I think I came home from my mission craving brownies.  I discovered a boxed brownie mix complete with a little can of chocolate syrup.  I made them over and over, under-baking them slightly to make them extra moist and fudgy.  I’m still hooked on fudgy brownies.  

How much chocolate should a brownie have?

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Can you have too much chocolate, especially in a brownie? 

We decided to find out and set off to the test kitchen where we get to explore such mysteries of life.  We started with a tried and true brownie recipe.  We made several batches, each with more chocolate than the preceding batch.  We liked them—even with increasing amounts of chocolate.  We added more and more chocolate until we had a ridiculous amount.  And still liked them.  But we did find brownies fit for chocolate lovers.

We knew we were chocoholics; we needed to test them with normal people.  We had a class coming up where normal people would be.  So we made a ton of brownies, passed them around, and asked their opinion.  The results were interesting.  Out of about forty people, there were only four who thought they were too chocolaty.  Most people loved them.  Interestingly, six thought they could use even more chocolate.

Read on for the recipe.

So, too much chocolate is a matter of taste.  But for most people, it takes a lot to have too much.  Our experience since then has confirmed that there is a wide difference in tastes.

Does the type of chocolate matter?

We think the type of chocolate is more important than the amount.  The differences are stunning! 

A supplier sent us an array of cocoa.  There was a red cocoa from South America, a black cocoa from Africa, and a section in between.  We made brownies with each and hot cocoa with each.  Some were sweet with fruity tones and some had bitter, sharp tones.  Some were just plain nasty.  (We liked none better than our Ramstadt Breda cocoa and declined to purchase any of them.) 

The amount of cocoa butter makes a difference.  The most popular store brand has 8% cocoa butter.  Medium Ramstadt Breda cocoa has 16 to 18% and dark, 22 to 24%.  The extra cocoa butter creates a richer, deeper chocolate taste. 

High cocoa butter isn’t the only thing that matters.  It still takes good beans and proper processing.  Shop around and find a cocoa that you like and stick with it.  When you find a really good cocoa, you won’t go back to the supermarket cocoa.

But what about baking chocolate, the kind that comes most commonly in one-ounce squares? 

It’s still chocolate.  Baking chocolate has more fat and sugar added.  We have converted a number of recipes from baking chocolate to cocoa.  We can’t tell a difference—but then, we are using the best cocoa that we know, Ramstadt Breda.  An inferior chocolate, whether in cocoa form or squares will result in an inferior product.

How to Modify Brownie Recipes

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Fudgy brownies or cake-like?  It’s a matter of choice—but as for us, we like fudgy brownies.  What makes them so and how do they work?

If you are willing to do a bit of experimenting, you can tweak the recipe to make your brownies just the way you like them.

To make your brownies more cake-like:

  • Increase the amount of flour in your recipe.
  • Substitute cocoa for part of the solid chocolate.
  • Bake until a toothpick comes out clean. 

To make your brownies fudgier:

  • Decrease the amount of flour in your recipe.
  • Increase the amount of fat by decreasing the amount of cocoa and increasing the solid chocolate.  You can also add butter to make your brownies fudgier.
  • Take your brownies from the oven when a toothpick comes with just a bit of batter still clinging to it. 

To make your brownies crustier (but still with a moist interior):

  • Beat the batter vigorously after the eggs are added.
  • Lower the temperature to 300 degrees and bake the brownies longer.

To make your brownies less crusty:

  • Mix the eggs into the batter gently.  Stir only until mixed.
  • Bake your brownies at 350 degrees.

To use cocoa instead of baking chocolate:

Brownies don’t have to be made with melted chocolate.  It’s easier and quicker to make them with cocoa—and less expensive.  If you are going to substitute cocoa for melted chocolate, you have to do two things:

  • Reduce the amount of flour in the recipe since cocoa provides starch and absorbs liquid.  (See this chart for flour to cocoa substitutions.)
  • Increase the fat in the recipe to replace the fat not used in the melted chocolate.  With high cocoa butter cocoa, two additional eggs seem about right.  Those additional eggs provide more liquid and so you won’t need to reduce the flour as much as the chart suggests.  (If you use one cup of cocoa and two extra eggs, reduce the flour by 1/4 cup.)

So here is starting point for your recipe—using cocoa instead of melted chocolate.

  • For five ounces of melted chocolate and dark, chocolate brownies, use one cup rich dark cocoa with a high cocoa butter content.
  • Reduce the flour by 1/4 cup.
  • Increase the eggs by two.

This should give you a very acceptable brownie.  Then use these guidelines for modifying brownie recipes to perfect your brownies in future trials.  Using this methodology, we derived the following recipes which we will post tomorrow on Meridian or you can find them on our website:

 

Dennis Weaver is the president of The Prepared Pantry, a full line kitchen store in Rigby, Idaho.  The Prepared Pantry sells kitchen tools, gourmet foods, and baking ingredients including really good cocoa and chocolate baking chips.