraid for those cookie cutters, you willl need to use a recipe that is meant for cut-out cookies. If you are referring to choc chip cookies (drop-off type), the cookie dough will be too soft for you to cut out. So far I have only been using that "Pooh cut out cookies" recipe. It is not advisable to use self-raising flour for making cut out cookies as you dont want the cookies to puff out too much...the imprints may not be clear after baking. If you dont have cake flour, you can use plain flour. Hope this helps.

Hi Cookie, it is better to make your own's so much cheaper!!!

Hi Angie, do give it a try, you may like it :)

My kids love nuts too...but not in their brownies!

Anonymous said...

wow you provide alot of insight on brownies. My brownies always fail so that explains why i dont have a brownie entry in my blog yet *what a shame*. will continue to persevere and take tips from you :)

Dunja said...

wow, I like it a lot =) it seems very delicious

Yuri said...

Hey HHB, fudgy brownie for me, definitely otherwise, it would just be chocolate cake, wouldn't it? I baked using your usual brownie recipe and that was lovely!

Sihan said...

definitely the fudgey brownie for me. But pass me a cakey one and i would devour it in seconds as well. haha. what else can i say?

I'm a glutton..

Sara said...

These look amazing! Lately my go-to recipe is from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.

thecoffeesnob said...

It's not hard to see why your boys love brownies- these looks soo good!

Fudgey brownies are definitely more up my alley. The fudgier, the better :D

Kitchen Corner said...

I hope you and your family really enjoy this cake-like brownie. I'm very sure you've done a good job as I could see from the pictures. Although it's not stated 100% cocoa but I think unsweetend cocoa is good enough as long as it's rich enough to make a rich cocoa brownie. Yes, the btter will start a bit curdled but once the flour and cocoa added in, that's not a big deal. Look at your brownies really luring my appetite :P yummy!

Anonymous said...

BTW I forgot to mention, I prefer fudgy brownies and with lots n lots of nutssssss

martina said...

HI HHB, fudgy for mee too (but with nuts!)... I've just found out your brownies (your previous post) call for sunflower oil instead of butter that's what I used to add: I try not to cook brownies too often for the "bad" fat content and for the fact that I love them so much I scoff the whole in a day or two. But now I'll have to try this new recipe and relax enjoying it with a glass of milk! Thanks for this late-because-of-me revelation!!! :-) cheers

Elyse said...

Brownies are a great universal uniter!! I'm with your boys--fudgy and no nuts, please!! The brownies look delicious; right up my alley!!

Anonymous said...

Dear HHB,
I just baked some brownies using your previous recipes. I am wondering if I have bake it the right way.
After 35mins, the top is firm and crusty but when I insert a toothpick, the bottom is still very wet, so I decided to bake longer, I think I bake for at least 20mins more till when I insert the toothpick again, it comes out almost clean.
It rise quite a bit during my extended baking. After I take it out from the oven to cool down, it sink in the centre.
My brownies are quite hard outside.
Did I bake for too long?
Sorry for the long question.
Hope you can advice. Thanks.

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Mayvis, I'm not really sure what happened to your brownies...but I think it could be due to the oven temperature...did you preheat your oven (it usually takes at least 10mins to preheat), is you oven temperature accurate? You'll need an oven theremometer to ensure the temperature is consistent. It seems like you may have baked it at a lower temperature, so when the time is up, the centre is still not cooked...and since u continued to bake it longer, the surface got over baked resulting in a hard crust.

Anonymous said...

Dear HHB,
Thanks for your quick reply.
I did preheat my oven but I don't have a oven thermometer. I think I shall get one.

Anonymous said...

I love fudgey brownies. These look REALLY good!

Aimei said...

I always preder fudgy brownies but guess I don't mind trying this cakey brownie too! Great to try it out using the valrhona cocoa powder I bought recently! Will out in my to-do list! :)

Oleagopoly said...

amazing, i was thinking of doing brownies this weekend and chanced it on your blog... hhaaa... so, fun_with_chocolate is the fudgy recipe right? i prefer fudgy =)

thanks for the fantastic writeup on cake-like and fudgy brownie!! very insightful... and technically fulfilling =) thanks!!

Joseph said...

I would like to know what type of oven and brand do you use. I am using microwave oven right now but plan to buy an oven. No idea what type and brand is better. Price reasonable.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like your boys definitely got it right - brownies with NO NUTS! I hate it when people ruin brownies with walnuts - eww! :P

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Joesph from Penang,
I am using a Tefal table top oven. It is quite small only 21L. I won't reommend it as the temperature is not very stable :(

Joseph said...


Thanks for the comment. Wish you have a pleasant day.

Sarah said...

That looks delicious! I normally like fudgey brownies the best but I woouldn't say no to one of the ones you made!

xox Sarah

sherlyn said...

I love fudgey ones but its too fattening and afraid of the "heat content" since my kids fall sick easily .. so trying to go slow on baking .. but now u made me want to bake one chocolaty one. Any idea if couverture chocolate be used in brownies?

Still the same old comment .. your bakes in those pictures really look professional and tasty. Yum!

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Sherlyn, same here, I find it too 'heaty' that's why I hardly made brownies. I used couverture chocolates...dark unsweetened chocolates about 64% cocoa content for these brownies.

sherlyn said...

Wah, din know that couverture chocolates also has different cocoa content ... you are so good with all things respect to baking.
Now I can choose to use the remainder for this recipe.


Siang Ying said...

hhb, your brownies looks really tempting. i like to give it a try !
thanks for the advices for brownies making. i met with a problem where my brownies does constricted after it stayed cold. izzit the sign of over cook or over mixed??

kindly check over here.

thank you very much ^^

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Siang Ying and Eu Jin,
I am sorry I am not sure what's the reason behind, but most cakes will shrink a little after cooling, some will even pull away from the pan in the oven...which is actually a sign to say that the cake is cooked. I think your brownies look fine to me :)

Anonymous said...

Hi HHB, it's me again!

You know, reading your brownie blog entries inspired me to try making them. =] I'm still experimenting with them! But since you're an experienced brownie maker, I thought maybe you could help me out with a couple of the problems that I've come across.

So far I've only made brownies requiring melted good quality dark chocolate, and maybe a little cocoa. The brownies always turn out quite bitter, gooey and dense, as well as lacking height. Is the last problem because the pan I'm using is too big? Looking at your brownies has gotten my cravings going again. =p

- Fai

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Fai, I am no expert in making brownies...I am no expert in baking in general :)
Did you cut down the sugar amount? or could it be the dark chocolates you used have got too high a cocoa content? I think if it is more than 80% the chocolate can taste rather bitter. and yes, always follow the recommended pan size...using a different pan size will affect the baking time and also the height of the brownies.

Leo girl said...

Hi HHB, what an inspiration you are :) Am going to bake my hubby a batch. Because he is a chocolate lover, he is quite fussy about chocolate quality - what brands/types do you recommend?

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Leo girl, do get the best quality chocolate you can afford. I think so far the best are Valrhona chocolates, many food bloggers use them, although I have not bought any Valrhona chocolates. I can only afford baking chocolates from Carrefour (house brand) which has more than 60% cocoa butter, and is about S$5 for 2 x 200g ;)