Saturday, April 16, 2011

Brownie Experiments

Brownies and a cup of tea.

I needed a brownie fix today, as I'm sure everyone does now and then. My problem is that I don't have any one go-to brownie recipe. I normally just make one up as I go using current ingredients on hand- usually the staples of cocoa powder and vegetable oil among other things (sugar, flour etc.)

What's terrible about this strategy is that it's very hit or miss. I've made fantastic ooey-gooey amazing chocolatey and perfect brownies, but I've also made an awful lot of not so perfect brownies too. Cakey and dry, or tough. So today I thought "If I write down what I do, I'll know how to tweak it for next time."

It's all about being more systematic. I can do this, be systematic, that is. I know because I do it for long term things like wine-making. It's so important for that because by the time you actually taste your experiment you've probably forgotten what you did. John is very faithful about recording what he does with his beers. So today, I wrote down a very basic brownie recipe.

I like brownies on the cheap, brownies on the fast and brownies on the what-I-have-on-hand. Which is almost never baking chocolate or even chocolate chips, for that matter. And butter is waaaaay too pricey for just throwing one or two sticks into a batch of brownies. Not to mention kind of unhealthy. Plus, I rarely have that much butter randomly softened already. I don't want to have to plan ahead for brownie cravings.

This is what I came up with:
Brownies on the Cheap
2/3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water or tea*

Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl add wet ingredients, mix well. Pour into a 9x9 pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350.

Result? Very cakey. Good tasting, but on the dry side. I'm not sure if it was because I over baked them or if it was a lack of something. Maybe another egg? (I hate using more eggs than is necessary. I've seen some brownie recipes use up to 4!) Perhaps a bit more sugar? Maybe less flour? More oil?

I'm going to try this same recipe with one more egg next time. And sometime in the future I'm going to try flax eggs**; make them vegan. I love just seeing how many things I can leave out or change about a recipe to make it vegan or gluten-free. I blame it on being a baker in a health food store for 2 years. I had to come up with stuff like that all the time.

Feel free to use the recipe, tweak it, change it, experiment with it. Tell me what you did and your results. I'd love that! It would be like having my own league of researchers! Despite too-cakeyness of these brownies, I'm definitely going to enjoy them.

*I used caramel black tea. I bet you could get all sorts of creative with the types of tea you use: chai, lavender, fruit could also use milk here.

**to make a flax egg mix one table spoon of ground flax seed with 1/4 cup of boiling or very hot water and allow to sit for a few minutes. The water and seeds will become gelatinous and very eggwhite-ish. Works wonders as a vegan egg replacer in baked goods.


  1. Thanks for the receipe! I have been meaning to cook brownies since I came from Argentina. Most people fon´t know, but they prepare the most exquisit desserts! In all of the Buenos Aires apartments I stayed during my visit there, I had always a cool restaurant that served brownies, and not a single one of them was bad. I returned home with a need to know how to make them, so thanks a lot!

  2. Nikki, You're welcome! Let me know what you think of it and if you end up changing anything!

  3. Have you tried this recipe with another egg yet? They look yummy!! I love brownies! :) When I make brownies I often make a mint icing to go on top. :)

  4. I did try it with another egg and I increased the sugar to one full cup. They turned out quite good that way. Less cakey and more gooey. Mint icing sounds yummy. I frequently put some homemade mint extract in my brownies. Chocolate and mint go very well together!


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