Simply Perfect Brownies from Scratch
Gooey, fudgy brownies, with the deepest, darkest, most intense chocolate flavor EVER! Easy, one-bowl recipe, from scratch, pantry staples, no mixer needed.
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The brownie recipe is the same, but the photos have been updated.
Honestly, this is without a doubt one of the best recipes on this site. I have been making these brownies for ages, and I just don’t think there is any way to improve upon it. It’s absolute perfection.
They are so chocolate-y. So fudgy. So rich, and flavorful, with just enough sweetness and the most perfect shiny, crinkly crust on top.
Plus they are super-easy to make. Honest to goodness, the batter is made in about 15 minutes flat, you’ll only dirty up one bowl, and you don’t even need to break out the electric mixer. It couldn’t be simpler.
So today I’m bringing the recipe back up front, with prettier pictures, more detailed info on how to make them the best they can possibly be, and a video tutorial so you can see how they come together, step by step.
Read on, for everything you need to know about making the absolute BEST brownie recipe on earth!
HOW TO MAKE BROWNIES FROM SCRATCH
I know it can be tempting to reach for that box of brownie mix you see on the grocery store shelf. Maybe you’re not that confident in the kitchen, and you’ve convinced yourself that you just don’t have the chops to make brownies from scratch.
You can totally do this! Trust me when I tell you, brownies are one of the easiest things you can make, and you only need a handful of pantry staples. I’m talking stuff you probably already have on hand, so save yourself some bucks and bust out those measuring cups! I promise it’s not that hard.
There are 9 ingredients in this brownie recipe:
- Baking Powder
- Chocolate Chips
Let’s briefly go through each one, so you can understand the parts they all play.
Obviously, sugar is going to make things sweet. But did you know it also has a big impact on texture?
It’s true! The amount of sugar you use helps to determine if your end product will be crunchy, chewy, cakey, or soft and fudgy.
And it’s also hydrophilic, meaning it draws moisture in and keeps things from being overly dry.
So it’s important to use the right amount of sugar, in this and all recipes. It’s way more than just a sweetener!
Cocoa powder is what gives these brownies their chocolate-y taste. I like to use all cocoa powder when I make brownies, because it gives the most intense chocolate flavor. It’s the pure essence of chocolate, with no additional sweeteners or fats added to it. Nothing gets in the way of it’s rich, complex flavor.
Because it’s the main ingredient, use the best quality cocoa powder you can get your hands on. It will really make a difference in the end result! I prefer this brand of 100% unsweetened cocoa: Unsweetened Cocoa Powder.
I like to use regular unsweetened cocoa powder because to me, it’s the chocolatiest taste. But you can sub with dark cocoa (aka: Dutch-processed) if you like, or a combination of regular and Dutched. This will give you a darker color and more of an Oreo-like flavor.
Butter gives these brownies richness and added flavor. It also gives a moist texture.
You can substitute with other kinds of fat. Look for more info on this below, under the heading “Gluten-Free Brownies and Vegan Brownies.”
Eggs help to bind the brownies together. The fat in the yolk adds richness, and the proteins in the white provide structure, which keeps the brownies from falling apart.
They also act as a leavener, trapping tiny air bubbles in the batter and creating a lighter texture.
If you want to make an eggless brownie recipe, try using a flax egg or chia egg. For each egg in a recipe, just stir 3 tablespoons of water into 1 tablespoon of ground flax or chia seed. Allow it to set for about 10 minutes, and it will gel up.
This substitute is vegan, gluten-free, paleo, and whole30, and it works very well in most baked items.
Flour provides the bulk. I recommend all-purpose flour, but you can substitute other types of flour if you like. There’s more info on this below, under the heading “Gluten-Free Brownies and Vegan Brownies.”
I didn’t always put baking powder in my brownies. I guess you could say it’s an optional add-in.
Without baking powder, the brownies come out very dense, almost like blocks. I don’t dislike this, but one day I was experimenting and I found that when a little baking powder was added, the brownies came out softer, with a slightly airier consistency. Still very rich and fudgy, but just a little bit more pillowy.
This is because when baking powder meets liquid and heat, little air bubbles are created that cause baked goods to rise as they bake. Magic!
Salt is added to provide a balanced flavor. And salt is also magical in that it carries and enhances other flavors as well, so your brownies will taste even more chocolate-y!
I use kosher salt for almost all my baking, because there are no additives so the flavor is pure, and also because it’s a very inexpensive product to buy.
If you’d prefer to use another type of salt, just google “kosher salt to [your preferred type of salt] conversion” to find out how much more or less of it you should use for this recipe.
This is another optional ingredient, but I recently discovered that beyond just adding fabulous pockets of warm, gooey, melted chocolate all throughout your brownies, chocolate chips also help to contribute to that paper-thin, shiny, crinkly crust that we all know and love.
I can’t fully explain it (I think it has something to do with the additional sugar and cocoa butter), but somehow adding chocolate chips can mean the difference between brownies with shiny tops and brownies without.
Vanilla extract is added purely for flavor. Chocolate and vanilla pair beautifully together, and vanilla brings a sweet, aromatic quality to anything it enhances.
You can sub or add additional extracts if you’d like to get creative. Here are some of my favorite flavorings to use in baking:
You could also add in spices like cinnamon, ginger, lavender, chili, or cardamom for additional flavor.
TO MAKE THE BATTER
This batter whips up in 15 minutes or less, and you only need to dirty up one bowl!
Start by placing the sugar, cocoa powder, butter, and salt in a large bowl.
Then microwave it in 1-minute intervals until the butter is completely melted and the mixture feels hot to the touch.
Now whisk everything together until combined. It might look a little grainy- that’s totally fine, don’t panic!
Next, add in the eggs, one at a time.
Whisk each egg in vigorously until it’s completely incorporated, before adding in the next one.
When all the eggs have been added, fold in the flour, baking powder, and salt until just a few streaks remain.
Then fold in about 2/3 of the chocolate chips and the vanilla.
Be careful not to overmix the batter once the flour’s gone in! This could result in tough, hard brownies.
Transfer the batter to the pan, and sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top before baking.
HOW TO BAKE BROWNIES
Bake these brownies in a greased 9×13 pan that’s been lined with parchment. Here’s how to line the pan with parchment: How to Line Pans with Parchment. If you do it this way, it will give you 2 little “handles” on each side that will allow you to easily lift the brownies out and onto a cutting board.
These will bake at 325 degrees F. I like to do them at this slightly lower temperature because it allows them to bake flatter without puffing or curling up around the sides.
Every oven is different, so bake times listed are meant as just a guideline. That said, it’s kind of hard to judge when brownies are done baking, because they’re so fudgy the toothpick test doesn’t really work. The batter will still stick to the toothpick even when they’re done.
I usually judge by touching the sides, and if they feel set but the center part is still gooey, I pull them.
Remember that they will continue to firm up and cook even as they cool. I think an under-done brownie is preferable to an over-done one, but definitely use your own judgement!
HOW TO CUT PERFECT SQUARES
Grab the two overhanging edges of parchment and lift the cooled brownies straight up and out of the pan. Place them on a cutting board, and use a sharp knife to cut the brownies into bars, wiping the blade of the knife clean after each cut.
CAN THESE BE BAKED IN A DIFFERENT SIZED PAN?
Just keep in mind that the bake time may need to be adjusted. You’ll know your brownies are done when the sides are set but the center is still quite soft.
GLUTEN-FREE BROWNIES AND VEGAN BROWNIES
I have not personally tested it this way, so I can’t guarantee the results, but I do believe that this recipe would come out well using a gluten-free flour blend. Look for one that subs 1:1 for regular flour.
For vegan brownies, substitute the butter with an equal amount of solid coconut oil (or any other vegan butter substitute that works 1:1).
The eggs can be swapped for flax eggs or chia eggs. Instructions on how to make these can be found above, under the subheading “Eggs.”
TROUBLESHOOTING: WHY ARE MY BROWNIES HARD?
If your brownies come out hard or dry, it’s because they spent too much time in the oven.
Personally, I think it’s better to err on the side of underdone rather than overdone, because as they sit in the hot pan and cool, they will continue to cook and firm up.
Remove your brownies from the oven when the sides are set but the middle is still quite gooey, and by the time they’ve cooled to room temp they will still be moist, soft, and delicious.
TIPS FOR AN EXTRA-SHINY, EXTRA-CRINKLY-CRACKLY CRUST
This was my quest when I first decided to update this post! I really wanted to get into the science of what creates that gorgeous shiny crust.
- Get the butter really hot in that first step. It should almost be boiling.
- Use room temperature (or slightly warm) eggs. If you keep your eggs in the fridge, place them in a bowl of very warm water to take the chill off before adding them to the batter.
- Beat the bejesus out of the batter after each egg goes in. You really want to incorporate a lot of air in this step. You don’t need an electric mixer to make this brownie recipe, but if you have one, this would be a good time to break it out.
- Work quickly so that the batter is still somewhat warm when it goes into the oven. If it looks glossy and shiny going in, it will look shiny coming out too.
- Add chocolate chips to the batter. I can’t explain this one but somehow it works! See above for more info, under the subheading “Chocolate Chips.”
CAN THIS BROWNIE RECIPE BE MADE AHEAD?
Brownies are a great make-ahead treat. They need lots of time to cool before they can be cut, so it’s actually even better if you make them a few hours (or even a day or two) ahead.
But they do tend to dry out quickly, so you definitely want to wrap them up very tightly if you’re not going to serve them the same day. And it’s best to wait to cut them until just before serving.
They can sit out at room temperature for several days without a problem.
Or, pop them into the fridge and they’ll last at least a week.
Leftover brownies freeze beautifully. Wrapped well, they should keep in the freezer for several months. Thaw them in the fridge or at room temperature before serving.
A FEW MORE OF MY FAVORITE BAR RECIPES:
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Gooey, fudgy brownies, with the deepest, darkest, most intense chocolate flavor EVER! Easy, one-bowl recipe, from scratch, pantry staples, no mixer needed.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, mist a 9x9-inch or 9x13-inch pan with non-stick spray, and line it with a sheet of parchment.
Place the sugar, cocoa, and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl,* and microwave in one-minute increments, stirring, until the butter is completely melted and the mixture feels quite hot to the touch (approximately 3 to 4 minutes).
Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition.
Fold in the flour, baking powder, and salt until just a few streaks remain.
Stir in about 2/3 of the chocolate chips and vanilla, and transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top , and bake until set around the edges but still soft towards the middle (approximately 30 to 45 minutes).
Cool completely in the pan, then transfer to a cutting board and cut into squares.
Recipe adapted from Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies.
*1/22/2016 Update: This recipe has been edited slightly, for ease of use. Butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt may also be heated over a double-boiler.
The fudgiest, gooiest brownies, with the deepest, darkest, most intense chocolate flavor EVER! From scratch, pantry staples, just one bowl, no mixer needed.
*This post originally published on September 20, 2013. I thought it was about time the pics were updated. So, many of the photos you see here now are new and improved. Everything else is exactly the same as it ever was! Hopefully you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as my family and I do.*
I first discovered this brownie recipe probably close to 10 years ago. I clipped it from the food section of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Although I never knew who the original author was, I made it often, to bring to barbecues and potlucks. These brownies were always a huge hit!
It’s been a while since I’ve made them last, but I knew from the first “Simply Perfect” post that I’d want these brownies to be a part of the series. Fast forward to me flipping through Alice Medrich’s “Bittersweet,” which I’d borrowed from my local library, and spotting that old, familiar recipe!
No wonder it’s so dang good! Alice Medrich? She’s only been at the forefront of the gourmet chocolate movement since the 1970’s! I mean, she’s pretty much devoted her life to fine chocolate.
Ms. Medrich titles these “Best Cocoa Brownies.”
Here are some of her pearls of wisdom on the subject of cocoa:
“Cocoa powder…is made by removing 75 to 85 percent of the cocoa butter from chocolate liquor, and then pulverizing the partially defatted mass that remains. With all of the flavor and none of the fat, cocoa is essentially a concentrated form of cocoa bean. And, because cocoa beans are natrually tart and acidic (characteristics that provide fruitiness and complexity in chocolate), those qualities are exaggerated in cocoa powder.
Natural cocoa powder…is bitter and strong. The best-quality natural cocoa is complex and fruity and wonderfully flavorful. Natural cocoa, with its harshness tamed by sugar in the recipes, delivers a strong hit of flavor in American favorites such as brownies and fudge.
Cocoa brownies have the softest center and chewiest candylike top “crust” of all because all of the fat in the recipe (except for a small amount of cocoa butter in the cocoa) is butter, and all of the sugar is granulated sugar rather than the finely milled sugar used in chocolate. Use the best cocoa you know for these fabulous brownies.”
I prefer this brand of cocoa. It may or may not be the cream of the cocoa crop, but it is considerably better, IMHO, than lesser brands such as Hershey’s or Nestle (side note: Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa may be black as night but it has very little chocolate flavor). And I like it because it is readily available in my local supermarket, and not too expensive, considering the higher level of quality. I can definitely taste a difference in the rich, fuller-bodied chocolate flavor of my baked goods. 🙂 If you really want to go all out, with some of the highest quality cocoa available, some other really reputable brands include Scharffen Berger, Merckens, and Guittard.
As highbrow as this recipe may seem, the fact is, it couldn’t be simpler. It all comes together in just one mixing bowl, with the simplest of pantry staples, and you don’t even need a stand mixer. Or a hand mixer, for that matter. Just a good, old fashioned wooden spoon…
Stir the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt together, over simmering water, until melty and hot, add the vanilla (off the heat), and beat in the cold eggs, one at a time. Throw in the flour and baking powder, and bake the whole glorious mess in a parchment-lined baking dish.
I chilled my brownies in the fridge overnight, and used a bench knife to cut them. It really helped them to hold their shape and cut cleanly!
These brownies are perfect as-is, but they can certainly be jazzed up with all sorts of add-ons.
Check out some of the other fun recipes I’ve created using this recipe as a base:
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