Brownies Made from Scratch
I love brownies; the fudgy chocolately flavor all contained in each piece of brownie topped that thin layer of crispy crust that forms when you bake a brownie. Hot out of the oven, it’s so good, or eaten cool with a glass of milk. It reminds me of my childhood all over again. There’s almost nothing to not like about brownies.
Amazingly, I’d never ever made home-made from scratch brownies before. All of my brownie experiences came from a box, where you dump the mixture into a bowl with some eggs, oil and water, mix it by hand and pour the batter into a brownie pan and bake it. Recently, I wondered how difficult (or easy) it would be to make brownies from scratch and whether or not they’d turn out with that crispy thin crust that is so characteristic of brownies. Turns out, it was easy to make, and sure enough, it had that thin crispy crust I was looking for! Score!
There are basically 2 different types of brownies you can make, a brownie that is more cakey and spongey, or one that is more fudgey and dense. I was looking for my brownie to be more cake-like in substance. Something that would be lighter and airier and wouldn’t be so dense like rich fudge. The recipe I found turned out brownies exactly like I was hoping for.
The ingredients for the brownie consisted of: butter, eggs, flour, vanilla extract, salt, granulated white sugar and chocolate chips. I had looked up a bunch of recipes that called for cocoa powder, which I was all ready to go out and purchase at the grocery store because I had none at home. But then I finally found a recipe that called for chocolate chips instead of cocoa powder and decided to use this recipe instead because I actually had chocolate chips in my pantry.
You need to start by melting the butter and the chocolate chips together. You can do this one of two ways; using the microwave, or doing it over a double boiler. I decided that I’d do it right and melt everything over a double boiler rather than trying to do it in the microwave, which can be inconsistent. Apparently, the key to getting that crispy thin brownie crust comes from this step of properly melting the chocolate and butter together. If this step is skipped and the chocolate and butter don’t have a chance to meld together, your brownie will just rise like a cake and have no crust to it.
I made a double boiler by putting a small amount of water in the bottom of a saucepan. I put the saucepan over medium heat on the stove and allowed the water to heat up. Into the saucepan, I rested a heatproof glass bowl. The bowl fit snugly into the saucepan, allowing the bowl to rest above the level of the water in the pan. The bowl seals off any heat from escaping from the sides of the pan, and concentrates any heat/steam from the boiling water to heat the bottom of the saucepan and therefore melt whatever is in the glass bowl. In this case, I added my sticks of butter and chocolate chips to the glass bowl to combine and melt with the heat of the boiling water.
You want to constantly stir and mix the chocolate and butter together until fully melted. For this recipe, I used mini morsels of chocolate chips rather than regular chocolate chips. I think that using the mini morsels allowed the chocolate to melt faster and more evenly. However, with the butter, I put the entire stick of butter into the glass bowl. With such a large stick of butter, melting it was difficult and time-consuming. When I make brownies again, I would probably cut the butter into chunks so it melts faster and more evenly. Also, room temperature butter would probably work well in this case as well. You want the butter and chocolate chips to melt fully until you have a runny chocolate colored liquid. Once you reach that point, you want to set aside the chocolate mixture to cool off the stove.
Now it’s time to put your stand mixer or hand mixer to work. In the bowl of your mixer, add eggs and sugar. No one said that brownies were low in fat! Mix them together lightly until they become fluffy.
Don’t overbeat the eggs, we’re not making a meringue here. Once the eggs and sugar are combined, add in a pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Turn your mixer back on low and slowly combine.
Now it’s time for the flour. You want to add your flour in batches and slowly use the mixer to incorporate the flour into your egg and sugar mixture. Don’t throw all of the flour into the mixer all at once. You’ll end up a floury mess as flour explodes everywhere all over you, and it also makes it more difficult to fully incorporate the flour into your batter. Slowly add the flour a cup at a time and mix until fully incorporate before adding more flour to the batter.
At this point, you should have something that resembles cake batter, although not quite as runny. Once all the flour has been incorporated into your batter, it’s now time to add your chocolate sauce. The chocolate, which was melted earlier with the butter should now have cooled. You don’t want to pour scalding hot chocolate into your batter or else you’ll be making scrambled eggs from the eggs in your batter. Slowly pour the chocolate sauce into your batter as your mixer continues to go.
You’ll see the rich brown color of the chocolate sauce combine with the yellow batter you’ve made. When the chocolate sauce is fully incorporated with the batter, you should end up with a light brown batter. When you’ve reached that point, you can turn your mixer off. Scrape all the batter off the paddles of the mixer. Ok, I admit, I was bad and instead of scraping all of the batter off the paddles, I kind of gave the whole thing a taste test. Come now, how am I supposed to know how my brownie will turn out if I don’t taste it first?!?
The brownies I ended up making were chocolate chip brownies. So, the recipe called for an addition of chocolate chips into the batter at this point in time. All you need to do is add chocolate chips into the batter and use a spatula to incorporate the chips. Here’s where you could add a little variation. You’re not confined to using chocolate chips. You could use butterscotch chips. White chocolate chips. Chopped walnuts. Anything you want.
I will say, that when I make brownies again, I’d probably do one of several things. These brownies turned out really sweet, so I might be inclined to leave the chocolate chips out. The batter was already chocolately, so more chocolate might not be necessary. I also found that even though I incorporated the chocolate chips into the batter, the chips had a tendency to settle at the bottom of the brownie pan. Therefore, I ended up with a layer of chocolate chips at the bottom of my brownie. Instead of putting the chocolate chips in at this time, I might wait until I’ve already poured the batter into the pan, and then dropped the chocolate chips in so that they didn’t settle as much. Finally, I might try other kinds of chips like peanut butter or butterscotch or white chocolate. When the brownies cooked it really liked like black spots sitting in a chocolate cake. A contrast of colors and flavors may have been better.
Ok, it’s now time to grease a brownie pan. If you want to ensure the brownie doesn’t stick to the pan, you can grease and flour. Remember, this is more of a cake-like batter, so don’t fill the batter to the top of the pan. Give it some room to rise, because it will rise slightly.
Pop the brownie pan into the oven and patiently wait. Remember, don’t peek and open up the oven before it’s time. You don’t want the heat from the oven to escape, and you don’t want your brownies to deflate! That would be awful. It’ll be well worth the wait when the brownies are done!
When time is up, take your brownies out of the oven. Your house will smell heavenly. And when you pop the brownie pan out of the oven, you’ll see what you’ve been hoping for; the crackly thin crispy crust on top of the brownie! You’ve done it. Home-made brownies from scratch. Let the brownies cool for a few minutes before cutting them into squares. Grab a cup of milk and a piece of brownie. Be happy. If that doesn’t remind you of your childhood, I don’t know what will.