Welcome to my Baking Basics series! In this series I will be sharing recipes for basic baked goods, think perfect scones for afternoon tea, a classic Victoria sponge cake, and a brilliant white bread loaf! So basic in name, but definitely not basic in taste and enjoyment. This series is mainly for beginner bakers who want to learn the secrets behind baking, because getting the basics right is the best place to start. More experienced bakers will really enjoy it too, as there are so many delicious recipes to try out!
This time it is the turn of Chocolate Brownies. A good brownie recipe is essential for any baker, they are such a satisfying and easy go-to traybake. If I'm ever in doubt of what to make, I make brownies. Everyone loves them, they are so easy to customise with chocolate chips, nuts or other additions, and they're quick and simple to make.
How do you like your brownies?
I always knew that writing a brownie guide would be tricky as everyone seems to have a different opinion on how they like their brownies. Fudgey seems to be the most popular response I've come across (and how I myself would answer) but I've also heard chewy, cakey, firm, gooey, soft... and one brownie recipe cannot be all those things at once!
I personally don't like cakey brownies, I don't think they are what brownies should be. Did you know that brownies were created by dramatically reducing the amount of flour in a chocolate cookie recipe? Less flour, and more of everything else, is what brownies should be in my eyes. And to get a cakey brownie... well you need more flour!
As far as I'm concerned, brownies should be fudgey, soft and gooey. With plenty of rich chocolate flavour, a crackled top and ever so slightly crunchy edges. So if you're a fudgey and gooey brownie fan, then this is the recipe for you!
What baking tin do you need for brownies?
You can make this brownie recipe in either a square tin (8" or 9"), or in a rectangular traybake tin (9" x 12"). The difference will be in the baking time and the thickness of the brownies (see photo above). In the past I have always made my brownies in a rectangular traybake tin (mostly because you get more brownies!) but after doing a poll on my instagram, more of you said you preferred square tins. So I did some testing and I found that for plain chocolate brownies, I actually preferred the square tin, they're super thick and therefore way more fudgey! However, I still think traybake style brownies are awesome and I prefer them for adding toppings (mostly because you get more toppings!)
It's best to use metal tins for baking brownies, rather than a glass dish, silicone tin or ceramic dish. Metal tins distribute heat evenly, ensuring an even bake. Ceramic dishes will work, but they distribute heat slower. While glass dishes absorb heat, which can cause burnt or overly crispy edges to your brownies. Silicone does not conduct heat at all, so it can take longer to bake the brownies, especially if the silicone tin is a darker colour.
Recommended equipment & ingredients:
|8" Square tin||9" Square tin||Traybake tin|
|Electric hand mixer||Stand mixer||Mixing bowls|
|Cooling rack||Dark chocolate|
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How do you line a brownie tin?
The best way to line the tin before making brownies, is to both grease it and then line it with baking paper. I like to grease the tin first with a little butter as it helps the baking paper to stick flat to the sides of the tin. Put your tin on top of a piece of baking paper that is larger than it, and cut slits in it at each corner. Then press the baking paper into the tin, with the cut sections at the corners, and the paper will fold neatly around the corners.
You can also cut two strips of baking paper and layer them over each other if you prefer. Either way, make sure you leave an over hang of at least 1 inch to assist you in removing the brownies from the tin.
How to make Chocolate Brownies...
To make these chocolate brownies you need five basic ingredients: butter, light brown sugar, eggs, dark chocolate and plain flour. There is also the option of swapping out some of the flour for cocoa powder, and adding vanilla extract if you like (which I always do).
Can you use oil instead of butter for brownies?
Yes, you can replace the butter for 200ml vegetable oil (or another mild tasting oil like sunflower or canola oil) in this recipe. This is a great option if you want dairy free brownies. You won't need to heat the oil at all, just mix it into the batter as is. Unless you want to dramatically change the flavour of the brownies, do not use olive oil. It can make brownies taste slightly bitter, however this is a personal taste preference. If you want to try out olive oil in this recipe, choose a lighter coloured olive oil to start with as the flavour will be milder, and if you can, buy good quality olive oil.
What sugar is best to use for brownies?
You can use all caster sugar or all granulated sugar for brownies, as well as light and dark brown sugar. I like to use light brown sugar as it adds an extra fudgey element to the brownies.
What flour is best for brownies?
Plain flour, also known as all purpose flour, is best for brownies. You can use self raising flour, but you will end up with cakey brownies that are much less fudgey. If this happens you'll know you got your flours mixed up.
What cocoa powder is best for brownies?
As this recipe contains plenty of chocolate, unless you want to up the intensity of the chocolate flavour, cocoa powder is not necessary. If you want to add it, replace 20g of the plain flour with cocoa powder. As with the chocolate, quality makes the difference here. The better quality cocoa, the better the flavour you will get from it.
In the UK, we just have one type of cocoa powder, however in the US there is natural cocoa powder and dutch processed cocoa powder. The vast majority of cocoa powder in the UK and Europe is dutch processed (also known as alkalised). So I would recommend dutch processed cocoa powder as this is all I have access to, and therefore all I have ever tested in this recipe.
Do you need to use baking powder for brownies?
If you want cakey brownies, then baking powder is a useful addition. If you want super fudgey brownies, then you can omit it completely. A small amount - ¼ or ½ a teaspoon - can be used if you don't have a mixer to whisk the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes as required in this recipe. However, it won't produce the exact same results.
What type of chocolate is best for brownies?
It's hard to give an exact answer, because it depends on personal preference, but most dark chocolates will work well. I would always say to use a dark chocolate that you like to eat. One of the main ingredients of this recipe is melted dark chocolate, so it contributes massively to the flavour of the brownies. If you prefer a very dark chocolate that's less sweet then use a higher cocoa bar, for example 70% cocoa and higher. If you prefer a milder dark chocolate, then a cocoa content around 40-50% will suit you better.
I have tried this recipe with milk chocolate and I found it made the brownies overly greasy. The milk chocolate brownies also had less flavour. I would definitely recommend replacing some of the plain flour (20g) with cocoa powder if you want to use milk chocolate. My partner was quite happy to eat them, so if you have kids that are insistent on using milk chocolate then they are perfectly edible and tasty!
One chocolate I would avoid using is cheap cooking or baking chocolate. You can get good quality baking chocolates (for example Lindt make one, and I have made amazing brownies with it) but any cheaper lower quality brands can taste very 'fake'.
Start by melting the chocolate and butter in a pan on a low heat. Remember that chocolate and butter will melt in your hand so the heat does not need to be high. Once fully melted together, leave to cool for 10 minutes.
What is the best way to melt the chocolate for brownies?
Aside from the method described above, you can also melt the chocolate in a bain marie (also known as a double boiler). This is when you put the chocolate, along with the butter, in a glass bowl and place it over a pan of simmering water. The base of the bowl should not touch the water. Another way is to melt the butter and heat it till bubbling, then pour it over the chocolate, leave for a minute or so, then stir and the chocolate will melt into the butter.
Put the light brown sugar, eggs and (if using) the vanilla extract into a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Use an electric mixer to whisk them together for 5 minutes until pale and mousse like.
Next, pour the cooled chocolate and butter mixture into the egg mixture. Do this slowly and whisk the mixtures together gently with a hand whisk as you pour.
Add the plain flour to the batter and whisk in gently with a hand whisk. If you are adding any chocolate chips or chopped nuts, mix them in now with a spatula. Pour the batter into your chosen tin and bake.
If you are using an 8" square tin, I recommend a baking time of 35-40 minutes. For a 9" square tin I recommend 25-30 minutes. And for a 9" x 12" traybake tin, 15-20 minutes.
How do you know when the brownies are baked?
The best way to check is with the toothpick test, it should come out with a few moist crumbs on it, but not be wet. It's better to underbake them than overbake them, especially for fudgey brownies.
What is the best way to slice the brownies?
For lovely neat squares, wait for the brownies to full cool before slicing them. I've seen that most people will cut an 8" square batch of brownies into 16 squares, however I think that makes the pieces way too small. I like to cut an 8" square batch of brownies into 9 slices. For a 9" square batch, they cut the most neatly into 16 slices, however the pieces are smaller than I would prefer. For a 9" x 12" traybake style batch of brownies, I cut them into 12. They are bigger slices but also thinner too so it evens out.
How long do brownies last and how can they be stored?
Brownies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. They will last up to 4 days. You can store them in the fridge, but this will make them dry out and go stale faster. Some people swear by putting them in the fridge, but I am not a fan personally. To freeze the brownies, wrap them well and freeze for up to 3 months. You can pop them on the kitchen counter to defrost and the time it takes will depend on the temperature of your kitchen, or put them in the oven for around 15 minutes, or in the microwave for around 45-60 seconds.
Who are brownies suitable for?
These brownies are suitable for vegetarians. They are nut free, however please check the labels of all the products you use if you have a severe allergy. These brownies are not gluten free, however you can make them gluten free by using a gluten free flour blend. They are not dairy free, however you can make them dairy free by using vegetable oil instead of butter. The brownies are not vegan. If you would like a vegan brownie recipe, check out my Vegan Oreo Brownies (you don't have to use the Oreos if you prefer).
Mix ins, add in and variations
One of my favourite things about brownies is how versatile they are. The most popular things to add to brownies are chocolate chips and nuts. If you are using chocolate chips, make sure they are bake stable ones. I like to use white or milk chocolate ones for delicious contrast. Pretty much any chopped nuts can be added: pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds... you get the idea! I would recommend adding 150-200g chocolate chips or nuts to this recipe, depending on how much you want in there. 100g milk choc chips plus 100g white chocolate chips would make them into amazing triple chocolate brownies!
Other popular, and very delicious, add ins are things like Nutella, caramel sauce, Biscoff spread, cheesecake mix, peanut butter... you can really get creative! I have a large selection of brownie recipes on my website which you can browse for some ideas!
More Baking Basics recipes…
For the brownies
- 350 g Dark chocolate
- 250 g Butter
- 250 g Light brown sugar
- 3 Eggs large
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract optional
- 120 g Plain flour
Optional add ins
- 150-200 g Nuts or chocolate chips
- Pre-heat your oven to 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and grease and line your chosen tin
- Melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a pan on a low heat. When fully melted, stir together and remove from the heat. Let it cool for 10 minutes
- In a mixing bowl use an electric mixer to whisk together the eggs, light brown sugar and vanilla extract for 5 minutes until thicker and paler in colour
- Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly as you pour it in
- Add the plain flour and whisk in gently with a hand whisk until you can't see any more flour
- Pour the batter into your lined tin. Bake for 15-20 minutes if using a 9" x 12" traybake tin, 25-30 minutes if using a 9" square tin, or 35-40 minutes if using a 8" square tin
- Let the brownies cool completely in the tin before removing and slicing up
- Store in an airtight container in a cool place and eat within 3 days
If you like this, check out more of my Brownie recipes!
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