Browniefest part 2: Techniques and Ingredients

In my original post, “Thinking about Brownies“, I gave a list of the recipes I was looking to try, and I ended up doing all but two of them. Since I was going to be taking a week off from work, it was fairly easy to arrange to bake just a couple of different recipes each day, and store the finished, portioned brownies in my freezer. (Or so I thought, anyway — I ended up having to clear out the freezer to make room for brownies, and then put even more in the refrigerator.) I started by analyzing all of the recipes to determine the quantities of various ingredients each would require, which was made unnecessarily difficult by many (especially older) American cookbooks’ insistence on measuring compressible dry ingredients by volume rather than in sensible units. The other bakers were for the most part left to their own devices; they did not report back to me on what ingredients they used or even had to buy. I made a big matrix, with a row for each ingredient and a column for each recipe, although I ran out of room on my 8½x11 paper in both dimensions, and then used that to seed my shopping list. After the first round of shopping, I came home with large quantities of cocoa, chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs, and flour:
Just some of the ingredients purchased for Browniefest 2015
I ended up having to go back to the store several times after running out of eggs, butter, and sugar.


As I mentioned in the previous post, I tried to hold the ingredient brand and type constant while varying the proportions according to the recipe — although of course not every recipe used every ingredient. So nearly all of the recipes that called for “bittersweet” chocolate got TCHO 66% chocolate baking discs, and both of the recipes that used dark brown sugar were made with India Tree dark muscovado.


There are three basic variant brownie-construction procedures:

  1. Melt the butter, sugar, and flavoring together, and let cool, then beat in eggs, stir in dry ingredients, and fold in any other additions (such as nuts).
  2. Melt the butter and flavoring together, and let cool. Beat eggs and sugar together, then fold in chocolate-butter mixture, then fold in dry ingredients and any other additions (such as nuts).
  3. Bloom cocoa and other flavorings in boiling water, then emulsify with liquid fat(s) and eggs; mix with sugar and then fold in dry ingredients just until combined.

Many of the recipes call for doing the melting in a double boiler; with two exceptions I felt entirely free to use the microwave instead. Several of the recipes gave explicit microwave chocolate-melting instructions. Alice Medrich, in explanatory matter but not in her actual recipes, suggests refrigerating brownie batter in the pan for as long as two days for “a crustier surface”; this follows common advice for cookie batters.

Index of related posts

I’ll update this page with links to the posts as they are published.

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