Brownies are a fascinating subject. How brownies began and why is amazing enough. I’ve peppered my family with chocolate brownie facts for weeks as I’ve baked and researched and wrote and tested some more. If you are part of the cakey versus fudgy brownie war, you can learn how to tell if a recipe will meet your cakey or fudgy needs right off the bat, just by looking at the ingredients list. Check out the difference between melted chocolate and cocoa powder (and why it matters), plus tips for every part of the brownie baking process, and your brownies will never again disappoint you.
I know it can be intimidating to bake brownies all by yourself for the first time. But that’s why I’ve created this lengthy guide on how to make brownies from scratch. Experienced bakers, feel free to jump around. Click on the banners below to jump sections. Don’t miss the section on melted chocolate versus powdered chocolate. It’s super helpful.
Brownie Fun Facts
Take a look below at these unique facts about brownies:
- Something Sweet Bake Shop (Daphne, Alabama) baked a record-breaking 234.2 pound brownie September 12, 2013. The pan weighed in at a whopping 262 pounds alone. The brownie measured 11’4″ x 5’8″ and made almost 1,200 bars.
- For 2019, 160.3 million Americans did not use a dry brownie mix according to Statista based on the U.S. Census data and Simmons National Consumer Survey (NHCS).
- McGill’s annual a la carte event dished up a giant 4,400 pound brownie to become the World’s Largest Fair Trade Brownie made with certified Fair trade and local products on August 26th, 2014.
- National Brownies at Brunch Month starts in August, so feel free to swap out the fruit plate for a big honkin’ brownie to celebrate.
Are brownies really all that popular or is this a ploy for me to get you in the kitchen? Um, yeah buddy, made-from-scratch brownies win all the things!
National brownie days? Oh, we’ve got national brownie days:
- National Cream Cheese Brownie Day is February 10.
- National Brownie Day is December 8.
- National Butterscotch Brownie Day is May 9.
- National Blonde Brownie Day is January 22.
If you are one of the brownie-mix buying people let me tell you that you don’t need to go that route. The more you bake, the faster you will get. Brownies use pantry staples. Even if this is the only baked good you make, those basic supplies will last you to make multiple batches.
Just imagine having the ability to bake something on your own without having to worry about buying a mix from the store. Last minute bake sale notice? No problem. Need a fun snack in addition to the healthy snack for a sport’s team? Easy. Have a chocolate craving? Done. Rave reviews as you comment on how they are actually homemade? Priceless.
Basic Brownie Questions
Are Brownies Cake?
Not exactly. But in some ways brownies and cake are similar. They have the same sort of shape and sometimes a similar texture. The original brownies were supposed to be smaller cakes, “lady sized,” whatever that means. If you are curious to learn more, you can read all about the unusual and mysterious beginning of the brownie. Trust me, it’s a good read.
But, back to the original question. What is a brownie? A brownie is considered a bar cookie, not a cake.
Bar cookies can be eaten out-of-hand while cakes usually need a fork. Bar cookies, like brownies, are portable, pack well, and have less “mess factor.” Even a frosting-covered brownie holds up well under pressure. There are two categories of brownie: Fudgy and cakey brownies. Some people include a third category, chewy, but that sounds like a slightly overbaked brownie to me.
Can You Make Brownies into Cupcakes?
Brownies are more dense than a cupcake. A lot more dense than a cupcake. Even so, you can put your brownie batter into greased muffin tins or paper liners and make one heck of an amazing treat. Do reduce the baking time because cupcakes take less time to bake than a full brownie pan.
Know, however, that you won’t necessarily end up with brownie cupcakes that puff up and over the top of the liner and have smooth, uncraggy tops. These are brownies, so they will resemble brownies—at least they will if they are true brownie cupcakes and not chocolate brownie cupcake pretenders. They are more, well, pudgy.
Brownies have crackly tops. Your brownie cupcakes will too which may make it hard to frost if you go that route. You could always pipe a swirl of frosting in the middle and top with a few jimmies to make it fancy. Piping is definitely the way to go if you want frosting.
Are Brownies Healthy or Fattening?
Is this a real question? Brownies are made with chocolate and sugar. So, uh, not healthy. By the way, are you the one adding healthy stuff into brownies? Like black beans or zucchini? Is that you?
Brownies are a dessert or a snack. If you are thinking of adding black beans to a brownie recipe to cut the calories and NOT because of a gluten sensitivity…we can’t be friends. I don’t think brownies should have avocados in them. Or applesauce, zucchini, or one of a number of good-for-you foods that don’t belong in junk food.
When I want a brownie, I want a brownie. You can save your healthy stuff for appropriate places, like breakfast, a mid-morning snack, or an after-workout snack.
Note: If you are sneaking things into your brownies, and “everyone loves them” and “no one notices!” Yes, we do. We just don’t want to hurt your feelings. Stop that! Stop that right now. Let’s bake and enjoy a sweet treat for what it is: A sweet treat. It’s not a meal. It’s not an entire pan in one sitting. It’s a treat. #noguilt
If you are pitting brownies, cookies, and cake in the “which is more healthy?” battle, you’re playing a losing game. My idea of healthy, however, will always favor homemade items over boxed mixes. Burn your candles, always use your best plates and platters, and eat the damn brownie. Life is too short to waste on food guilt trips.
How to Save Time Making Brownies
Your brownies have a list of dry ingredients. You know, the flour, sugar, salt, and so on. Those are also the ingredients that do well measured ahead of time.
On a less busy day, pre-measure your dry ingredients for a batch of brownies. Store them in an air-tight container or jar. Do label the jar with the date so you don’t let your dry mix age too long. It will keep for five to six months.
Later, you can mix in the wet ingredients and bake the lot. But, really, you will get faster the more you bake. Keep your baking items within easy reach. The closer your dry goods are together, the better, to cut down on a lot of time-sucking back and forth.
Before You Bake Brownies: Let’s Talk Ingredients
Somehow people have gotten it into their heads that making brownies is so difficult, it’s easier to open a box.
Brownies are one of the easiest sweet treats you can make. You can ditch that preservative-loaded boxed mix for good. Either way, you are still measuring a couple of items, mixing them together, and pouring them into a pan. Homemade brownies work the same way, you’ll just have a few extra things to measure.
If you want to bake up perfect brownies each time, or if you have brownie baking questions, please check it out below.
What Kind of Butter Do You use in Brownies?
If your recipe calls for butter, you should always turn to unsalted butter.
Salted butter contains just that: Salt! It could affect the final flavor and texture of your finished product. Sure, you can try to reduce some of the added salt but if math makes you sleepy (like it does me), you can always use salted butter and see what happens (if you aren’t avoiding salt for health reasons, of course).
Most of the time, you won’t be able to discern a difference. But, every so often, a result may surprise you. It’s worth noting if your finished product seemed to vary from one time to the next (or doesn’t quite taste like your friend’s). To be honest, I use salted butter. I know. That’s so out of line with the whole shiny baking online world. But, salted butter keeps longer than unsalted butter. I don’t like my baking plans thwarted by not having enough butter, and in a time when the grocery store doesn’t always have items in stock, I like knowing I have plenty.
You can swap margarine for the butter, if desired, cup for cup. Butter will provide superior flavor because it has flavor. Ha.
What Can You Use in Brownies Instead of Oil?
Yes, the brownie recipes I share do sometimes include oil. If you need to ditch the oil, you have options. You can use butter or margarine if you must—but do melt it first. I cannot predict how it will affect the flavor of my recipes, though the fats are at least equivalent.
If you insist on using applesauce, yes, you can do that too.
“With only about 15 calories and negligible fat per tablespoon, unsweetened applesauce is a great substitute for oil and allows you to have your brownie and eat it, too,” shares Livestrong.
This article from The Bump offers up a good reminder: “However, if you use only applesauce in the brownies, the lack of fat may make the baked goods taste dry. For the best results, use 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/2 cup oil or other oil substitute for every 1 cup of oil.”
Yes, that goes for coconut oil too.
Some people also use things like mashed banana or avocado, but I am not down with that. Your brownies hate that too. I believe it would mess with the flavor. Gimme my full-fat and full-flavored brownie, please.
A Word About Chocolate
Brownie recipes call for different types of chocolate. Natural unsweetened cocoa powder, melted bittersweet, dark, or semisweet chocolate, and Dutch-process cocoa are common chocolates required in brownie recipes.
Yes, those are a lot of different kinds of chocolate.
(Cocoa powder is chocolate with most of its cocoa butter pressed out, hence its big chocolate punch.)Abigail Johnson Dodge, How to Make Fudgy Brownies, Fine Cooking Issue 105, Accessed June 10, 2021
You no doubt have seen recipes specifying a particular type of cocoa powder. Does it matter what type of cocoa powder you use in brownies? Yes! There is a difference among the cocoa powders, and it extends far beyond brand or packaging.
What is Dutch-Process Cocoa?
Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.Alice Medrich, Best Cocoa Brownies, Epicurious, November 2003
Poetic, but yes. If you’ve eaten brownies as a kid, this could be the flavor you remember. It could be the reason you’re sometimes let down by some recipes and all in with others. Go with it. Maybe take a look below at the science behind swapping cocoa powder.
Dutch-process cocoa powder has undergone a chemical treatment. The whole cacao beans have been washed with an alkaline treatment, usually a potassium carbonate solution.
The result? The acidity in the coco powder has been neutralized. You may see it called alkalized, unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s wordy, but it does appear on a label every so often.
What is Natural Cocoa Powder?
I’ve learned that you know husband still loves you when there are two brownies left and he takes the smaller one.~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Roasted cocoa beans are smashed and ground into the fine powder that is then packaged up to line the shelves of your local grocery store. Natural cocoa powder is just that: Natural, with nothing more than roasted cocoa beans pressed into powder.
Natural Cocoa powder offers up a stronger flavor.
Can You Switch Out Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder for Natural Cocoa Powder and Vice-Versa?
As you may have figured out, you can’t swap out cocoa powder willy nilly. There are rules against that kind of thing. These chocolates behave in particular ways.
Since cocoa powder can be acidic (natural) or neutral (dutched), always stick with the type of cocoa called for in that recipe. Using the wrong cocoa can result in a flat cake, bitter soapy flavor, sunken cupcakes, etc. If you’re in a bind, you can use natural cocoa powder for dutch-process. But do not use dutch-process for natural! The recipe likely needs that acid.Sally McKenney, Dutch-process Vs Natural Cocoa Powder, Sally’s Baking Addiction, August 26, 2015
You can use either type of cocoa powder in recipes that do not include baking soda or baking powder. Again, your brownies need that leavener paired with the natural cocoa powder to work their magic. When a recipe lacks a leavener, it doesn’t matter what kind you choose. You can go by your taste preference and what you have in your pantry.
Repeat after me, “Baking is a science.” You have to follow the basic rules to ensure the best possible result. Otherwise, you will ugly cry over ugly cake.
What if Your Box of Cocoa Powder Doesn’t Specify if it is Natural or Dutch-Processed?
It’s safe to assume the cocoa powder is natural cocoa powder if the box doesn’t specify the type of cocoa powder. Think: Hershey’s, Nestle, and Ghirardelli. Choose your favorite type of cocoa powder. There are a slew of different kinds available. Experiment, jot down your notes in your cookbooks, ply baked goods on your test subjects, and see what you and yours think are the best.
What Brand of Cocoa Powder Do You Prefer?
We all have different tastes.
Cocoas within each style can vary wildly in flavor depending on the type of cocoa bean used, where it was grown, its quality, how long it was fermented, how darkly it was roasted, and how much of its fat was removed (and, in Dutch styles, the specific degree of alkalization). That means that the flavor, color, fat content, and pH of any cocoa powder will vary from brand to brand and style to style.Stella Parks, Our Top 6 Dutch-Style Cocoas for Brownies, Hot Chocolate, and More, Serious Eats, December 7, 2018
What I like may not be what you like. Make your recipes, try out the cocoa powders available in your area, and see for yourself. You will want to keep both types on hand, however, so you can bake what you want, when you want. No one likes the mad dash to the store while in the middle of a recipe.
Decide what works for you.
The performance of cocoa powder is determined by a complex system of factors including pH, fat, and starch content. For moist and tender baked goods, we recommend buying a Dutch-processed cocoa powder that’s high in fat and therefore low in moisture-absorbing starch. (If the nutrition label is all you have to go by, seek out a product with at least 1 gram of fat per 5-gram serving.)Kate Shannon, Cocoa Powder, America’s Test Kitchen, May 1, 2018
That said, since you really wanna know, I have a cocoa powder brand hierarchy. I prefer Nestle cocoa powder over regular Hershey’s cocoa powder. To me, Ghirardelli cocoa powder rules over Nestle. Guittard makes the best chocolate chips I have had, though I have yet to try their cocoa or that of fancy pants brands like Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, Droste Cacao (the Cook’s Illustrated winner for best cocoa powder) or Callebaut, the darlings among serious bakers everywhere).
Those brands aren’t readily available where I am. I’d definitely reach for Guittard cocoa powder, but the brand isn’t offered in my area at all. One of these days, when the weather cools, maybe I’ll order Guittard everything, because I do find their chocolate chips AMAZING. Until then, those are the things I use and prefer.
Some brownie recipes require cooled melted chocolate. Yeah, those little white streaks in your baked goods? It’s cooked egg white. You can’t rush the cooling process. If you pour hot melted chocolate into your sugar and egg mixture right from the sauce pot, you will cook your egg whites. It won’t hurt you, but it’s ugly. Avoid it by cooling off your melted chocolate first so it’s warm to the touch.
Warm chocolate is fine. HOT chocolate is not. The best thing you can do is to melt your butter before you begin the rest of the recipe. Let it hang out while you proceed to preheat the oven, prepare the pan, and measure ingredients up until you hit the butter point. By then, you should be all set.
Cocoa Powder Versus Melted Chocolate
When it comes to brownies, there is a difference here too. You had a feeling I would say that, didn’t you? I prefer to use cocoa powder for one big reason: I hate futzing with melting chocolate when I don’t HAVE to. But it turns out there is a bigger reason why some recipes call for cocoa powder and others call for melted chocolate: Texture and flavor.
Because of its low fat content, cocoa powder isn’t temperature-sensitive the way unsweetened chocolate is. This plays out in the texture of the crumb in baked goods like muffins, quick breads, and some cakes. While cocoa butter in chocolate firms up at room temperature, creating a more firm, dense, and sometimes dry texture, cocoa powder — along with oil and/or butter — continues to stay moist and tender.Kelli Foster, This Is Why Your Recipe Uses Cocoa Powder Instead of Chocolate, The Kitchn, March 9, 2016
Why is that? What is it about cocoa powder that helps brownies last longer?
Why? Cocoa powder contains very little cocoa butter (it’s low in fat compared to chocolate bars), which means that additional butter must be added to cocoa brownies to compensate. And because butter is much softer than cocoa butter at room temperature (just think of the texture of a chocolate bar versus the texture of a stick of butter), this means that cocoa brownies stay tender and velvety.
Brownies based in melted chocolate, on the other hand, become sturdier and less yielding as they cool and age.
Brownies made with cocoa powder over melted chocolate stay softer, longer. They take longer to dry out, so even a smaller household, or those with less of a sweet tooth, can hang onto those brownies for longer than they would if you had opted for a recipe using melted chocolate.
Then it comes down to flavor. Cocoa powder offers a more intense chocolate flavor than melted chocolate. Cocoa powder is chocolate in a pure form. If you’ve ever had a chocolate brownie that tasted sort of lacking, you may prefer the more powerful punch of cocoa powder. Of course, if you bloom the cocoa powder, you’ll have even better success!
Why Should You Bloom Cocoa Powder?
The author of that video may not know why blooming cocoa powder works. I, however, DO. At least, I do now. Still, take a peek at the video to see a taste test in action. All done? Let’s back up. Some recipes call for blooming the cocoa powder before you carry on with your recipe.
Blooming chocolate shouldn’t be confused with chocolate bloom, that harmless white powder chocolate receives when improperly stored and subjected to heat or humidity. Whatever you do, don’t skip this step. In fact, you may want to adjust the recipes you have for things like brownies or cake to snag that deeper, richer flavor.
Some recipes call for cocoa powder to be “bloomed” in hot water or another hot liquid, such as coffee. This is done to intensify the flavor of the cocoa powder by releasing flavor particles trapped in the cocoa powder, and helps them “burst forth.” Many recipes, especially cookies, don’t have liquid ingredients, so you wouldn’t use that technique.Cocoa Powder FAQ: Dutch-Process & Natural Cocoa Powder, David Lebovitz, February 21, 2010
Oil, water, coffee, milk…those are just a few of the liquids you might need to heat up so you can bloom your cocoa powder. This isn’t cooking the cocoa powder. It’s not boiling the life out of it. It IS the simple addition of your measured or weighed cocoa powder to your heated liquid. Then combined. Cooled. Carried on as per the recipe dictates.
And just in case you were wondering, the answer is no, more boiling time won’t give you more chocolate flavor. Yes, technically if you keep boiling cocoa you will extract more oils and such, however not all of the locked-in flavors in ground cocoa are things you want to taste in quantity. These include bitter alkaloids and puckering tannins, which are better left where they are. So any time you bloom cocoa it’s important that you simply expose the cocoa to boiling water, not simmer it.What happens when you “bloom” cocoa powder?, Joe Pastry, December 1, 2020
Easy, right? Now you know when you have a liquid in your recipe and cocoa powder, you can turn to blooming for superior baked goods. Tip: Whenever possible switch out water in a recipe for coffee. It deepens the flavor of the chocolate and does NOT leave a coffee flavor. You DO NOT need to like coffee to enjoy the end result. PROMISE!
A basic rule of baking is that, in general, it’s almost impossible to make an inedible batch of brownies.~ Linda Sunshine
How Long Does it Take to Bake Brownies?
You open the oven door. You poke at the brownies. You close the oven door and add another minute. You open the oven door and stab at them with a toothpick. You close the oven door and add another minute.
While you know your oven best, you can follow the recipe’s direction for how long your brownies should bake. If your recipe features directions too vague for you, ditch it. You can do better. There are a ton of brownie cookbooks out there. Try a better one.
In general: Most 8 x 8 brownie recipes call for a 350* degree oven and a bake time of 20-25 minutes. A 13 x 9″ pan may take up to 30 minutes (and that larger pan will make a cakier (more dry) brownie due to the longer bake time).
Brownies will cook more quickly in metal pans than in glass, which is what accounts for the wide time windows in the recipes. If you’re using metal, cooking times will be on the short side; with Pyrex, they’ll be longer. For all these recipes, and regardless of the pan you’re using, start testing for doneness after 20 minutes of baking.
First, press your fingers gently into the center of the pan. If the brownie feels like it’s just setting, insert a toothpick near the center. The pick will probably be wet, but this early testing is good for comparison’s sake. Continue baking for 5 to 8 minutes and then insert the toothpick again near the center. Brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs still clinging. It’s okay for the pick to look moist, but if you see wet batter, keep baking.
There are plenty of excellent recipes right here. Use the handy dandy search bar on this site to find them. I will keep adding in new brownie recipes as I complete them. Oh, super happy testing days ahead!
When are Brownies Done?
You get fudgy brownies by following baking powder-free recipes (or with scant amounts). Look for recipes with more fats than flour. Want ’em cakey? The reverse is true. Fudgy doesn’t mean underbaked.
Skip the clean knife test. If you test your brownies and look for a crumb-free tester, your end result is bound to disappoint. You’ll end up overbaking your brownies. Take your brownies out when there are a couple of crumbs sticking to the tester and the center looks set.
You can sort of tell a brownie is finished baking because the edges will pull away from the sides, the middle will look set, the top will appear crackly and have a sheen, and you will be able to smell them. Odd, but true.
And, like I tell our kids, “They will look like something you want to eat.” They will just look DONE. Check the listed time in your recipe and use it as a starting guide. Begin testing your bar cookies five minutes before time.
Use a shorter baking time for metal pans and a longer baking time (and slightly lower oven temp) for glass bakeware (like Pyrex). You’ll see an example in the recipe I’m sharing for seriously fudgy brownies.
Are Brownies Supposed to be Gooey in the Middle?
Fudgy brownies have more to do with method and ingredients than a too-short baking session. Brownies shouldn’t be gooey in the middle. Bake your brownies all the way, then turn to a recipe without a leavener, and a greater proportion of fat than flour, for fudgy brownie results. A square pan is better than a 9 x 13. Think about it: The edges are done before the center is anywhere near ready.
Fudgy is not the same as underbaked. An undercooked brownie isn’t a fudgy brownie, it’s a health risk! Underbaked is more closely related to “might kill you” or “hello, Salmonella” than “fudgy.”
What Do You Do if Your Brownies are Underdone?
Everyone, no matter how many batches of brownies they have made, has tried a recipe and removed them from the oven too soon. Or, worse yet, forgot to set a timer, and guess at when they need to come out. It may not happen a lot, thank goodness, but it does happen. Don’t beat yourself up about it. If your brownies aren’t baked all the way through, you’ll know it. The center will be goopy, gloppy batter instead of a firm surface. You may not have any crackly tops to your brownies either. They could be greasy too.
There is a solution to underdone brownies.
If you removed your brownies too soon, pop them back into the oven. Don’t spend a minute debating — just do it! If you’ve let them sit out, any baking powder or soda in your recipe will have already activated, which will leave you with hard bars. You also run the risk of getting food poisoning from the undercooked eggs sitting out too long. If the edges are already done, cover them with tented foil to prevent more browning before returning them to the oven.
When the edges are done and the inside is not, it’s a sign of an oven running too hot. It might be worth checking the temperature of your oven.
An oven thermometer would help you figure it out for sure (and you know I’m not one to freak out about the lack of an oven thermometer). In this case, however, it’s warranted. When your baked goods aren’t doing what’s expected of them, and the problem isn’t you, you’ve got to do what you can to ensure consistency. Enter: The oven thermometer.
Give the brownies a few minutes in the oven, but no more than five minutes, before you test near the center again. Do remember to make a note on the recipe so you know to bake them longer the next time. You won’t remember the next time, trust me on this. Save yourself undue stress and write it down right in the cookbook. Cut away hard edges (and use them as coffee dunkers).
Are there a couple of crumbs? If there aren’t any crumbs, they are now in “over-baked” territory. Jump down to the section below to learn what to do with an overbaked brownie.
After Baking: Troubleshooting Brownies
Why are My Brownies Cakey?
First, take a look at the recipe. Does your recipe include a lot of flour compared to the fats? Does it have baking powder or baking soda in it? If you answered “yes,” to any or all of those things, you’ve got your answer right there.
Baking powder and baking soda are leaveners and increase the fluff factor of your brownies. Limit the amount of air you whip into the batter and bang the bowl on your counter a few times to help pop those air bubbles. But, if you start out with the wrong recipe, they are going to be cakey.
How to Cut Brownies?
Grab a fork and dig in! Just kidding. Martha Stewart disagrees. And who am I to say otherwise?
The Trick to Share-Worthy Brownies:
“…I like using a serrated knife; first, I gently saw through the crust, and then I push straight down to cut all the way through. To keep edges extra neat, before each cut, I clean the blade under warm water and leave it slightly wet.”Martha Stewart, Tips for Perfect Brownies, Martha Stewart
For a clean edge, wait until your brownies have cooled (unless your recipe says otherwise). It’s about the cool and cut. Okay, I know. Warm brownies from the oven are ah-mazing. BUT every recipe in the world says to let the brownies cool before you dig in. What gives? I know. Warm brownies are hard to resist. But it does give the chocolate flavor time to develop and nets you nice, clean slices.
If you want thirty-six brownies, you would need to measure out 3.25 square inches for your 13″ x 9″ pan. In simple terms: Six lines across and six lines down.
For uniform squares, flip the cooled, whole brownie out of the pan. You’ll have a much easier time cutting neat squares, with the option of cutting off the edges if you want to.Cindy Mitchell, Baking Brownies: How To Make Them Cakey, Chewy, or Fudgy, Fine Cooking Issue 34
Easy, right? But remember, for brownies that stay fresher, longer, don’t slice into them until you must. Otherwise, those cut edges will harden faster than you’d like.
If you aren’t on your way to the “Beautiful Brownies” pageant, then don’t worry about it. The chocolate flavor will develop so later on you’ll have cooled brownies with a bigger chocolate kick that will slice all nice. I do, however, have one single plastic knife I save just for this purpose. It cuts clean AND won’t scratch the heck out of my pan.
Why Do Brownies Stick to Foil?
My advice? Don’t line your pans with foil. If you forget about your brownies, they can cool and stick to the foil. While you may be able to warm them up in the oven to de-stick them, you also run the risk of over-baking them.
What should you do to prevent brownies from sticking in the pan? Use Baker’s Joy or PAM for Baking with Flour to prevent sticking. My fudgy brownie recipe never sticks. Ever.
Or, you can line your pans with biodegradable parchment paper. If you haven’t used parchment paper before, your grocery store will stock it. Where they stock it is another story, but you may find it in either the aisle with the baking supplies or the aisle with the plastic wrap and aluminum foil. It’s an extra long package (look for the brown compostable parchment paper version).
Lining pans seems like an unnecessary extra step and a hassle. Brownies are supposed to be simple. Do you really want to keep using a recipe that makes you fuss? If your recipe is just “okay,” and not “WHOA!” it might be time to rethink it.
Why are My Brownies so Hard?
My grandma made the hardest brownies known to man. Her brownies are the reason I avoid the edges. They were typically inedible. Some part of me today expects brownie edges to be break-your-teeth hard and the inside to be chewy.
- Overbaking can make brownie edges too hard and interiors chewy. Brownies shouldn’t take 45 minutes to bake. Always shoot for the low end of your recipe’s range and test for a couple of crumbs as you near five minutes before the first range of time is listed in a recipe.
- Test at the 18-20 minute mark for a small pan of brownies. Always. Non-negotiable. It doesn’t matter how much the recipe author assures me that I should bake them longer. Checking won’t hurt a thing (and could save your brownies).
- Overmixing is another possible culprit. Don’t overmix your brownie batter. Fold your ingredients together, by using careful, gentle sort of motions, instead of something resembling that of a hand-mixer. Cake-like brownies prefer it that way. To keep your brownies fudgy, it’s best to avoid stimulating the development of gluten. Stir to combine. That’s all, folks.
- Cooling brownies near the heat source? Yeah, you are still baking them. Don’t set baked brownies back on top of your stove to cool. Move them somewhere else in your kitchen away from your heat source.
- Old ingredients could be another. Old flour and aged leaveners (if your brownies include it), make brownies sad. Or is it that they make sad brownies? Either way: Lots of sadness.
- Humidity can affect your baked goods too. Flour and sugar don’t like it. It might not be you, but the weather. Blame it on El Nino (anyone else remember when EVERYTHING was blamed on El Nino during the last cycle?).
If you keep making the same recipe with fresh ingredients, the right pan, you aren’t over-mixing them, your oven temp isn’t off, and you still have hard brownies…pick a new recipe. That one sucks.
How Do You Fix Over-Baked Brownies?
Different pans behave in different ways. If you flubbed the “adjust time for type of pan” deal, and have brownies verging on the hard side of things, you can fix it. Sorta.
- Pop them into a food processor and use the crumbs on everything like frosted cupcake toppers, line the outside edges of sandwich cookies or whoopie pies, on top of sundaes, milkshakes, or fancy coffee drinks.
- Use them as a crust (mixed with butter) to form the base of a no-bake cheesecake instead of the typical graham cracker.
- Take those brownies and sub them into your favorite recipe for bread pudding.
- Mix them into ice cream. Take a cue from your local diner and blend them into your next milkshake and make your own mint chip fudge brownie or peanut butter brownie milkshake. I do that with frosted brownies just for fun.
- Crumble up brownies that are past their prime and add them to a trifle or canning jar with pudding or whipped cream and berries.
- Hard brownies make a great coffee dunker. Slice them into thicker strips so you have more to hold than you would with the usual square slices. It’s a favorite of husbands everywhere.
Look at you getting all creative!
Why Do Brownies Sink in the Middle?
Do your brownies look great and then appear as though one of my cats sat on them? You know, your brownies cave all around the center? Are the edges overbaked and the middle is ooey gooey and a little gross?
Sunken brownies are often the cause of overbeating. Mix in your eggs one at a time. While it seems as though mixing eggs in all at once would be the way to go, that’s not the case.
When the two eggs in the recipe were added one at a time, it took about 30 seconds to incorporate each into the creamed butter and sugar, compared with slightly over two minutes when both were added at once.Adding Eggs One at a Time, Cooks Illustrated, Accessed June 21, 2021
You know that over-mixing your baked goods is never a good thing. Mix brownie batter until it’s combined. ONLY mix your batter until it is combined. Scrape up from the bottom as you go to incorporate any streaks of flour. Resist the urge to beat it to death. Be gentle.
How to Freeze and Store Brownies
You’ve dug in, you’ve enjoyed your pan of brownies. Now, you need to know how to put them away so they stay fresh. Brownies don’t go “bad” like, say, a gallon of milk or a container of Thai food.
Where Should Brownies be Stored?
Store brownies covered at room temperature. Keep the planet from crying (or fighting with family members who can’t or don’t get the foil to snugly fit after they grab a bar, thus speeding up the drying out process) and ditch the foil. Opt instead for a pan with a reusable lid.
Using a brownie pan with a reusable lid has other perks too. Transporting brownies and other baked goods can’t get any easier. If you frost your brownies, the hard lid will keep them from getting squished. You won’t have to deal with foil or cling wrap getting dragged across the top or falling in and mucking things up. I’ve always hated that. Don’t you?
Uncut brownies will stay fresher, longer than cut brownies.
Otherwise, you can cut your brownies and move them to a reusable plastic storage container.
Will Brownies Get Hard in the Fridge? The fridge is bad news to a brownie at least in terms of how long it will stay fresh. Keep your brownies out of the refrigerator unless you like them cold (in which case I would strongly suggest you try the freezer) or they use cream cheese or other perishable item. They will dry out and not last as long.
When Do Brownies Go Bad?
Kevin Weighs His Options
You will know a brownie is past its prime by taking a good look at it. The brownie will appear to be a lighter shade, it will crumble more, and feel dried out. An older brownie just won’t look right.
It won’t make you sick to eat a five-day-old brownie, but it won’t be especially enjoyable either. It may be a good idea to use it in ice cream to help soften it up, if you absolutely must eat it. Just expect the flavor to be…muted and dulled.
Next time, share with your neighbors at the start, and avoid the waste. It’s a great conversation starter. Or, you could freeze a few for the future.
Can Brownies Be Left Out Overnight?
Don’t panic! Is there a worse feeling than realizing you forgot to put something away? My husband once left most of a cooked pot roast out overnight. Worst morning surprise ever.
- If you didn’t cover your pan of brownies overnight, it’s okay. You have options. First, your brownies might not feel any different in texture. They are still safe to eat.
- If your brownies have undergone a little hardening, store your brownies in a plastic container with a slice of bread. It will soften those brownies.
- If your brownies are still hard-as-a-rock brownies, take a second look at the ideas above. You don’t have to throw them. I know, I hate SEEING something that turned out different from what I planned, but you and yours can still enjoy them, even if they weren’t what you intended.
You love brownies for their easy, peasy preparation. You’ll also love them for their ability to freeze well. Brownies can go a few days (usually up to five days depending on your recipe) before they dry out.
While I am not big into freezing things, I have frozen brownies in the past. We’re talkin’ fifteen years ago. I’d freeze some extra homemade brownies to stir into homemade ice cream. Don’t get too impressed. That was about the extent of my baking ability then. My, how things have changed! I would have been shocked at how my baking speed improved, surprised by the volume of items flying out of my kitchen, and the young man, no longer a baby, cooking and baking all on his own.
Freezing brownies for long term storage is simple. “Long-term” in this case could be for up to three months.
The time you get for your brownies will vary due to:
- the recipe you chose,
- how often your freezer is opened,
- how well they were wrapped,
- how consistent your freezer temp stays,
and one of a million other reasons.
For longer-lasting brownies, keep them whole.
It’s very easy to make brownies in advance. Their shelf life really depends on whether they’ve been cut.Tips for Perfect Brownies, Martha Stewart, February 13, 2011
If you have something important ahead and need to freeze brownies to prepare in advance, test your recipes. If you’re happy with the texture and flavor, you won’t have to worry the day of the event.
Methods to Freeze Brownies
You have two different ways to freeze brownies. It doesn’t matter if you are freezing cakey or fudgy brownies. But first—hold the frosting. If you plan to frost your brownies, you’ll have the best results with unfrosted brownies. After your brownies have thawed, prepare the icing and then frost away. The fresh frosting will add a nice touch. If your brownies ended up with a slightly sticky top, frosting makes for great camouflage.
Freeze the brownie pan:
“…you can freeze the whole pan briefly—just long enough to harden the brownies. Then remove the brownie “block,” wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil. Place the block into a large airtight freezer bag and freeze.”C&H Sugar, Cutting and Storing Brownies, Accessed June 2021
Freeze individual brownies:
I know it might seem like a good idea to freeze one brownie at a time, especially if you have a small household, but it won’t give you the best end result. Every reliable source I’ve found have all agreed that uncut brownies stay fresh in the freezer better than cut brownies. It’s worth noting.
If you are satisfied anyway (test batches are always a good idea if this is prior to a big event), here’s what you do: Slice those cooled, room-temperature brownies. Then, wrap each brownie in plastic wrap. Place in a plastic container to help prevent them from getting smashed in the freezer or set ’em inside a plastic freezer bag. You know how items inside your freezer are treated. Package your brownies accordingly.
How Do You Thaw Frozen Brownies?
Freezing brownies for up to three months is great, but what do you do when you need to use those brownies? Did you know brownies won’t get rock hard in the freezer? Cool trick.
So, how do you defrost a brownie that’s been frozen?
To defrost, remove the tin from the freezer, unwrap it and leave at room temperature for 2-3 hours. You may find it easier to cut the brownies and remove them from the tin when they have softened slightly but are still partially frozen.Ask Nigella, Storing Brownies, July 14, 2017
Many people freeze their brownies on purpose, not to eat at a later date, but because they prefer the texture and flavor of a frozen brownie.
Brownies Baked Easy
Simple, right? Clear as brownie batter? Good. Now you know all the ways to determine if a brownie recipe will get you the type of brownies you want, how you can tweak a recipe on your own, and the best ways to store and freeze your brownies.
Stick around for plenty more on brownies. If you have a favorite recipe, please share it! Send me an email. Let me know your name and location, where and when you found the recipe, and any related memories. Maybe you’ll even see it appear right here on Little Indiana Bakes.