Monday, February 22, 2010

The Chew Factor: Brownies

What is the single most important indicator of a great brownie? If you ask me, and many other brownie enthusiasts, it's the chew factor. Brownies can be milk or dark chocolate, topped with nuts or peanut butter, but if they are not chewy..... heck I'll eat them anyways, but I wont be happy about it!

What exactly defines a brownie as chewy you ask? Let's begin by defining chewy, Collins English Dictionary defines it as, "of a consistency requiring chewing; somewhat firm and sticky" Let's translate that into brownie language. A chewy brownie is, well, kinda fudgey. It does not crumble when you bite into it like a cakey brownie would. Your should teeth make smooth grooves in a chewy brownie after biting into it since the chewy factor forces particles of the brownie to mold and stick together under pressure like playdough rather than fall apart. If you've had one, you know what I'm talking about. They also have a distinguishing thin, shiny crackly top. The funny thing is that the store bought boxes have seem to monopolized the claim to chewy brownies. There's something about those artificial ingredients that give it that extra chew. Heck the chewiest brownie I had ever had until now were those Little Debbie Fudge Brownies. You know the ones they fed us as children at the school caf.

But this monopoly will not last. We can have homemade chewy brownies! Ones with good chocolate and without preservatives! And thanks to Cooks Illustrated, we can have these without days of postulating formulas and countless errors because they have done the research for us. That's the great thing about CI, they take care of all the hard work. Turns out the key for chewy brownies is using the right combo of two different types of fats: Saturated (solid butter fat) and unsaturated (liquid oil fat). You can read about this and the rest of their findings in the latest Cooks Illustrated (not available online). It is very informative and their final recipe, which follows, is fantastic!

Espresso Chewy Brownies
adapted from Cooks Illustrated


  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate , finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate , cut into 1/2-inch pieces 

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Make a foil sling for a 13x9 baking pan using the following steps: Basically you just lay two separate pieces of foil perpendicular to each other forming a cross over the baking pan. Both pieces should be folded in half so that each piece has two layers and the pan should be completely covered. Fold excess over the side. Spray the whole thing with cooking spray.
  3. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. 
  4. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) 
  5. Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. 
  6. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. 
  7. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. 
  8. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.

Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. 

Look at the beautiful shiny crackly top; I think I can see myself in it!

I wish you could bite into this and experience it's chewiness, but you will have to settle for observing it through this picture. Unless of course you make your own :)

Looks like Little Debbie isn't so great after all. I'm surprised she's not "chewing" her tobacco.... (pause for laughter)

No comments:

Post a Comment