The Great Brownie Debate

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I love brownies. They are most definitely my favorite dessert. And it doesn’t need to be fancy or dressed up. No frosting or nuts, no chocolate chips or fillings are necessary to make me happy. A simple, fudge-y, almost homely square of brownie with a glass of cold milk is heaven on earth!

I have been using the same brownie recipe for years and years. It’s super fast and easy, made with readily available ingredients, and absolutely delicious! Yet, for some reason, the hubster thought we needed a change. He’d heard of a brownie recipe that was being raved about by none other than Oprah, among many more. Apparently, it was considered “The Best Brownie Ever.” You may have heard of it. It’s called The Baked Brownie. I’ve never heard of it before, but it’s all over the blogging world. Everyone seems to have tried it, so HRH thinks I should see what the big deal is.

Now, I’m not gonna lie, I was a little offended. I mean, seriously? You want me to make this other brownie?? You don’t like my brownie?? He saved himself by suggesting that he was merely speaking from the desire to add to the blog. He implied that it would be a good experiment to try out new recipes of old favorites so that I could truly share the best with all of you. I conceded that this made sense. Sneaky, isn’t he?

Well, I made this new fangled brownie, and before I get into the recipe, and my opinion of it, let me just say that I didn’t like it long before I tasted it. I really did try to be open minded, but I failed miserably.

First of all, the recipe requires 11 ounces of bittersweet chocolate. That’s a lot, and if you don’t already know this, let me tell you that bittersweet chocolate isn’t exactly cheap. But this recipe doesn’t just call for bittersweet chocolate, it calls for “high end” bittersweet chocolate (specifically Valrhona). So I gritted my teeth and headed off to Whole Foods so that I could stick to the recipe as closely as possible to get the best results…and spent almost 20 dollars on the chocolate alone.

The second thing about this recipe that already had me turned off before I even baked them (or tasted them) is the fact that it’s complicated. Well…okay, it’s not complicated, really. It’s just complicated compared to my usual recipe which is so wonderfully easy. Let’s get to the recipes and you’ll see what I mean.

The new brownies require bittersweet chocolate (chopped roughly), instant espresso powder, salt, unsalted butter (cut into pieces), sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, eggs, and flour. Oh yeah, and brown sugar. There have been a lot of single ingredients sneaking off my chopping block lately.

To get started, sift the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl and set aside. Next, combine the chopped chocolate, espresso powder, and butter in the top of a double boiler, or in a large bowl set over a pot filled with a couple of inches of barely simmering water. Stir the mixture until everything is melted and completely smooth, then turn off the burner and thoroughly mix in the sugars.

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in three of the eggs completely, then whisk in the final two eggs. Once it’s all combined, pour the flour mixture on top of the chocolate mixture and fold the ingredients together using a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into a buttered 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Now, you’ll notice that you dirtied quite a few dishes here: a cutting board and knife while chopping the chocolate, a medium bowl for the flour mixture, a large bowl for the chocolate mixture, and the actual baking dish for the brownies, plus all of the utensils. Now, I know this isn’t a big deal, and I know that I’ve posted far more complicated recipes that use just as many, if not more, dishes, but this just irritates me because…well…let me show you.

These are the ingredients necessary for my brownies: unsalted butter, salt, baking soda, cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, flour, and sugar.

And these are the only dishes you’ll need: A medium saucepan and an 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish.

Furthermore, check out these simple directions: In the medium saucepan, melt the butter (or you can melt it in the microwave in a medium, microwave safe, bowl). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar. One at a time, add the eggs and whisk thoroughly after each addition to combine, stir in the vanilla. Add all of the dry ingredients and whisk until well combined. Grease and flour the 8 x 8 pan and pour the batter into the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.

A lot easier, huh? And a bit cleaner.

But how do they compare taste-wise?

 

Here is the “new” brownie. I have to admit that it baked up very nice and was really easy to remove from the pan. It has a really lovely crisp crust on top. It appears to be nice and dense, like a brownie should be, rather than caky. So maybe it has some potential.

Here is my brownie. The crust is a little lighter and it doesn’t have all the little bumps in it that the other brownie has, which I kind of like. However, the crust also isn’t quite as crisp. It has a little bit of a crisp to it, but not like the other brownie does. I also like the subtle swirl texture that my brownie has on top. I don’t know what causes that, but it’s always there, and I like it!

Now for taste… This new brownie is definitely very tasty. It isn’t dry and crumbly or light and airy. It meets all of my personal criteria for a true brownie (moist, dense, fudgy). It has a much darker flavor than my usual brownie recipe, though, and I’ve never been a fan of dark chocolate.

I think, in a way, my brownie isn’t quite as attractive as the new brownie is. What it lacks in looks, it makes up for in flavor, though! This one is slightly sweeter, and has a stronger chocolate flavor, in my opinion. You’ll also notice that it has a tighter crumb than the other brownie (there are less holes in the brownie).

Which one is better then? Well, it’s all a matter of opinion. I still prefer mine. And guess what? So does the hubster. The new recipe was just a little too dry and the flavor too dark for us. It has a wonderful crust, though, and I did think it tasted better the second day than it did the first, except that it was even dryer by then.

What it really comes down to is whether you want a darker chocolate flavor in your brownie, or do you want something a little closer to a milk chocolate flavor? Since that’s purely a matter of personal taste, here’s both recipes! Pick the one you think you’ll like the most and give it a shot! Or try both! Either way, enjoy!!

New Fangled Brownies
Makes 1 – 9 x 13 inch pan
Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60-72% cacao), coursely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 inch glass baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together; set aside.

Place the chocolate, butter, and espresso powder in a large bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars, whisking until completely combined. Remove the bowl from the pan (allow the mixture to cool to room temperature if it isn’t already).

Add 3 of the eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined, then add the last 2 eggs and whisk until combined. Stir in the vanilla until combined. The original recipe warns “Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.”

Sprinkle the flour mixture on top of the chocolate mixture. Fold the flour mixture into the chocolate with a rubber spatula until just mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely before serving.

adapted from The Baked Brownie, which is from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

OR…

My Favorite Brownies [Printable Version]
Makes 1 – 8 x 8 inch pan
Ingredients

1/2 cup (50 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (64 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour and 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa, flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in the sugar until combined.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Whisk in the dry ingredients until combined and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Allow brownies to cool completely before serving.

Recipe by Darla

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Comments

  1. bttrflybabydoll says

    Brownies have always been my favorite dessert. I remember the brownies from Flakey Jake's restaurant. Those have always stood out in my mind as the best brownies ever. I was a kid then though, and the restaurant is gone so I can't taste them again. :(

    I definitely prefer fudgy to a more cake like brownie, and I LOVE frosting on my brownies! It's funny because I'm not a big fan of frosting on cake. I love it on brownies though!

    Also, I have a serious dislike for dark chocolate! I want nothing to do with it. Ever! My husband likes it though so I make things every once in awhile for him that have dark chocolate.

    I can't see myself spending $20 on chocolate. That's a nice chunk of my grocery budget for a week.

    Thanks for biting the bullet and trying it for us. Now I don't have to wonder what the fuss is all about!

  2. Sugarbear says

    The hubster wants to have cream cheese frosting on the next batch of brownies… I'm not a big fan, but I guess I could spare a couple of them to frost for him!! ;)

  3. Anonymous says

    Thanks for the brownie recipe! I've been looking for a good, easy home-made one and now I have one. I'll be trying your recipe in the very near future. :-)

  4. says

    Like you, I am generally skeptical of brownie recipes that are overly complicated and use a lot of ingredients. I like my brownies dense, fudgy and simple. Loved this post and your experiment! I tried one that used browned butter. The result? Meh. Because of the strong chocolate taste, you really couldn’t get the browned butter flavor anyway.

  5. GothicSoprano says

    I’m with you on the brownie thing. Dense, moist, fudgy. That other “thing” is far too complicated. (and I think yours are actually prettier) I do have a favorite “dump & stir” brownie recipe from The Family Baker, but I’m always up for more brownies, and yours are next. I have yet to make anything of yours that isn’t ridiculously tasty.

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